The old adage says you’ve got two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you talk. But most people don’t know when to shut up.

They fill every pause in the conversation with the sound of their own voice.

I get it. When you sell anything in-person, you work hard to polish your pitch and have a plan for every objection. Silence can feel like the start of defeat.

If you’re not talking, your fear can surface like Jaws to take a bite out of your confidence.

And the last thing you want is your customer to slip away after you’ve gone to all the trouble of getting in front of them. So you do what comes naturally — you keep talking.

But that’s the worst thing you could do.

When you start talking, you’ve taken away your customer’s chance to think about what you’ve said. You stop them from digesting the information you carefully provided.

Worse, you start sounding like you’re trying to force something on them. You start fitting the negative stereotype of a salesperson as pushy — and nobody wants that!

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can get inside your customer’s head so you know what they really want — and let them do the talking.

You can become a trusted asset in the purchasing process and you use your customer’s own words to give them what they want.

Selling Begins When You Actively Listen — After Asking the Right Questions

“Questions are the answer.” — Zig Ziglar

As it turns out, the secret to your success is found in asking questions.

Asking the right questions — and listening carefully to the answers — keeps you focused on providing a valuable solution to your customer’s most pressing problem.

Try these 10 questions to get inside a customer’s head (so you can uncover and meet their needs)

1. What’s your single greatest challenge when it comes to (a problem your idea, product, or service can solve)?

Asking this question positions your customer to tell you exactly where they are struggling.

This allows you to consider your own idea, product, or service and present your pitch in a way that provides solutions to their pain points.

Remember, people don’t buy products, they buy solutions to their problems.

2. What are some major challenges you’ve faced in the last year?

This builds upon the previous question and brings the conversation around to the recent past.

By discovering those challenges you can begin to consider ways to meet those needs and become a trusted ally who tackles those needs going forward.

3. What qualities make you feel valued as a customer?

You can’t use a “one-size-fits-all” approach to your customers. Even within the same industry

Some customers require a high-touch approach, while others are much more hands-off.

Some need constant contact and reassurance, while others want to set it and forget it.

Knowing what makes your customer feel valued assures that you are speaking a language they understand. It also ensures you are making the best use of your time and not spending it on things that don’t make a difference.

4. What are the qualities you look for in the companies you do business with?

This question helps you best position your company or business in the most favorable light. It also lets you know what you need to do to capture their business.

Be truthful, but highlight your best qualities as you position yourself as the choice to earn their business.

5. What are your long-term and short-term business goals?

This question does two things. First, it gives you a roadmap to follow to help you provide for your customer’s immediate needs. When you can help make your customer’s short-term goals a reality, you become a partner in their success.

Second, beginning to understand their long-term goals establishes you as a partner for the long haul. You stop being just a person trying to achieve a one-time sale, and you build a relationship that helps you to become a trusted confidant.

6. Why did you choose the suppliers you are using now?

This question is an easy way to acknowledge your competition and speak to their strengths. Be careful not to badmouth your competition. You don’t yet know how deep that partnership runs so it’s best to just listen.

But most of the time when you ask this question, your customer will let you know both the good and the bad about your competition.

This allows you to frame your business in a positive light as one who can do all the things where your competitors have fallen short.

7. What do you like most about your current suppliers/partners?

This is an easy question that lets you know what you need to do to earn their business. It also establishes the minimum threshold for success.

By knowing what your customer likes, you can take your service one step higher and surpass their expectations.

8. Tell me about what keeps you up at night when you think about your business?

By this point in the conversation you have established rapport with your customer so you can ask a little more of a personal question. When you care about your customers and are more interested in the long-term relationship than the short-term sale, the answer to this question should pain you too and get you thinking about solutions you can provide.

If they don’t have a ready answer, you can begin brainstorming with them based on the feedback you learned from their other answers. Remember to stay solution oriented and positive.

9. What problem do you have that, if you could find a solution, would significantly improve your life or business?

This question shows you care about helping them solve problems. Again, sales are all about problem-solving. Listen to the problem and creatively find a solution.

Add value and become a person who improves your customer’s life and you’ll become an indispensable asset.

10. If you could wave a magic wand and make it happen, how would your business look one year from now?

This is a fun question that allows you both to dream a little bit. Listen closely to their reply and brainstorm ideas for a solution. It doesn’t matter how crazy it sounds, the point is that you make the connection with their dreams.

The Key to Your Success

Knowing what your customer wants and more importantly what your customer needs is vital to your success as a salesperson.

The best way to know is to ask!

Use the questions above (and any other you might think of) to get to the heart of your customer’s heart.

If you do it right, you’ll identify countless options to solve problems, become an asset, and help your customer succeed.

When you help them get what they want, they’ll help you get what you want.

And you can take that to the bank.

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