Socratic Selling: How to Ask the Questions That Get the Sale.


Socratic Method: A method of teaching or discussion, as used by Socrates, in which one asks a series of easily answered questions that inevitably lead the answerer to a logical conclusion.
1. Respect the customer
2. Help the customer think
3. Help the customer make decisions.
4. End of chapter notes

Begin with a Socratic opener:
Say you are prepared
“Mr. Jones, I’m prepared to talk about . . . . . . ., which we discussed on the phone.”
Invite the customer to speak on the subject.
“If you could give me your perspective on that . . .“
Offer an immediate benefit.
“We can focus the meeting on what interests you.”
Every customer has a perspective on a subject and is only too happy to share it. Ask.
The customer owns the past.
The customer has no stake in the future – until the past has been dealt with.
Help the customer tell the story.
Use Socratic draw probes:
“Tell me more about . . .“
“Would you elaborate on . . . .”
“Give me an example of . . . . .”
“What else should I know about . . . .”
“What else would help me understand . . . .”
Use Socratic access probes:
“How does . . . . . fit the picture?”
“Talk to me about . . . . . your experience with . . . . . “
“How do you handle . . . . . ?”

Believe that the sale is being made when the customer speaks about the need. Not one moment is wasted.

The clock runs faster on the customer.
Ask easily answered questions about urgency.

“Why now?”
“What makes this urgent?”
“Why is this important right now?”

Take advantage of the highly visible deadliness.
• Seasonal deadlines
• Phase completion deadlines
• Watch for less visible deadlines
• Start-up deadlines
• New Broom deadlines
• Unspent budget deadlines
The customer’s second need is a solution.
The customer’s first need is to get started on a solution.
Facts about the need determine the choice of product or service.
The customer’s feelings determine the buying decision.
Ask easily answered questions about feelings.

For irritants:
“What bothers you most about this?”
“I sense you’re frustrated by this . . .”
“How tough a position does this put you in?”

For motivators:
“How does this affect you?”
“I sense this means a lot to you.”
“Why is this important to you?”

Sales are closed through what the customer feels.
The sharpest competitive edge is the one your competition neglect.
The customer needs to know you understand.
Listening fosters lasting relationships.
Listening fosters unbeatable relationships.
You haven’t listened until you can show you have listened.
Play back a summary of the facts.
If you don’t get it right, the customer is happy to help you try again.
A playback draws fresh information
Play back the person.
Ask yourself, what is important to the customer?
If the customer has feelings about it, the person is involved.
Ask Easily Answered Questions.
“How does that sound?”
“Do I have it right?”
“Am I getting the picture?”
“Is that it?”

When you play back what is important to the customer, you capture the person of the customer.
Ask easily answered questions to elicit decisions:
Lead in Specific decision
“If you were to go ahead with . . . when would you . . . ?” how many would you . . . ?” where would you . . . ?” what kind would you . . . ?” and so on.

Ask for agreement with an easily answered question:
“What’s your reaction?”
Proposals that fit are ready for agreement.
The customer’s question may introduce a topic of interest. Draw out the customer’s interest before attempting to answer in detail.
Give a brief, general answer to the question.
Use an easily answered question to draw out more detail:
“Why do you ask?”
“What are you interested in discussing?”
“Tell me more about . . .“
Never miss a topic the customer wants to introduce. Never miss a chance to help the customer think.
You don’t understand the objection you hear. To handle it Socratically, go behind the objection.
Make the objection specific.
Probe for the concern behind the objection.
Play back the objection in a word or two.
Ask easily answered question.
“Please tell me exactly what you mean.”
“Why do you ask that?”
“How did you arrive at that?”
When you don’t know what the customer is talking about, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Know your value to the customer.
You are a reliable resource.
The customer has invested time in you.
You offer a valuable product or service.
Know all the objections before negotiating.
Don’t give away what you can trade for.
Don’t get stuck with what you can’t give.
Ask an easily answered “suppose question”:
“Suppose we were able to resolve this issue. I know it’s not resolved right now, but just suppose we could. Are there any other issues standing in the way of our doing business?”
Never underestimate the impression you make upon the customer in a Socratic dialogue.

Kevin Daley, Irwin Professional Publishing

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