How the Right Questions Can Make up for Lack of Sales Experience

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 11, 2015 @ 07:08 AM

Last week, for the second year in a row, our son played in a 12U baseball tournament in Cooperstown, NY. Last year, he played with boys a year older than him and the tournament inspired this very popular article on the Top 5 Mistakes Salespeople Make. This year's tournament was special, it was exciting to be there, and a privilege for him to be on such a talented team. However, nothing could ever top last year, the baseball equivalent of showing up at Disney World for the very first time. This year, we knew what to expect.

On the trip back home, I didn't need to play racing legend Mario Andretti to get us where we needed to be on time. I kept it to the speed limit, enjoyed the scenery and for the first time, experienced stress-free driving. Not only that, I wasn't tired like I usually am during and after driving 4 hours.

What does this have to do with selling? A lot. Magic, racing and expectations are major factors in sales. We will discuss the role of each and how salespeople can be more consistent when they better understand those 3 factors and learn to manage them.

Magical - Sometimes, salespeople start an opportunity with all of the wonder and amazement of a first-time Disney visit. This can happen when the company is huge, the opportunity has more zeros than ever before, or the salesperson has an audience with a high-ranking, well-known executive. Unfortunately, wonder, amazement and intimidation are like the young child watching the Main Street Disney parade. They lead to an excited, emotional salesperson who will probably be unable to see the forest through the trees.

Racing Car  - Frequently, salespeople can't wait to reach a sales milestone they are comfortable with. That's usually a presentation, demo, proposal or quote. Consider that as well as prospects who declare that they have only 20 minutes. Either scenario causes salespeople to rush through their calls while they fail to ask meaningful questions, don't carefully listen to responses, and skip the follow-up questions. They are so focused on getting to the end that they don't relax and take in the scenery. They fail to uncover the compelling reasons for their prospects to do business with them.

Know What to Expect - There are some occasions when salespeople don't rely on their experience and instincts. Instead they fail to recognize that they have been in this situation, faced these challenges, or met with these kinds of people before. They need to realize that their prior experience has fully prepared them for this moment. When they know what to expect, the call will likely go according to their expectations.

Have you or your salespeople ever walked into a sales call to find people in the meeting that were not expected? Salespeople should always know, in advance, who will be in the meeting and what their role is. If unexpected people attend the meeting they should ask:

  • What is their role in the company?
  • What is their role in this meeting?
  • What is their role in selecting a partner (vendor, source, solution, company or product)?
  • What do they know about me?
  • What do they know about us?
  • What do they know about what we have already discussed?

Is there anyone who will attend the meeting or who is in the meeting that shouldn't? Is there anyone else that should? Are they in agreement with what has been discussed so far?  

Is there a potential partner that they favor? Why? 

What would you have to do in order for them to consider you?

Most salespeople never even think to ask these questions. Others gloss over them. But these questions are more important than a conversation about your capabilities.

If you ask the right questions, you'll know what to expect even when you haven't been there before!

Knowing what to expect and uncovering compelling reasons to buy are both crucial components of sales coaching. SellingPower posted this video of me talking about the essence of sales coaching. Want more? This is the last call for my top-rated, two-day event on How to Get the Most Out of Your Sales Force. The highlight of the two days is the best darn training you will ever attend on the right way to coach salespeople. If you want to attend, use SLI-DK-UTSF for a great discount.

Finally, the latest issue of Top Sales Magazine was published today and it features a lead article written by me.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, asking questions, Baseball, shorten the sales process

Top 10 Ways to Accelerate the Sales Process - The Need for Speed

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jan 28, 2011 @ 13:01 PM

expresslaneHave you ever noticed that when you choose the Express Checkout it always seems to have either the slowest register clerk, or there's an old lady paying who has already taken 10 minutes to find her wallet?

Have you ever noticed that during rush hour, the Express Lane for the toll booth is the only lane that isn't moving?

Have you noticed that whichever security line you choose at the airport will be the line that moves the slowest?

Road warriors are certainly familiar with the last two scenarios.  They have a need for speed and when they get on sales calls, the need for speed remains.  Perhaps you'll recognize some of these scenarios:

  • The prospect has another meeting in 25 minutes so there is a need to speed through the presentation;
  • The salesperson didn't ask for enough time in the initial meeting so there is a need to speed through this meeting to "get to the end";
  • The salesperson is most comfortable presenting, giving demos, talking capabilities, so there is a need to speed through the earlier stages/phases of the sales process to get to the "good part";
  • The salesperson is least comfortable asking tough, timely questions that might differentiate them from every other salesperson and "vendor" (their word, not mine) out there so there is a need to speed past the uncomfortable questions.

You've heard the expression "Speed Kills".

All four scenarios lead to lousy sales outcomes.  The surest way to create urgency, accelerate the sales process, eliminate the competition, get the prospect to self-qualify and spend more money on your solution, is to A B A N D O N the need for speed.  You can do that by:

  1. Asking for more time than you need;
  2. Making sure the right person is in the meeting;
  3. Spending a very long time - longer than a typical salesperson can stand - on asking good, tough, timely questions that differentiate your company from everyone else's;
  4. Become a master at uncovering the compelling business reasons why prospects will spend money to buy from you;
  5. Developing elite listening and questioning skills;
  6. Practicing #3 - 5
  7. Holding salespeople accountable to #3 -5
  8. Letting prospects know you'll be more expensive;
  9. Taking the time to identify compelling reasons that eliminate your competition;
  10. Never agree to write a proposal or quote unless you know the outcome before you do it.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, close more sales, increase sales, shorten the sales process

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

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