Elevator Questions Are The Key To Your Sales Success

Tim Connor
 


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If you were able to get an appointment with the president of an organization that was a potential customer who could give you more business in one sale than all of your other customers combined and when you sat down in front of their desk they said to you, “OK salesperson, you have 3 minutes, why should I do business with you and your organization?" What would you do or say?

Selling can be a challenging and difficult process.

The one concept, that when fully grasped and applied in your sales process that can have a significant positive impact on your sales results is the ability to ask elevator questions and make elevator statements. Let me explain.

What are elevator questions (E. Q. s)? Let me ask you a question: If you were told by a prospect that you had sixty seconds to sell him , what would you do? Would you condense your sales message into a one-minute presentation or talk about your organization and its strengths and history?

Would you ask a few thought-provoking questions or sit or stand there dumbfounded, wondering what to do or what to say?

I recently met an individual on an elevator. He looked like he was a business person, so I asked him, “What do you do for a living?" He responded, “I am in the insurance industry. " My follow-up question was, “What do you do in the insurance business?" He said he was the president. (Keep in mind, I don’t have a lot of time here; we are on an elevator. )

My follow-up question was, “Are you aware of what your lost sales are costing you every year?" (E. Q. )

He responded with, “What do you do for a living?"

I said, “I am in the business of helping organizations increase their sales. " (E. S. – elevator statement)

Needless to say, we continued the discussion in the lobby of the hotel and we left that initial meeting with an exchange of business cards and a commitment to discuss his challenges and my services later in the week by phone.

An elevator question is any question that cuts to the heart of your prospect’s challenges, concerns, or fears and makes him think. It also implies that you or your organization may have a solution for his problems.

Elevator questions are designed to encourage more dialogue between you and your prospect. At this point, you are not selling, you are probing. Remember, there is a time to sell and there is a time to prospect. While on an elevator is not the time to sell. However, based on the other person’s response and emotional reaction to your question, you will begin to determine whether this prospect is worth more of your time, energy, and resources.

Their purpose

I am constantly amazed at salespeople who jump too quickly from the probing and qualifying phase of the sales process to the presentation phase. And then they wonder why they are not closing more sales.

In the profession of medicine, we call a diagnosis without proper information malpractice. In selling, you may not get sued, but you will certainly blow another sale.

If you can master the skill of elevator questions, you will be astonished at the results you will achieve with them.

Remember that elevator questions are not used only on elevators. They can be used at social settings, while selling on the telephone, or at any point during the sales process.

All of the great salespeople I have ever met or had the privilege of having in my audiences were masters at elevator questions.

How about you? Do you have any? Do you use them regularly? Do they work?

There are two outcomes that are the result of your sales efforts: a sale or no sale. That’s it. Yes, at some future point you can close a sale that was postponed or delayed due to some internal or external circumstance that was beyond your control. But, this is still either a sale now or it isn’t.

The purpose of elevator questions is to peel away the layers of excuses, stalls, and lies (yes, people lie), and to get to the truth. One way you know you are getting truth from a prospect is when the answers she gives to your various questions are consistent. Elevator questions, when designed and delivered properly, will ensure that you don’t get any surprises later in the sales process after having invested your time and resources. Their main purpose, however, is to help the prospect “self-discover" what her real issues, needs, problems, desires, or challenges are, and to do it in a way that makes you look like you understand her problems, needs, etc. These questions should:

- create or discover a sense of urgency on her part;

- come from her perspective, not yours;

- be easy to understand;

- be thought provoking;

- make you look knowledgeable;

- create a desire for more information from you;

- position you as a professional rather than just another salesperson;

- build trust;

- create a desire for a solution.

The process

Selling is a process, not a transaction. Selling is about developing relationships and building trust. Neither of these comes easily or quickly, but with patience, the right focus, unfailing integrity, and a willingness to serve, they will come to you in the end. The process for developing elevator questions is simple.

1. You need to know what your prospect’s greatest needs, desires, problems, or challenges are – generally speaking.

2. You have to have the courage to ask difficult and thought-provoking questions.

3. You need to phrase the questions in a way that they imply you have an answer or a solution.

4. They should be brief and not complicated.

5. They should ask for only one piece of information in the other person’s answer.

6. They should be free of technical or industry lingo.

7. They should be open-ended questions.

8. They should make the other person uncomfortable with his answer.

9. You should be prepared with additional follow-up elevator questions to probe even deeper.

Ingredients

Effective E. Q. s contain one or more of the following ingredients:

1. They create a sense of urgency on the prospect’s part.
Urgency means that the other person wants the problem solved now rather than later.

2. They come from the prospect’s perspective, not yours.
These questions should not be about what you or your company does, but should focus on the prospect.

3. They are easy to understand.
They should use simple, common words (8th-grade level) and should be free of industry jargon.

4. They make the prospect think.
They provoke thought in a way that creates a little unrest that she has (still has) the problem.

5. They make you look knowledgeable.
When delivered with confidence, they should send a message loud and clear: You are different.

6. They create a desire for more information from you.
They imply that further conversation with you will be a wise investment on her part and not a waste of time.

7. They position you as a professional rather than just another salesperson.
They set you apart in the profession because you demonstrate that you are not there to waste the prospect’s time.

8. They build trust.
One of the best ways to build trust is to be interested in others and their needs and problems.

9. They create a desire for a solution.
If you have a problem, when do you want it solved – now or later?

Samples

Here are some sample elevator questions:

How are your competitors dealing with _?

What would be the biggest negative consequence of your waiting to take action on _?

What is preventing you from addressing and solving this problem now?

What do you feel are the critical factors for success with (or in) your industry or business)?

How do you determine and define quality, organization effectiveness, or _?

How do you feel that your present strategy (approach) is preparing you for the future?

What are the three critical factors for success in your business, industry, or _?

What is one lesson you have learned about _ that has made a significant difference in your success?

If you could do one thing better than all of your competitors, what would it be?

What does the loss of a good employee, customer, or supplier cost you?

Where do you see your business in five years? Ten years?

If you could improve one area of your business that would increase your profits, effectiveness, etc. , what would that be?

Elevator Statements

Most salespeople talk too much and say too little. These people believe that what a prospect wants to hear is everything the salesperson knows. If this were true, every prospect would want to participate in all of your in-house sales-training programs.

What your prospects want answers to is:

- Can you solve my problem?

- Can you do it better than my current supplier?

- Can you do it cheaper than my current supplier?

- Why should I do business with you?

- Can I trust and believe you?

Yes, you need to tell prospects something, but what if you don’t have a lot of time? What if they ask you on an elevator what you do or how you can help them – what do you or would you say? What if a prospect tells you, “You have one minute: Why should I buy from you?" Da!

Elevator statements are concise, simple, easy to understand, general yet specific, and are positioned so that the prospect can relate to them from the perspective of her needs, problems, or desires.

Elevator statements are not feature-based, but prospect-based, not long definitions, but short ideas that convey precisely how the prospect will benefit from your product or service and how she will benefit now. Elevator statements are only mini sales presentation statements. They are not intended to move the prospect from not buying to buying. Their purpose is not to thoroughly educate them on a particular feature or benefit and they are not meant to replace your normal presentation message or approach.

Defining statements

A defining statement is a very specific and precise elevator statement. It combines all of the necessary ingredients so that when a prospect walks away from an elevator conversation with you, he knows who you are, what you do, and how he will benefit by doing business with you.

A defining statement should include all of the following ingredients:

1. It must use common one-syllable words that are easy to understand.
If you stick to the language an 8th grader would understand (and I am not referring here to slang), you are in good shape.

2. It must be conversational.
It is not an advertising theme or slogan; it is a conversational answer to, “What do you do?"

3. It must create some attraction on the part of the other person.
It should make people want to talk with you, be with you, learn from you.

4. It must have a dream focus.
If it helps the prospect see the future as better than the present in any way, you have a dream focus.

5. It must contain the what and the who.
It defines outcomes and who would be served by working with you or buying from you.

6. It must have a dual focus.
Create a two-part statement that has two outcomes and you will thereby appeal to a wider audience. (See my defining statement below. )

7. It must have repeatability.
This may be the hardest one to accomplish, but if you can get other people to be able to repeat it – watch your referrals soar.

A few tips to consider:

1. Use the words work with.

2. Use the word want.

3. Use one and in your statement.

4. Use three- to five-word outcomes.

A few ways to use a defining statement:

1. Introduce yourself with it when appropriate.

2. Use it in your telemarketing efforts.

3. Turn it into a headline for a brochure.

4. Use it on the home page for your website.

5. Use it on your voice mail message.

6. Put it on your fax cover sheet.

7. Write articles built around it.

8. Order promotional gifts and give-aways with it printed or engraved on them.

I thought I would wrap up this section with my own defining statement:

I own an international business that works with large and small organizations worldwide who want to increase their sales and improve their management focus.

Take your time developing a defining statement. This one took me several hours over a period of a few weeks. But, once you have it, now let it get a hold of you and believe it, memorize it, practice it, use it, and watch it galvanize the people with whom you interact.

Their purpose

Elevator statements are not mini sales presentations. They are not discussion of a feature and its benefits. They, by themselves, will not sell or educate your prospect; they will, however—if carefully designed and executed—ensure that your prospect or customer will want to hear more.

If you can tell me everything your product or service does in 15 words or less and leave me totally understanding how I will benefit from doing business with you – you are a genius; I should be reading your book. However, if you can tell me with the same 15 words-or-less sentence how a particular problem or challenge of mine will be solved or a desire answered, I will give you more of my time. The main objective of elevator statements is to buy little blocks of the prospect’s time, one block at a time.

Ask a prospect if she has 20 minutes or all day for you to sell to her and don’t be surprised with her answer. Ask a prospect if you can have a minute of her time to see if you can show her how to make more money, save more time, have more fun, have better relationships, and so on, and most people will give you that minute. Now, you better perform flawlessly during that minute.

The sequence is: an elevator question followed by an elevator statement. Total time, less than 60 seconds, not counting her answer.

Tim Connor, CSP is an internationally renowned sales, relationship, management and leadership speaker, trainer and best selling author. Since 1981 he has given over 3500 presentations in 21 countries on a variety of sales, management and relationship topics. He is the best selling author of over 60 books including; He can be reached at tim@timconnor.com , 704-895-1230 or visit his website at http://www.timconnor.com .

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