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Posted by Frank Belzer on Mon, Aug 22, 2011 @ 05:43 AM
  
  
  
Frank Belzer is the Sales Archaeologist and Author of Sales Shift.

describe the imageI probably write more about questioning and listening skills than anything else – for good reason. Time and again I’m either asked to help with these skills or while working with a client I’ll uncover the fact that they need help. It’s a frequent source of prospect and client angst when they are dealing with a sales person – “he didn’t listen to a word I said”.

Most salespeople know that they should be listening. They know that the right thing to do is to listen and that the wrong thing to do is to talk and yet almost inexplicably it happens; verbal diarrhea. You’re thinking “Well that’s not me, usually the problem is not that I fail to listen at all - just that I am not listening enough.” So let’s look at how even not listening enough can have a direct impact on revenue.

Prospect: So I guess we could really address ____ a little better than we do now.

Salesperson: Well we help make ____ better so tell me how you would like it to improve?

Prospect: Mainly on the efficiency side, I think we could be much more efficient.

Salesperson: OK, let me explain how we can help with efficiency and solve that issue……..(salesperson proceeds to talk about product or service)

So at first glance not bad, at least a question was asked and the biggest concern was attached to the solution that the salesperson could offer. This is as far as most sales people get when they say they are listening – one layer deep. But what didn’t the salesperson learn or where did an opportunity get missed in this scenario?

  1. What else was a concern in addition to their main concern?
  2. Why now?
  3. Why get better?
  4. What happens if you don’t get better?
  5. How much these inefficiencies have cost?
  6. Details of the Inefficiencies.

All of a sudden what looked OK as a line of questioning looks pretty weak, doesn’t it? When you think about all of the questions the dialog didn’t answer you realize how shaky any proposal or demo would be based on the answers to those questions alone. Plus, all of your competitors probably went one layer deep so there was no differentiation between you and the competition.  If you are the prospect how confident are you that the salesperson really understands your issue with inefficiencies after just one question?

So let’s look at that again and this time let’s go 3 layers deep.

Prospect: So I guess we could really address ____ a little better than we do now.

Salesperson: Well we help make ____ better so tell me how you would like it to improve?

Prospect: Mainly on the efficiency side, I think we could be much more efficient.

Salesperson: Would you mind describing “efficient” from a cost perspective, usually that means expense?

Prospect: I know it does, I am sure it is costing us a lot but I have no idea of the total dollars.

Salesperson: I understand, maybe we could talk about other costs that I typically find are associated with inefficiencies – manpower, wasted time, customer satisfaction – is it fair to conclude that those are issues as well?

Prospect: Those are some of the symptom’s I was referring to, we actually had an incident last week with one of our best customers that prompted me to listen to you when you called.

Salesperson: If you don’t mind and since it is part of why I am here why you don’t you tell me what happened – that will really help me understand your problem?

Prospect: Sure……(describes problem in detail)

So I am not going to describe the differences in detail but did you see what happened when you ask the right questions? Do you see how doing that would create a stronger relationship and increase the urgency? Do you get the sense that you would be differentiating yourself? Wouldn’t doing this – going 3 layers deep on every point – drive in more revenue and more new business?

If you are a CEO or VP of Sales and this post causes you to wonder whether your sales people are questioning prospects in a way more similar to the first scenario than the second, why not take 10 minutes and Grade your Sales Force ?

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COMMENTS

Interestingly, last Friday, one of the salespeople that I'm coaching asked, "How do I know when it's time to stop asking questions and present?". I answered, "Never."

posted @ Monday, August 22, 2011 6:08 AM by Rick Roberge


Rick, 
 
Great advice. I will try it out, today. Also, I will tweet it out if I can figure out twitter.

posted @ Monday, August 22, 2011 7:20 AM by Mike Langan


HI Frank, 
 
I have been collecting your blog notifications and putting them in a folder for when I have time to read them but this title got my eye and I opened it immediately. I found the content extremely helpful and plan to use it today during my calls. Have a great day Frank:).

posted @ Monday, August 22, 2011 7:30 AM by Marlene Richards


@marlene - thanks I am glad you found it helpful. Great to hear from you btw.

posted @ Monday, August 22, 2011 3:30 PM by Frank Belzer


Hi Frank, 
 
Great note and worth reading. I will share with my sales team. I also recommend others to do the Grade your sales force as well; It helped me make a decision which helped out the business.  
 
 
 
Many thanks Frank.

posted @ Wednesday, August 24, 2011 7:31 AM by Fadi Merhi


Comments have been closed for this article.