As a sales or marketing professional in the aviation industry, we’re expected to have answers and solutions.
As an aviation marketing company, we totally get that!
But we’ve found that it’s equally (or even more important!) to ask good questions at the right time!
John and I get into the details of what goes into an insightful question that starts a dialog, and where you can use these thoughtful questions in your marketing and sales activities. And this applies to everything from the age-old person-to-person selling to digital marketing and everything in between.
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Why Ask Questions?
There is a certain amount of pressure on salespeople to provide quick answers and have ready solutions. There is a real fear that drives them to fill any silence with the perfect answer to any unspoken question.
Of course, this usually results in, at best, a boring monologue. Or at worst, they come across as a fast-talking and dishonest.
There is an alternative that starts with a mindset but results in a very different type of interaction.
The most important thing to realize is that tricks don’t work. There are no techniques or magic words that will get someone to buy from you.
There are two reasons tricks don’t work:
- Aviation industry professionals are very smart
- 80% of your communication is nonverbal
So, the first thing to do is to understand that sales is a dialogue, not a monologue.
In Ancient Greece, Socrates famously created the “Socratic Method” based on the idea that students don’t just sit like sponges and absorb information imparted by teachers. The most effective way to teach is involve them in the learning process, by asking questions. In the same way, prospects don’t sit like sponges and absorb a sales presentation – they learn about your product or service and how it can help them by actively analyzing and participating in the discussion.
Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz said: “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”
And more currently, one of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is to “seek first to understand, before you seek to be understood.”
Good questions can improve any human relationship. And they CERTAINLY improve any of the aviation marketing services!
Do Bad Questions Exist?
But there are questions that are bad for the sales process.
Consider these two factors:
- Is this something you should already know? If you had done the research and thoroughly prepared for the conversation, should you know this?
- Does this question make the prospect lose confidence in your subject matter knowledge or lose control of the sales process?
So, with those two caveats:
Why Are Questions Better than Statements?
- Questions involve the other person
- They show respect, interest and curiosity
- Good questions reduce sales resistance
They Involve the Other Person
People who participate in a sales presentation by answering questions and collaborating on the definitions of problems and solutions can zero in more quickly on the pieces of information they’re the most interested in.
They get to the information they need more quickly, before they lose interest.
And if they’ve invested energy into understanding your product, they are more likely to make the purchase!
Show Respect, Interest & Curiosity
You get a call in the middle of the afternoon from someone who wants to sell you printer ink or health insurance. They are clearly reading from a script and are just one step above an automated call, other than the fact that we feel slightly guilty hanging up on a real human being.
The opposite of that is someone who asks thoughtful, insightful questions and shows curiosity about us, our company and our products.
That person is much more likely to get our time and attention!
Reduce Sales Resistance
But even the most recalcitrant prospects tend to warm up a bit when asked good questions.
How Do you Ask a Great Question?
Ask a question that demonstrates curiosity and concern for the customer. Once again, this has to be genuine because smart customers can “smell” a trick miles away.
Some examples of great questions:
- What priority would you give this problem? (Or, “what is the highest priority problem for you about this topic?”)
- What impact does that have on your business?
- How would things change if you . . .
- What are the three factors most important to . . .
- Have you tried . . .
In almost any sales situation, “Have you tried . . . ” or “How would things change if you . . . ” is MUCH better than “You should try our product. It will solve your problem.”
Statements produce resistance. Questions produce curiosity and speculation.
Where Can I Use More Questions?
You can do this most effectively in an in-person meeting, one-to-one or one-to-many.
Next best is a virtual meeting.
You can also use great questions as subject lines for
- Email marketing (Questions get up to three times more “opens” than subject lines with statements.)
- Blog article titles. (Like this one!)
- Social media posts
- Postcards! (Ask a question on one side, answer it on the other!
Action Item – How many ways can you find to use questions in your sales and marketing process?
Questions are powerful because they involve the other person. They show respect, interest and curiosity. And, used correctly, they reduce sales resistance.
Is it possible that you could make your best marketing materials and your best sales presentations even better by adding some questions?
Let us know in the comments!