Posted by: peterhact | June 1, 2010

The obvious question

One of the first things I learnt when working in retail was the “obvious question” – most sales people never learn it, and wonder why they don’t win as much business as their colleagues.

The obvious question is so obvious, it amazes me that so many sales people miss it. here is the obvious question in context:

I am looking at a computer, in a store. I have read the pamphlet, I have played with the mouse, I have watched the short video that is playing. I seem to be interested. Sales person number 1 approaches. They are the “gun” salesperson. They sell more than anyone else on the floor, and they know it. They have an air of arrogance, and they rely on the FUD factor. (the FUD factor is the 3 horsemen of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) They dazzle me with speeds and feeds, lease options, rental options, they talk non-stop, for 45 minutes, and now, I cannot remember their name. Let alone what I actually came into the store for.

This tactic has a high success rate. people buy the systems, leave, then are so confused that they don’t want to come back and look like they don’t know what they bought the computer for.

I, on the other hand, do not do this. I seek the obvious question, and when it is apparent that it won’t be asked, I move on, telling the gun that I am just looking.

Next store, same scenario, and the salesperson number 2 asks me the all important obvious question. Bang! already I am interested to hear the answer. Already I am ready to part with my cash, but wait! The question is asked, I have answered, but the salesperson has either forgotten that they have asked it, or what i have told them, reverts to speeds and feeds, and out the door I go.

Asking the obvious question isn’t enough. you need to understand the answer as well…

Final store. Salesperson number 3 approaches. warily. They ooze desperation. they haven’t sold anything today, all their sales are being poached, they ask the obvious question and listen to the answer, then create a solution out of thin air, show me which computer they recommend, go to get the pricing, and, when they come back, I am waiting to buy from them. (they don’t need to know that I have beaten off the vultures that have tried to steal the sale, the guns that cannot sell to save themselves – they just are really good at closing other people’s business)

What is the obvious question?

It is really obvious.

The question, that a lot of salespeople never ask, and it would save them so much time, is this.

What Are You Going To Use It For?

If you listen to the answer, you know why the customer is in the store. You know why they need a computer, you know how old their kids are and you know why this is the best computer / printer / scanner solution for them. And if you ask it, you will probably get the sale…

Obvious, isn’t it?


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