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Is This Classic Sales Question Cheesy or Effective?

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cheesy-or-effective-sales-question.jpg

What do you think about this common sales question:

“What’s it going to take to get your business?” 

In my opinion, it can either sound cheesy or be effective, depending upon where it’s used on a call.
 
I had a guy use this question on me the other day. Here's the recap of our conversation.
 
Salesperson: "Hey, Art. It’s Dan over at [local quick printing shop]. Do you ever do any short run printing?”

(That’s a mistake right there, by the way -- asking a question before offering anything of value. But that's a topic for another time.)

Me: “Yes, I do.” 

Salesperson: “What do you print?”

Me: “Training workbooks.” 

Salesperson: “We do those. I’m wondering what it would take to get your business?"
 
I felt like saying, "A better salesperson," but I responded a bit more tactfully with "I’m all set." We hung up. 

This was a scenario in which "What would it take to get your business?" backfired. When this question comes too early, it begs all kinds of comments and questions from prospects and customers -- some spoken, some not. Some logical, some smart-alecky. All justified.
 

Here are some responses you might prompt if you pull out this question too soon in the sales process:

  • "Why should I even consider answering that question?"
  • "Who are you, anyway?"
  • "If you gave it to me for free, maybe."
  • "I’m satisfied with the company I’m using."

The problem with this question used too early is that no value whatsoever has even been hinted at yet.

I had no reason to stay on the phone with the printing salesperson, and yet somehow he was asking me to explain how I would give him my business? Come on!

The Right Time to Ask "What Would it Take to Get Your Business?"

Let’s fast forward in a relationship -- there’s been a good opening, nice qualifying and need-development questions, a strong presentation, and perhaps even an attempt to close. And yet the prospect hems and haws: "Well ... I’m just not sure."
 
This is when the question makes a lot more sense:

"Pat, we seem to be in agreement that this is what you’re looking for, and the price is within your budget. What is it going to take for us to move forward?"

Still not quite right? Here are some alternative questions I like to ask in the probing stage -- especially when you are competing with another vendor for the business:

  • “How, specifically, will you make your decision?” 
  • “What decision-making criteria will you use, and which areas will be most important to you?” 
  • "If we are at the top in all of those areas, will we be the one you choose?"
  • "If you made a decision today, where would we stand?"

So, what's it going to take to get you to use these? Share your perspective on this old standby question -- and how best to use it -- in the comments.

Editor's note: This post originally appeared on Smart Calling Online and is republished here with permission.

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