The Power of Questions

The most powerful, persuasive and effective sales presentation is one that is customized to the wants, needs and desires of the prospect. Although this sounds like common sense, in reality it is not common practice!

Many membership salespeople are using the "80/20 rule" in reverse. They talk 80 percent of the time and listen 20 percent, when sales masters spend 20 percent of their time talking and 80 percent listening, mainly to the answers of the questions that they have posed. After all, the best way to maintain control of a conversation and lead its direction is to use questions, isn't it?

Without the use of questions, the salesperson can only speak about that which he already knows. The sales presentation quickly deteriorates to the ineffective, dreaded "feature-dump" (telling prospects about equipment or classes) or theme-park-style guided tour (where the unskilled salesperson merely indicates the obvious to the prospect - "...and this is our pool...next we have our aerobics studio").

Meet, Greet and Pre-frame Questions
After a good introduction using rapport and communication skills mastery, there are four key questions that allow the salesperson to begin qualifying the prospect:

1. Have you been in the club before?

2. How did you hear about us?

3. Is the membership for you or someone else?

4. A tour of the facility takes about 20 minutes. Does that fit your schedule?

The pre-frame helps to eliminate the prospect's fear of the unknown by detailing exactly what the forthcoming presentation will consist of: "John, let me explain what your visit will entail. First, let's sit down and find out what you're interested in. Next, I'll show you the facility, and then, if we have what you're looking for, I'll explain the membership options for you. How does that sound?"

Personal Analysis Questions
In order to understand the most effective questions to use, one must first realize how decisions are made. Although we would like to believe that we are logical people, studies show that we tend to make decisions based on emotion and justify them with logic later. Therefore, in order to engage and help motivate an individual, we must uncover the emotional forces that are driving his behavior. That means asking the What- and Why-type questions. Examples: "What are you interested in accomplishing in your exercise program?" "What would accomplishing that do for you?" "Why is that important to you?" "How important is it for you to realize your goals?" "Why is that important to you now?"

Only when the salesperson understands a prospect's emotional motivation is he prepared to launch on a facility tour.

Questions on Tour
Effective tour questions are involvement-type questions that revolve around the prospect's key interests and expectations, and allow the prospect to make minor commitments during the tour. Examples: "Jane, you mentioned that you enjoy group fitness classes. Of the classes you see available here on our schedule, which ones do you think you would want to try first?" "Bob, this is our weight-training area of the club. You mentioned before that you would feel a lot more confident if you lost some weight. How familiar are you with the need to perform resistance training as well as aerobic training?"

Membership Options and Closing Questions
As the tour draws to a close, ask, "Aside from the memberships, did you have any more questions?"

Now the membership options may be explained, and, very assumptively, use the alternate choice method to close. Example: "Of the Silver, Gold or Platinum Memberships, which one do you think would best meet your needs?" (Smile and be quiet!) When prospects choose a membership, initiate the paperwork, and welcome them to your club!

Mike Campetelle is a speaker, trainer and consultant to professionals in the health and fitness industry worldwide. You can contact him at P.O. 272, Storrs, CT 06268; (800) 761-9792; (860) 487-5905; fax: (860) 429-7018; wondermike@rcn.com.


Question Types

- Close-ended: Questions that can be answered with "Yes" or "No." (Avoid these unless you are certain of the answer!)

- Open-ended: Questions that require a sentence or phrase answer (e.g., "What types of goals do you have in mind?").

- Involvement: Questions that assume that the prospect is becoming a member (e.g., "Which classes will you be taking?").

- Alternate Choice: Questions that result in a purchase (e.g., "Between the fitness or full-club membership, which one would suit you best?").

- Tie Downs: Tag-on words that convert statements into questions (e.g., "Questions are a powerful tool, aren't they?" "It's a beautiful day, isn't it?" "It doesn't make sense to wait any longer, does it?").


Why Questions Are So Important

- You can only talk about that which you already know. Asking and listening allow you to grow!
- Sales masters know that it's all about the prospect. It's not all about how great their product is.
- Questions indicate a sincere interest in the other party.