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Opening Questions

I sell mobile phones in a retailer here in Australia.
Our KPI's are basically an amount of phones say 30 per month and GP per month. GP depends on the phone that i sell.

Anyways i am the best salesman at our kiosk but i am not a top salesman, the others are more order takers and trying to implement a little of sales.

My sales could be so much better which helps out my bonus, promotion etc.

So anyways i work in a kiosk the phones are around the edge of the kiosk.

I am wondering what are some good opening questions to ask customers.

My usual approach is

Hi how are you
" good thanks"
How can i help you out
" just looking"
Looking for anything in particular
" yes / no"

I know i should be asking What are you looking for but i am trying to think of something else to say instead of how can i help you out or anything in relevance to opening.

Thanks. - by myers1984
First of all, kudos to you for trying to become a sales professional in the midst of a group of order-takers!

In general, I would suggest you avoid closed questions that can be answered with a yes or a no. It's too easy for the prospect to say "no." That would rule out your question "looking for anything in particular?".

My all-time retail opening question is "what brings you to our store today?" (in your case, "what brings you to our kiosk today?"). In my tests, this question elicited the most number of active responses, and the least number of "I'm just looking" responses.

But before that question, it is very helpful if you can open with some rapport-building chit-chat; in other words, relating to your prospect as a human being rather than just a prospect. You can talk about the weather, the big game last night, the shopping bag they have in their hand, their kids, or whatever. In sales, as in making friends, you reach out to others in a way that says "I'm a nice person" and "I'd like to get to know you better." Of course, don't try so hard that you appear disingenuous or cheesy, but be natural. Likable salespeople sell more than those who aren't likable. Smile and be likable, then make some conversation.

Other good opening questions:

- what kind of phone do you have now?
- I like to ask people who stop by our kiosk which ads they've seen for our services, and which ones they like or don't like...what do you think?
- It really helps me to know what people most dislike about their current phone. What do you think?
- How's your phone working these days?
- Who's considering a new phone?
- How often do you access the internet from your phone? (or email).
- etc.

The best to you... - by Skip Anderson
Your first objective should be to make the customer feel warm, comfortable and welcome. Greet them like you would a friend.

* "Hi. How are you?"
* "How are you doing?"
* "What's up?" or "What's new?"
* "Hey, you're looking good!"
* "Hi! Here for the phone that's on sale?"

Never say "Can I help you?" Never. You wouldn't say it to your friends. And if you say it to your customers they'd probably say "Just looking".

Once you make them feel warm, welcome and comfortable, talking to them like you would a friend, then it's time to start screening and qualifying. - by Jim Klein
Sometimes stepping back and just working from the basics turns out to be the best course of action. Here is a page with a list of opening questions to choose from. - by reldata
Selling Retail by John Lawhon and No Thanks, I'm Just Looking by Friedman. Both may be out of print.

Skip Anderson - by Skip Anderson
thanks.
fyi - i got 200% of my target this month with about $800 us bonus, before that my highest bonus was $430 us so i am wanting to improve even better.
what would you suggest with the above issues.
thanks to those who have replied so far - by myers1984
Don't be a noisy promoter.

Be ready for someone to step toward your display and ask: "Do you want to by a new phone today?"

If the answer is NO say "Okay." As skip says, you treated that person with respect and not a prospect to sell (though Skip and I disagree on method of selling.) That way you've kept the door open which increases your chance of selling to that person another time if not at that time.

If the person says "Yes." sell.

Read "High Probability Selling" by Jacques Werth for some of the best selling advice around today. In high probability prospecting YES and NO questions are important if you want to be highly successful. Once you hear a YES you continue to clarify with YES/NO questions BUT you also ask for conditions of satisfaction - what that person wants and what your phone features.

I also extend kudos to you, myers1984 - by MitchM
You could start by asking, 'What can I help you with today'? The majority of my selling was on the phone and this always worked well to get people to start talking - by susana
nice thats a great opener. what other openers could i use after i greet the customer. - by myers1984
The problem with yes/no questions when opening conversation is that prospects have conditioned themselves over the years to have their automatic answer kick in, which is "no." That doesn't mean they're not interested in your product, or that they don't have needs, it just simply means that they have learned to say "no", and do so automatically without thinking about it.

Is that what a salesperson should desire from their prospect? An automated response that is not based upon reality?

The answer should be "no."

Now, you could go ahead and ask a yes/no (closed) question, but you'll engage less prospects that way, and you'll sell less. There is no question about that.

Or, you can sell the way top performers sell:

1. Put product questions on the backburner; show an interest in the PERSON first;
2. Ask a question that can't be answered with a yes/no, thereby rendering the prospect "automatic response" as being not useful, so they won't use it as often; Use open-ended questions instead.
3. Engage the prospect. Wildly successful salespeople engage their prospects. Political candidates engage voters. People making a new friend engage their new friend. Excellent managers engage their employees. Leaders engage others. Marketers engage their markets. Our business and social infrastructure thrives on engagement, and sales thrive when salespeople engage their prospects. Asking "do you want to buy a new phone today" is not an engaging question for the majority of shoppers.

I can tell you that, from my experience, if you worked for my company and you sold that way, you would likely be the lowest revenue producer on any sales team I have ever managed. - by Skip Anderson
Top performers have unique abilities and personal communication skills and they vary widly, Skip. Many top performers sell exactly the way I sell which is a fact, Skip - your posturing doesn't change that fact. Likewise, I know top performers who sell the as you teach selling - that too is fact.

We engage in friendships when the other person says: yes, I want to know more - talk to me. From that we look for immediate commitments - why I should spend my time talking - and for more detailed reasons the person wants what we offer.

In that comes an immediate conversation that has mostly to do with seeing if mutual trust and respect can exist followed by detailing conditions of satisfaction.

In all of that comes the relationship which evolves from direct and clear conversation.

We don't look for automatic responses, Skip - we listen for a natural YES I want that or NO I don't. These responses are always based on the immediate reality rather than an imagined or assumed psychological drama that many in sales believe has to occur to gain rapport, uncover hiden objections and needs, then close with solutions to this or that.

Likewise we thrive on engagement, on relationships, and work in a human field of absolute trust and respect with complete confidence and consideration of the other person.

It's quite beautiful, like a jewell, like a beautiful gem, Skip. But how would you know having never seen it. - by MitchM
I will put my sales experience and knowledge, and what I have seen and experienced and taught others, up against your 12 years of multi-level marketing / network marketing / pyramid marketing experience any day.

But, if you have convinced yourself that non-selling behaviors are actually selling, then so be it, but it does not make you knowledgeable, enviable, or an expert.

There is no top performer, or medium performer selling in any business or company that I have ever worked in or been associated with that sells the way you describe you sell. You would fail miserably in any of the companies that I work for, plain and simple. - by Skip Anderson
Be clear about this - locking yourself into a "this is a selling behavior and this is a non selling behavior" is an all around limitation that can have strong negative results. Selling behaviors include what I've just posted as well a what you've posted, Skip. Again, what I'm saying and you're saying each represent different ways of selling and top producers come from either system or method. That's a fact.

I see them in my company with top producers earning from a quarter million to a million dollars yearly - some have strong and compelling personalities and others low keyed and very ordinary. Likewise. some sell the way you promote and others the way I promote - and I take Mr. Werth's word and study as indicating that many top producers produce the way he suggests which I in a limited way suggest here.

Neither do I have any need to disregard the truth that people are successful in different ways. BUT I've seen struggling distributors turn from what you promote and what I promote and in that turn around begin to succeed.

Opening questions can be open ended or closed - probing questions are usually both - I simply begin with closed YES or NO in cold prospecting. On the other hand, in conversations, in conversational situations closed and open questions come to play - that's quite natural, Skip.

Likewise, Sharon Drew Miller has much to say about facilitating the decision making process which isn't contrary to what Mr. Werth calls high probability selling.

My guess is that opening up to possibility in what other approaches offer could open up your potential and productivity, Skip. Bu I may be wrong about that. - by MitchM
Mitch your theories and your admiration for "Mr. Werth" are getting in the way of you understanding that people who sell retail products the way you suggested are either very low producers, or they quit because they aren't making enough money, or they end up without a job. It's that simple.

From your posts, I ascertain that you are a retired teacher who decided 12 years ago to try your hand at network marketing. That's great. But it doesn't turn you into a person that should be giving advice in areas where you simply don't have expertise, even though you mean well. I know you say you are a student of selling, but frankly, from your posts, I don't believe it.

MLM is not retail. I know retail. I don't know MLM. The thing I do know about retail is that everyone seems to exaggerate their earnings and the earnings potential of their opportunities.

The companies I work with usually fall into three categories:
- companies who are leading companies in their industries, and want to stay that way, so they invest in sales training.
- companies who are struggling, and need to figure out how to sell more products at more margin with less cost
- companies who decide they'd better do some sales training as an insurance policy against complacency.

In all three types of companies, the goal is to sell more. Certain strategies will help you sell more. Certain other strategies will guarantee you sell less (like the strategy you suggested).

Most salespeople fail. They get fired or quit. And many of those who fail or quit follow strategies like the one you suggest. I know you want to be helpful, but with all due respect, you simply do not know what you're talking about. If you opened up sales conversations the way you suggested, you would be a bottom producer. That's the reality of retail selling, unless you're a clerk instead of a salesperson.

You seem to confuse prospecting with selling. Our scenario wasn't a prospecting scenario, it was a selling scenario in a retail location where someone wanted advice on how to open the sales interaction. That's not prospecting.

Mitch, how would you feel if you entered a furniture store and the opening question from the sales rep was "do you want to buy a sofa?" Or how would you feel if you went into an open house at a house for sale and the agent said "do you want to buy a house?" Or how would you feel if you went into a cell phone store and the salesperson said, "Do you want to buy a phone?"

If you're like almost all people, you would find that question to be inappropriate and aggressive. It's jumping to a closing question at the beginning of a sales interaction. That's simply not effective. And it's not smart.

So the question you recommend is too aggressive for the scenario we were discussing.

It's also too passive. As I explained in my previous post, open ended questions foster engagement at a much higher rate than closed questions do. You don't want to believe that. So be it. But it's true.

I know that I am never going to convince you of my expertise, nor are you going to convince me that you have any business whatsoever making any sales recommendations to people who want to maximize their selling performance. It's true you are the third most prolific poster in this forum, but your reputation rating within the community is very low. It's low for a reason.

That will conclude my participation in this debate. I will leave it to others to discuss and/or debate the issue if they wish. - by Skip Anderson
I work under no delusions or confusion, Skip. I retail retail retail - every month I retail and teach others how to do it - that's one way my distribution network grows - by selling products. Nor do I work from theory - I work 100% from experience.

I sold myself as a house painter for ten years; I worked retain for two years; I sold long distance service, drain and septic tank cleaner, and pagers for three years.

What I always post here, Skip is my experience - never theory - and I make it clear what my experience has been - people can learn something from my experience.

AND I've been a student of sales theory for decades - that counts for something also.

Skip, I have no confusion about prospecting - and how would I feel if the sales guy or gal asked me if I want to buy a sofa or a house? Delighted! Likewise, I find most of the things you seem to admire agressive and contrary to good sales practices. BUT people who sell the way you sell and recommend are successful - I don't need to make me right and you wrong because it's not that way. - by MitchM
Regardless of what type of sales you are in I highly recommend you read the book "How to connect in business in 90 seconds or less" by Nicholas Boothman. I just finished reading it and it encompasses the last 3 seminars I have been to!

It is an easy read and he not only talks about Open Question but he gives some examples. In addition, he discusses how you can use your body language, verbal language, and clothing choices to work for you and to make you more approachable!

I highly recommend reading this book! If you have been doing sales for a long time and think you already know all of these principles it is still a good reminder/refresher course on how to be on top of your game!

Good luck and never stop learning! - by Tabetha16
I find most of the things you seem to admire agressive and contrary to good sales practices.

Mitchm
Mitch, what are the things you think I admire? - by Skip Anderson
From your posts, Skip, you seem to admire pulling sentences out of context as you just did from a lengthy post of mine to sell or create an argument or reason to debate something based on incomplete information. That's also one kind of leading sales question, isn't it.

In sales that's sometimes called "baiting someone" which is agressive and contrary to good sales practices as I see them.

BUT if they work for you and you like them then we do things differently.

MitchM - by MitchM
That's a cop out. You made a statement about me and I'm asking you to explain yourself and clarify it. That's not out of context. That's asking you to justify your remarks, plain and simple.

Perhaps your comment about me was "baiting someone." - by Skip Anderson
"That's asking you to justify your remarks, plain and simple." - Skip

I just did with an example from your question AND: "In sales that's sometimes called "baiting someone" which is agressive and contrary to good sales practices as I see them (my opinion). BUT if they work for you and you like them then we do things differently." -- MitchM

That's pretty clear and specific.

MitchM - by MitchM
You make no sense whatsoever.

You originally posted this:

I find most of the things you seem to admire agressive and contrary to good sales practices.
Then, I respectfully posted this question to you:

Mitch, what are the things you think I admire?
And you won't answer my simple question. Instead, you accuse me of being aggressive. You should be able and willing to justify statements you make referring to another forum member, in my opinion. - by Skip Anderson
Hey guys.
Thank you for everyone helping out.
I know everyone has there way of selling.

My original question was the following:

I am wondering what are some good opening questions to ask customers.

My usual approach is

Hi how are you
" good thanks"
How can i help you out
" just looking"
Looking for anything in particular
" yes / no"


I work in a kiosk in a shopping mall.
If a customer comes up and i say.
Hello how are you
"Good"
Would you like to buy a phone
"No"

I have lost 95% of customers, I have worked in the industry for 2 years and from what i have shown that will not work for us, people are stopping by sometimes not coming up to buy a phone but also passing by.

My question was for my opening approach to just looking and also asking about what i can say when customers come in ie "what brings you in today" etc. - by myers1984
By not being aggressive - promoting with a strong and animated persona; demanding answers to questions in an in-your-face way; using open ended questions to get responses so you can make a sale; using one hundred one overcoming objective lines YOU over time will make sales.

Differentiate yourself from the others, myers. BUT here's the problem: most people are just passing by your kiosk - that is an important reality to know.

Being polite and asking direct questions: "Do you want to purchase a phone today? Ours feature: _____________ and _______________. Do you want that?" works very well.

I was speaking with a friend the other day who has been selling insurance decades and he is very successful. He put some time into a kiosk at a mall and said "Never again."

"Most people are killing time," he told me.

You are not losing customers, myers. These are people who never were customers or potential customers. Think about yourself: when you walk through a mall what are you really looking for? Would twenty-five people getting in your face as I described what NOT to do sell you? Would you like that? Respect that? Do you want to live like that?
-----------------
Questions can be open ended or closed (although I favor closed YES and NO) - probing questions are usually both - I simply begin with closed YES or NO in cold prospecting. On the other hand, in conversations, in conversational situations closed and open questions come to play - that's quite natural.

Sharon Drew Miller (who posts here) has much to say about facilitating the decision making process which isn't contrary to what Mr. Werth (find his web site and look it over, myers) calls high probability selling.

Ask people what they want. Listen. Offer suggestions and show them options. Be helpful without over stating, over selling, over coming genuine NOs just to make your sale.

The best to you.

MitchM - by MitchM
Ask people what they want. Listen. Offer suggestions and show them options. Be helpful without over stating, over selling, over coming genuine NOs just to make your sale.
How does one differentiate genuine NOs from NOs that aren't genuine? - by manchild
Please be very, very careful when you read MitchM's posts. He is mistaken in a great deal of what he posts here.

There is some truth in his posts, too, for instance I am not in favor of an aggressive sales style that is only based upon the salespersons needs instead of the prospects needs. But as a person who has devoted his career to helping others achieve, I cringe when I read some of his ideas here at SalePractice. He is simply not qualified to give advice to someone selling mobile phones at a mall or in many other areas.

Be skeptical at best. - by Skip Anderson
I think the questions should engage the prospect in conversation and "Hi, how are you" alone doesn't really do that but it is a start. If it was me I'd follow up with questions that would put some water under the bridge, get the two of you talking.

For instance, "Not all providers offer the same model of phones. Which provider are you with?" ~ "How would you rate your current provider's service?" ~ "Who will the phone be for?" ~ "What phone have you/they been using?" ~ "How are you currently deciding on which phone to go with?" - by Mikey
Mikey: Yes! Gotta love those open-ended questions!

It's all about engaging the prospect so you can (1) get information; and (2) let the prospect get comfortable with you. - by Skip Anderson
It's all about engaging the prospect so you can (1) get information; and (2) let the prospect get comfortable with you.
I really agree with this.

The information you are able to obtain from your prospect will help you identify the needs of the prospect and help you provide a solution that can benefit the prospect. The more comfortable the prospect is with you the more willing he/she is to disclose that info.


Vince - new to sales, tons to learn... - by Vince
Vince, do you believe that determining the needs of a prospect is more important than determining what the prospect wants? - by Gary A Boye
Hi Myers1984,

I have to preface what I'm writing here by saying I have never sold retail only ever sold B2B. And in doing that followed a lot of the concepts that Skip has put forward. However, I had a colleague who did an extensive study on successful retail sellers.
He told me that the best opening gambit was either a question that people had to agree with or one that took them totally by surprise.

Examples:
"Are you here to make a good decision?"
(What are they going to say, NO I want to make a dumb one?)
or
"Sorry, you are in the wrong isle sir,.....(wait, while they look dumbfounded) ... the really good stuff is over here and you look like someone who appreciates quality"
or
"Would you like to feel happy every day of your life?"
(No I want to be miserable !) -
(He used this line selling Mercedes to test his research)

He would then go into a bit of rapport building and ask,
"what are you after in a phone?" (or whatever they were selling)

He said you had to be very careful not to use the word "needs" because a need is non-negotiable. e.g. you need air, you need food but you want lasagne. (needs versus wants ? Gary ?)

Here is not the place to carry on with his technique as that was not your question. - by Greg Woodley
Vince, do you believe that determining the needs of a prospect is more important than determining what the prospect wants?
Hi Gary! Yup!

I believe if I build a sale based on a prospect's want, it may be easier to make a sale. However the prospect may not truly benefit from the item(s) purchased.

If i build a sale based on a prospect's needs, the prospect will truly benefit from the purchase and I'll have a good chance of being able to sell to this client again.

To me the hard part is determining what a prospect wants and what she/he need.

What are your thoughts on this?


Vince - new to sales, tons to learn... - by Vince
Personally I don't share your perspective but I believe it has merit. Certainly it has the makings of a worthwhile philosophy of sales in an occupational arena where the majority never builds or ascribes to any philosophy.

I believe we must be accountable for our claims and our promises, but accountability for how or when the customer benefits from choosing our "solution" is somewhat beyond our control.

That said, I speak for the developers of SalesPractice when I say that we endorse what the great sales author, Frank Bettger, taught when he defined sales as finding out what people WANT and helping them to get it. - by Gary A Boye
I believe we must be accountable for our claims and our promises, but accountability for how or when the customer benefits from choosing our "solution" is somewhat beyond our control.
Thanks Gary, I'm still new to this and trying to obtain as much knowledge as I can. Your input has given me more to think about. - by Vince
Vince,

I believe Gary commented on a distinction that is seldom recognized, understood or correctly applied to the sales process.

Studies show that what people are calling "needs" are actually "wants." Furthermore, many do not fully explore what are the best "benefits" they should be looking for.

Finally as Gary said, what is a benefit for the customer is out of our control. The quality and candidacy of a potential benefit is determined by, and conforms to, the contour of the customer's sense of identity.

Selling to a true need can be very different than selling to a want. Knowing that difference can turn a sale into another rejection. - by John Voris
You have a tough job what I suggest is to know what kind of incentives your company can provide for new and current customers that want to upgrade. Always know your product and how to use it; this is how you WOW the potential customer that's how i was talked into upgrading to my EVO with Sprint - by jmassiatte
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