I’m reading Hope Is Not a Strategy: The 6 Keys to Winning the Complex Sale by Rick Page, a sales trainer and consultant. Page talks about the “so what” test:
“The simple ‘so what’ test should be recycling inside a salesperson’s head whenever he or she is talking to a prospect. When salespeople don’t provide the answer to that question, the linkage between your offering and client’s need is left up to the client – or even worse, to the competitor or to some outside consultant – or perhaps it doesn’t happen at all. In any event, lack of linking means loss of control and value.”
In short: If you’re speaking and your potential client is thinking “so what?”, you’ve lost them.
They’re thinking “so what” when you spend the sales call telling them all about you. They don’t want long dissertations on how long you’ve been in business, how many jobs you’ve built, how incredible your company is, or all the awards you’ve won. In our book Profitable Sales, I explain that everyone’s radio station is tuned to WIIFM: What’s In It For Me. If you are busy telling them about you, they’ll buy from the other guy.
They care about whether or not you can build the job they want, at a fair price, when they want it built. They won’t know you’re the one who can do that when they hear your company’s life story. They’ll know you can do that when you ask questions.
Here’s why. When you’re selling your services, whether you’re a remodeler, new home builder, or a specialty contractor, you’re selling an intangible. You don’t have a widget that the potential client can hold in their hand and say, “Just like this, only blue.” What they want is an idea: more living space, a kitchen that’s easier to use, a comfortable deck for entertaining, a home that meets their needs, improved lighting in their family room, fencing that improves their home value and keeps the family safe.
The hard part is turning those ideas into something tangible. When you’re asking questions, your client realizes that you’re really trying to get into their head and figure out what they want.
Asking questions makes them think about what you’re asking and keeps them busy formulating answers to those questions. At some point, those questions are going to make them realize that you are serious about their project, and that is the first step in building trust. When you can pinpoint what they want, and present it back to them in a way that helps them visualize what you’ll create for them, that’s selling. They aren’t thinking “so what”, they’re thinking “He understands what I want!”
If I may insert an old quote here, “The customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” When you’re asking questions, they realize you care.