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Soft Question Selling

Soft Question Selling

Since the inception of business, customer service has fallen into three categories: passive, average and proactive.

  • Passive and average people wait for things to happen, and, in general, do the bare minimum.
  • Proactive people make things happen and create positive situations.

Proactive people are naturally inquisitive. They use their personality. They are friendly, warm and above average in being helpful and getting the job done. They speed the rapport-building process by immediately introducing themselves. This creates a positive and lasting impression. Is it any wonder why customers prefer dealing with proactive people?

Proactive people look for opportunities to make it easy for a customer to do business with their organization. This gives them an edge, not just in rapport building, but also in cross-selling. Generically, it's called cross-selling, upselling or even suggestive selling. Here at Telephone Doctor we call it Soft Question Selling.

Remember to see if your caller has any need for other services or products your company offers. Your company is likely in a very competitive environment, and extra business is important, but how do you keep from seeming too pushy? You may worry that the customer is going to resent your attempts to cross-sell. I do hear that every once in a while, and certainly none of us wants to offend the customer. It's a matter of technique.

Your company probably has products and services that your customer needs but doesn't know about. If you don't offer or suggest these helpful ideas, you're actually denying them something they might need.

Don't deny your customer a choice: That's key in being proactive! But how is it done? By asking Soft Questions like these.

  • By the way, are you aware of our free overnight shipping policy if we make a mistake on your order?
  • Would you be interested in taking advantage of our sale on knit polo shirts?
  • Were you aware of our VIP plan? It allows business travelers to upgrade for only $25 per day.

Those were Soft Questions, and they are seldom rejected. If the customer needs the services, they will give you a positive response, and if they don't, they'll give you a soft turn down to your soft question. Try it. It works. Here's a brief scenario using the Soft Question Selling.

Proactive Agent: Great! I'll put your paperwork in today's mail, Mr. Mills. [Soft Question] Oh, by the way, are you aware of our free, online bill paying service?

Mr. Mills: No, I'm not.

Proactive Agent: Well, it's a convenient way to pay your bills without needing to write the checks or needing to mail them.

Mr. Mills: Well, that sounds interesting. Sure, tell me more.

Remember: Use soft questions to give your customer a choice!

And, once again, here's something to keep in mind that will help you with that all-important cross-selling, upselling and suggestive selling: Soft Questions usually get soft answers. You won't feel rejected with a soft answer even if you don't get the added sale. The important thing is that you aren't denying your caller the choice of having access to a product or service that could benefit them.

Statement of Fact:

To achieve a superior level of customer service, we need to exceed our customers' expectations. That is done by showing an obviously friendly and sincere interest in your customers and doing what's needed to make every encounter a positive situation.

You also can exceed your customers' expectations with a soft approach to cross-selling, up-selling and suggestive selling. If you'll use Telephone Doctor's Soft Question Selling technique, you'll get soft answers, whether yes or no. In either case your customer won't be offended, and in many cases you're helping them (and your company) with a new service or product they need. In addition, this technique will make you more successful at your job.

NancyFriedman-HeadshotNancy Friedman is founder and president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training in St Louis, Missouri. Telephone Doctor helps companies communicate better with their customers and coworkers. Nancy is a popular keynote speaker at franchise conferences and corporate meetings around the country. The author of nine, Nancy has appeared on Oprah; Fox News; CNN; Today Show; CBS This Morning; Good Morning America, Great Britain, Australia; and many other radio and TV shows and media outlets. She can be reached at [email protected] or visit or call 314.291.1012.

This article was republished with permission and originally appeared at the Telephone Doctor.
Photo courtesy of Nancy Friedman.

Photo courtesy of Nancy Friedman.

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