Asking the right question

In our recent study of top sales achievers we discovered a not-so-surprising fact: Top salespeople listen more than talk on sales calls.

They invest most of their time in the needs analysis stage, discussing buyer needs, wants and concerns. So, it got me thinking. If there was just one question you could ask your customer, what would it be? Here are some of my favorites to add to your list:

What is the single most important thing you want from a supplier?

What is the one thing that keeps you awake at night?

What can we do to make your life easier?

If you were in my business, what would you offer customers like yourself that no one does?

What is most critical to your success in this project?

Considering your needs, how would you describe the ideal supplier?

Where could we have the most impact on your business?

What would cause you to buy more from us than any other supplier?

What would you like us to do for you that we are not currently doing?

What would you like to be able to do tomorrow that you cannot do today?

You’ll notice that the focus of these questions is on the customer. None of these are trial closes like: If we did this would you be interested? These questions are designed to help the customer express where they need the most help. As a value-added salesperson, your job is to identify “root-canal” level pain and make it go away with your solution. This happens when you ask the right questions, listen fully to the buyer’s answers, and fashion a solution that mirrors the buyer’s needs.

Measure success one step at a time

Success comes in many shapes, sizes, and frequencies. Sometimes, it comes when we least expect it. Other times, it eludes us, just as we think it’s in our grip. For salespeople, the obvious success is closing the deal. Conversely, failure is defined as not getting the deal. This connection between end results and success is invigorating and discouraging. Einstein said: “Try not to be a man of success but a man of value.” His advice makes sense. Focus on the value of your efforts and success will follow.

It’s like golf. I can have a pretty good day of shots and still score higher than I like. If I focus only on the final score and not the shots I’ve made, I get discouraged and have all the wrong conversations with myself. If I concentrate on the shots, one at a time, and learn from them, it generally shows up in the final score. The same thing applies to sales.

We call this Limited Objectives Selling. This means that we define specific benchmarks along the sales path and concentrate on achieving these benchmarks one at a time until the final objective is achieved. Breaking down your success into a series of steps allows you to enjoy your results while on your journey. Think about something you want to accomplish. How many steps will it take to reach this goal? Each step brings immediate success that leads to ultimate success. By focusing on what you accomplish along the way, you capitalize on the positive emotion of short-term success. If you ultimately fail to achieve the long-range objective, you still have done many things right in the process.

If I’m driving the ball well and hitting good approach shots but my putting is off today, I may not bring in the low score I want. The day wasn’t a total bust. If I only focus on the shots I missed – the sale I didn’t make – I am ignoring all of those other parts of my game where I was strong and cheating myself of the successes I enjoyed in those areas.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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