Every human is pre-programmed with certain things from birth. Our heart starts beating, we know how to blink our eyes, and we yawn when someone else yawns.

Right up there is our conditioned response to the standard question you often receive when you walk into a shop. “Are you right?” will elicit a response of “Yep.” If a bloodied victim of a car crash stumbled into an emergency department with one arm dangling by his side and the doctor on duty asked, “Are you right?” they would receive the same answer.

You never want to start a conversation with a client with a closed question. Any question that only requires a yes or no answer will not build that instant rapport you need to build relationships. When a client walks in, you need to ask an open question that requires an answer of more substance. Typically, a question along the lines of “What can I help you with today?” or better still “How are you today, sir?” followed up by another open question. Immediately, you are having a conversation with the client.

Ultimately, people buy from people, not from systems, brochures, or ads. Let the sales staff be themselves and phrase the greeting in a way they feel comfortable, as long as it can’t elicit a yes or no. As you go through the sales process, more open questions will draw out the information that you require to make a successful sale—most importantly providing the client with a solution to his or her point of pain—not your guess of the problem.

Once you have established the point of pain and you have listened carefully to the client, it is then time to move to closed questions. Now you want to hear a definite yes or no from the client to ensure there is no ambiguity and that you have understood the requirements. “It sounds to me like you require a purple widget with frosting on top that will return when you throw it. Is that correct?” You don’t want to be unsure of what he or she wants. And of course, lastly, you want to close the sale. “Would you like to take that with you now, sir?”

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