Four Great Sales Questions
As the old saying goes, "Knowledge is power." In a sales context, the more you know about your prospects, the better you will be able to tailor your product - in this case, advertising - to their needs.

The best way to get information is to ask the right questions. Open-ended questions (which invite longer responses) are better than closed-ended questions (which invite yes/no or short answers). Let's take a look at four of the most effective sales questions, listed here in no particular order.

1. What do you do that your competitors don't do? Differentiation is at the heart of a marketing. What makes your prospect's business different? What makes it stand out? What services or products can she provide that others can't?

A clearly defined answer will result in targeted messaging. A vague answer will result in equally vague advertising - with weak response rates.

One of the key objectives in a sales dialogue is to help the advertiser identify relevant and specific reasons to buy (I call that RTB). Look for uniqueness that is relevant to the target audience.

2. What do you like best about your current marketing? The purpose of this question is to learn what your prospect likes best. The emphasis is on the positive. Does he like photos? Does he like weekly specials? What about web links? Or testimonials from happy customers? Or big sales events?
Of course, studying the current advertising will make it easy for you to sharpen the focus of this question. ("I notice that you use a lot of coupons. How does that work for you?")

This information will give you some guidelines in preparing spec ads. As long as his Want List follows principles of effective advertising, you'll be able to include many of his ideas in spec ad presentations.

3. What would you like to do differently in your marketing? This is where you help your prospect visualize a desired future state.

Along the way, she might voluntarily mention some things she would like to change. If not, this question will help you shift the conversation. (After all, if things are going perfectly right now, there's no need for her to consider any changes.)

Note that it is phrased in a positive way. Instead of saying, "What do you not like?" ask, "What would you do differently?"

4. How would you describe your ideal customer? This is an area where many advertisers - especially the Mom and Pop businesses - try to cast a net that is too wide.

I once used a shoe store as an example in an ad seminar. When I asked, "What is your target audience?" someone suggested, "People who buy shoes." Certainly, that is true. But the focus needs to be tighter in order to bring customers to the store.

The purpose of this question is to identify a specific target audience. If you try to appeal to everybody, you're appealing to nobody.

Help your advertisers think in specifics. You'll sell more. And their ads will work better.

(c) Copyright 2014 by John Foust. All rights reserved. John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: john@johnfoust.com.


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