As salespeople, we get really excited when we have evidence of how well our product or service solves a problem. But often, our clients don’t buy into our facts as we expect.

Ian Altman explains a much more effective tactic you can use to connect with your clients and enrich the sales process.


Welcome to the Same Side Selling podcast. I'm your host, Ian Altman.

On this episode, I want you to think about why questions are more powerful than facts when it comes to sales.

I was speaking with a client recently, and this is someone who, as the person leading their sales, is a skilled sales professional. And, he was sharing with me some of the research that is really compelling that supports why customers should be buying their products and services. And he said, you know, here's all this information that shows how many hours it's costing them by not using this tool. Here is this research that shows them how much money it cost them, not just the time, but how many actual dollars it cost them by not using a product like ours. Yet people still aren't compelled to buy our product. I don't understand. Why do you think that is? And I said, well, those are great facts, and the reality is that you don't know why the customers aren't bought into those facts, quite simply because we're not asking the questions.

So think of it this way, customers believe 20% of what salespeople tell them and 100% of what the buyer themselves actually says. So I can just leave it at that. But right now, you're probably listening to this thinking, well, I don't know if those statistics are right. I don't know that I agree with that completely. So what if I changed that just a little bit and said, research shows that customers believe 20% of what the salesperson says and dramatically more when the customer says it themselves? How accurate do you think that research is? Well, now what happens is you start going through your mind and say, well, you know what? I don't know. I think maybe customers believe half of what the salespeople say, but they probably believe 100% of what they would say as a customer. And now what happens is, it's not just my idea as the person trying to sell that idea. But instead, I'm laying out a basis of research, and then I'm asking you, well, do you agree with that? Do you disagree with that? Where do you think they're getting that wrong? I might even ask a question like, well, they say that people in this industry, this happens to them. How common do you think that is? And someone might say, well, I don't think it's that common at or oh that's exactly what happens in our business.

Too often, what we do is we rely on facts. And we present them, and our assumption is the seller is that the customer believes them as much, if not more than we do. But that may not be the case. Instead, what we want to do is present information and then ask for their thoughts on it.

So in the example I gave before, you might say, well, you know, they say that construction, especially, spend on average 20% more than the need to on their property-casualty insurance. How accurate do you think that information is? And someone might say, oh, you know, it's probably true. Yeah. In fact, we probably overpay a little bit. Okay. Well, you know, it's a common thing, apparently, in the industry. Would you be open to us taking a look at your spending to see whether or not we might be able to find some areas that you have redundancies or certain coverages that you don't need? Or worse yet, that we might find things that you don't have coverage for that you need. Would you be open to that? And now it's something where I'm asking questions to uncover what could be valuable for them.

A good friend of mine, Phil Jones, wrote a book called "Exactly What to Say." And Phil has a number of questions in there. And what you'll notice is that in the book "Exactly What to Say" doesn't have statements. It has questions. It has questions like, how open would you be to this? Because let's face it, you're either open to something or you're close-minded. We don't like to say that we're close-minded. So if you ask someone, how open would you be? Well, they're probably going to be more open minded to that. There's probably a reason why Phil's book has sold about a million copies.

When we ask great questions, we're engaged in a dialogue. When we make statements of fact or assert levels of fact that we believe to be true, we're just pitching information. We're not really engaging someone else in a dialogue.

So how do you fix that? Think about common things that you share with your clients and prospects. And what I want you to do is think about facts that you share and just go through an exercise of how can I turn some of these "facts" into questions?

It might be something that says, oh, people are 20% more efficient when they use our software for this. Instead, how would you change that? Well, you might say, well, many customers report that using a tool like this saves them 20%. Do you think that would be overshooting it or undershooting it in your business? You might get someone to say, well, that might be overshooting a little bit. How much of a difference do you think it would make? Oh, in our case, probably more like 10 or 15%. Okay, so 10 or 15%? Is that meaningful enough in your business to make it worth taking a look to see when you might get that much savings? Oh, yeah, even at 10%.

See, one of the things that we often think about is that, let's say, there's research that shows that the average person would save 500 hours a year by using your product or service. If the way you sell your product doesn't require five hours of savings to justify it, then why set your targets at such a high goal. You can say some companies say they save 500 hours a year by using a tool like this. So in the worst-case, if you use something like this, how many hours do you think you might save in the worst-case? And someone might say, well, on a worst case, and we would save at least two hours a week, that's 100 hours. Okay? If you saved 100 hours a year, would this investment be worth it? Oh, yeah, that's great. And now, you're not anchoring on the 500 hours that you assert in your research, but instead, you're hanging on the 100 hours that they came up with instead of you.

So next time you're armed with facts, think about how do I switch that to questions, and that way, I'm stimulating a discussion or dialogue. I'm not just spewing information that I believe that they may not believe. See you on the next episode of the Same Side Selling podcast.