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4 Reasons Why Salespeople Suck at Consultative Selling.

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Sep 26, 2017 @ 10:09 AM

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Yesterday, a sales manager I was coaching asked me to explain the difference between a great question and a tough question.  I gave him the one-minute version but this article has the expanded version of that answer.

I'll use my world as an example and ask you to translate accordingly.  

In my world, while I might occassionally be on a first call with a Senior Sales Leader, I am most frequently speaking with the CEO.  With CEO's, the most common issue they articulate is, "I'm not sure we have the right sales leader."

We have 3 levels of questions and it's important to understand that you must be patient enough to ask them in the proper sequence, and not one right after another.  The proper sequence is:

  • Good Question
  • Tough Question
  • Great Question

There should probably be a few questions and answers between your good question and your tough question and there should be a few more questions and answers between your tough question and your great question.  If you don't get as far as asking and getting the answer to your great question, I can promise you this:

  • You didn't get to the compelling reason they would buy
  • You didn't get to the compelling reason they would buy from you
  • You didn't differentiate yourself from the competition
  • You didn't get your prospect emotional
  • You won't be able to quantify and/or monetize the impact of the problem
  • You may not get the business

So let's start at the beginning, where we heard, "I'm not sure we have the right sales leader."

A good question could be, "Why are you concerned?"  A good question not only allows you to ask for more information, but it must also be relevant to the discussion at hand.

Several questions later, after hearing the CEO's concerns and getting much needed clarification, a tough question might be, "With all of these concerns, and him not responding to your challenges to step it up and make the requested changes, why is he still here?"  A tough question is usually one where, as with this example, you challenge your prospect. You could also push back against what was said in an effort to change outdated thinking or an incorrect assumption.

Several minutes later, after additional conversation, questions and clarification, the CEO says, "He's my son-in-law - that's why he's still here."  Now it's time for a great question.  A great question might sound something like, "So, even if you found the perfect replacement, the challenge for you is how do you replace your son-in-law as the sales leader without ruining the relationship you have with your daughter?" You'll know it's a great question because your prospect will say, "Great question."

The 3 levels of questions, the sequence and your ability to go wider and deeper are examples of the consultative approach to selling.  The consultative selling competency is by far, the one where most salespeople are the weakest.  Objective Management Group's (OMG) latest statistics, from the evaluations and assessments of around 1.6 million salespeople, show the following:

Only 35% of all salespeople have Consultative Seller as a strength.

cons-graph.png

The top 10% have an average score of only 66

The bottom 10% have an average score of just 36

The average score for all salespeople is just 50.  The average salesperson has only 50% of the necessary attributes of the Consultative Seller competency which means that they suck at the consultative approach.

 There are four reasons why salespeople are so inherently bad at this:

  1. They need to be liked so they won't ask a question if they think the prospect will get upset with them for asking.
  2. Good questioning requires good listening skills and the only thing most salespeople are good at listening to is the sound of their own voice.
  3. Most salespeople have never been trained or coached to sell consultatively.
  4. Most salespeople are best at presenting and just can't wait long enough for the opportunity to present.

Here is another good article on consultative selling

Here is one more good article on consultative selling.

If you still have an appetite for more reading on the subject, here is another good one.

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, asking questions, accurate sales assessment, active listening

Dissecting the #1 Sales Best Practice

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 @ 09:08 AM

best_practice.jpg

One company is attempting to create a compilation of best sales practices by sending out a weekly survey to sales leaders and asking them to choose from multiple choice questions what they most often do and teach.  The topic changes each week.  This is silly because (1) it just isn't that simple, (2) it's different for each selling role, each vertical, the decision makers they call on, their price points, the length of their sales cycle, and their respective competition, just to name a few.  In addition, when you ask multiple choice questions like this, the answers will be so varied that there won't be even a few, never mind a single best practice.  Here is an example of what they asked this week:

Select the action with which you have the most direct experience or expertise.
(My comment - The question is poorly designed and then the choices that follow include about 10 more than is ideal to arrive at best practices.)
  • Proactively ask customers about the “decision criteria” 
  • Directly ask customers about their buying criteria 
  • Develop a set of questions salespeople can use to uncover customer decision process and time line
  • Conduct after sales reviews with customers to determine the real value
  • Develop a set of questions to ask customers at each step in the sales process
  • Develop account plans 
  • Ensure that your sales process is adaptable 
  • Identify and prioritize your high growth and high potential accounts
  • Gather feedback from customers on a regular basis
  • Train sales representatives in active listening and empathy
  • Ensure salespeople are always asking customers questions about what they want and why 
  • Ensure sales and marketing teams are fully aligned on value proposition / messaging
  • Annual review of accounts 
  • Align compensation with the behavior you want 
  • Develop a list of potential objections at each stage in the sales process and a playbook of specific responses to them

So what should the best practice be relative to context of the question and responses provided?

1. You must have the correct opening questions,
2. You must know what to listen for,
3. When you hear it, you must be able to ask a countless number of follow up questions,
4. You must be able to repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have uncovered their compelling reason to buy,
5. You must know the consequences for them if they don't move forward with a solution
6. There must be emotion associated with the consequences
7. You must quantify or monetize the consequences.
8. You must be able to leverage this information through the remainder of the sales process.

This sounds a lot easier than it actually is!  This is the consultative approach to selling (follow that link and also follow the links to the two additional articles for more on the consultative approach) and it takes months for salespeople to master.  The question is, do you want them to continue selling the way they sell? That leads to inconsistent and even decreasing sales each year and within two years they may become obsolete.  Or do you want them to be challenged to learn the proper way to sell?  That leads to more predictable results, increasing revenue and a valued, or trusted adviser status with customers and clients.  As always, the choice is yours. 

Three times each year, we offer a comprehensive, live, interactive, 12-week online training program that brings Baseline Selling alive. This training teaches salespeople to utilize the 8 steps I outlined above.  If you are interested for yourself or any of your salespeople, please respond to me directly.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, asking questions, sales best practices, active listening

Get Your Veteran Salespeople to Take Baby Steps

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 11, 2011 @ 22:05 PM

 

baby stepsWe 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 more than 500,000 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!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, active listening, listening skills, questioning skills, sales assessments

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years.  Dave's Blog earned a Bronze Medal in 2016 and this article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016. Read more about Dave.

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