I pulled up to the entrance of the Doubletree Hotel, greeted Chris, and we walked into the hotel restaurant. As we approached the table, a well-meaning server asked, are you an Honors member? I said, "yes."
A moment later she returned and said she couldn't find me in the system. She asked me to spell my name, went back to her computer, and returned again, saying, "I can't find your reservation in the system."
I explained that I wasn't a hotel guest and we were here for breakfast. "Oh, then you'll have to pay for your breakfast!"
"OK," I said. After all, I was expecting to pay for breakfast!
Can you imagine how much simpler it would have been if her first question was, "Are you staying with us?"
Salespeople make the exact same mistake. How do I know? I can prove this with several examples.
Personal - In any given year, I might engage in role-play with as many as 500 salespeople and before they know any better, and sometimes after, they nearly always begin with the wrong question. And it's not limited to only the wrong opening question, there are tremendous odds that they'll ask the wrong follow-up questions too.
Evaluation Data - Objective Management Group (OMG) has evaluated and assessed 1,833,484 salespeople from companies. If we zoom in on the data related to asking questions, we find the following differences between elite salespeople and weak salespeople.
Elite salespeople are twice as effective as weak salespeople at asking good questions.
Elite salespeople are three times more effective than weak salespeople at asking tough questions.
Elite salespeople are twice as effective as weak salespeople at asking enough questions.
These three questioning skills are attributes of the Consultative Selling competency, one of the 21 Sales Core Competencies that OMG measures. See them here and see how you stack up.
Another Sales Core Competency, when it appears as a weakness, prevents salespeople, even those with good questioning skills, from asking the questions. Salespeople who Need to be Liked are unable to ask a lot of questions, ask tough questions, or have the difficult conversation that nobody else has had with their prospect.
Elite salespeople are four times more effective in this competency than weak salespeople!
Pay attention to your questions. If they don't move the conversation closer to uncovering a prospect's compelling reason to buy, don't ask the question. At the same time, don't skip over important questions and milestones - it rarely works.
Remember that milestones are the foundation of a staged, consultative sales process and it's difficult to be effective if you attempt to sell without one.
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Finally, I leave you with two offers.
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