We expect newer salespeople to be sales challenged, that is, not very effective when it comes to listening and questioning. But the reality is that for at least 74% of the sales population, veteran salespeople aren’t very effective at this either. Here are some of Objective Management Group’s additional statistics from assessing salespeople:
• 58% talk too much
• 58% don’t ask enough questions
• 84% present too early in the sales process
• 85% offer quotes or proposals too early in the sales process
• 86% take prospects at their word – they trust enough to not ask a clarifying question
I see this over and over again in the early stages of sales development at every company we help.
Read this great example from yesterday's mailbag:
A salesperson emailed his lessons learned and included this one:
“The final lesson again concerns the compelling reasons to buy. Ideally in your line of questioning during uncovering these you should try and get the prospect to attach a monetary value to the compelling reasons. This made me think of a prospect of mine where I believed I had two separate compelling reasons but when I looked at them I didn’t have the monetary value associated with the issue. The two reasons were: 1) The current test environment is all physical and is taking up too much space in the datacenter. By replacing it with new virtual infrastructure it will save lots of space and data center power and cooling. My next question should have been ‘How much money is it costing you each month in space, power and cooling by not moving to the new infrastructure?’ 2) The test environment was so different to their production environment half of all application go lives were backed out of after application issues when they moved into production. Again, my next question should have been ‘How many times has this happened and what do you estimate the cost of each aborted go live to be?’”
I wrote back, “On your very last example, you suggested questions that you could have asked – good job.
“To help even further, there should be some additional questions in and around “how many times has this happened?” and “what did it cost?”
“It should start with:
Tell me more about that!
How big of a problem does that cause each time it happens?
What are the users saying?
Who are they saying it to?
How do you feel when you have to retract an app that already went live?
How many times did that happen in the past 36 months?
What should that number be?
How much time is wasted as a result?
What does it prevent you from doing?
What would it be worth to recover that time?
Is there a lost opportunity cost associated with this?
Is there a hard cost associated with an abort?
So if you had to guess, what is the overall cost associated with not moving to the new environment?
Is that a lot?
Who else cares about that?
How do you feel about that?”
That’s 17 additional baby steps to get from “half of the go lives have to be backed out” and “how much did it cost?” Most of your salespeople attempt to go from A to Z without stopping to visit B through Y.
You cannot script these questions. Your salespeople must be able to identify the questioning opportunities in real time while their prospects are responding to the question currently in play. This requires VERY focused listening, note taking, and patience. And the biggest challenge? Your salespeople must avoid the temptation to jump to a different question topic, jump to presentation, or jump in with a solution!