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Guidelines For Asking The Best Quality Questions In A Sales Meeting

Posted on Have Your Say: Leave a comment?

ID-10046949 (2)The brain is the most wonderful computer on the planet. In fact, it’s pretty much an insult to the brain to compare it to a computer.

Even the most powerful computer built is left a distant second to the brain in efficiency ratings.

The interesting thing about human brains is it is always searching for meaning.


When it’s faced with a situation, new or old, it will automatically ask itself (hence, you!) ‘what does this mean?’

In other words, questions are the way the brain computes information and analyses what it should do with it. Think about it. Ask yourself a question now. Any question.

What did your brain immediately start doing? Trying to find the answer!

Asking questions, of course, has been the habitual way that most salespeople have started their meetings for years. But how about the quality of questions you ask? Have yours improved over the years you have been in sales? Or have they basically been the same, not stretching or challenging the buyer to think on a different level?

The fact is, the quality of the question will determine the quality of the response and information you receive.

So what would be the best quality questions to ask in a sales meeting? Here are some guidelines:

1) Ask questions that prove you’ve done your homework

By asking basic questions like, ‘What do you do here?’ and ‘How many people do you employ?’ you’re proving that you haven’t done your research and it takes a long time to get to the position of moving the conversation on. Instead, show how important the prospect is in your eyes with questions like, “I noticed from my research that your sales have levelled out after a promising start this year and that fewer customers are repeating their orders. What impact is this starting to have on your revenues?”

2) Have a few questions written down but make them conversational

There’s value in pre-planning questions so you get the relevant information to assist you in presenting solutions, but don’t get your notebook out and interrogate the prospect with a long list.
Instead, listen to the answers they give to your initial questions and frame conversational questions around them.
For instance, after one bit of information you gain, you could say, “That’s interesting, could you elaborate on that for me, please?” Or “I didn’t realise that. Why do you think that is happening and what are your plans based on those results?”

This makes the buyer feel it’s a proper consultative conversation, not an interrogative process they are sitting through.

3) Ask yourself, what information should I get that will help me find the solution for this specific situation in the most efficient and effective way?

The best questions you can ask are those that drive the conversation on to a level where decisions can be made. If the buyer gives you loads of valuable information through your quality questions, you are then armed with the ability to make concise and concrete suggestions, backed up with the knowledge that you are solving the precise problems the prospect is currently facing.

Each of these guidelines will help you establish a good standing with the buyer, as they will see you uncovering problems that might not have been obvious before. This will help you build a natural bridge to help them gain solutions quickly and more easily.

So, just as the brain is more efficient than the biggest computer, you are tapping into the one thing that will get you answers to problems more efficiently and effectively than anything else; quality questions!

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat
Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image by Ambro at

Posted in Sales Meetings | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How To Justify The Value Of What You Are Offering To The Prospect

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ID-100240513 (2)I met with a prospect not long ago and we spoke at length about his concerns and how he needed his salespeople to move away from the status quo and start bringing in more sales. Without that happening, he may have to make redundancies.

After discussing what we could do to assist him, he asked a question that is subliminally being asked by every buyer we meet; that is, “How can you justify the value you say you offer?”

It’s a very good question, the answer to which can make or break a sale.

The prospect basically wants you to prove that what you are offering will bring a better return on his investment than someone else doing the job or not doing anything at all.

So, it’s always good to have a plan on how you can justify the investment the prospect will be making. And the best way to do this is to ensure the prospect owns it – that is, he or she perceives the value through their own eyes rather than yours. Of course, your product is the best thing on the planet, knocking the competition sideways but if the customer doesn’t believe that, then it isn’t. Period. Sorry.

Ask yourself these five questions before you discuss justifying the value of your offering:

1) Which parts of the buyer’s business will be affected, impacted and measured by using your products?
2) Who is the main stakeholder in the department(s) that will be most affected by your services?
3) What will be the impact of your solution and over what time period?
4) What back-up facilities will be needed that you can provide?
5) How quickly will the investment be covered and how soon will they actually make money on what you are selling?

These can then be broken down so the buyer sees the value in the areas that are most important to them. For example, the parts of the buyer’s business that might be affected could include profits, reduction in costs, increased revenues, cost-avoidance, intangible benefits, etc.

The importance of involving the affected stakeholder in the decision-making process will be obvious when you discuss what the returns will be, using their figures not yours.

You should be able to prove the figures you quote from case studies or experiences that can be proved. Also, analyse over what time period the buyer will be looking at to gain a clearer picture of when they wish to see the returns on their investment.

If your back-up services can justify the initial spend, then there will be specific items that will prove their worth in the long term.

Buyers want to know when the break-even/profitability point will be reached. This is when the cumulative total benefits, including the increase in revenues and the reduction in costs, exceed the cumulative investments made to gain and implement the products and services that you have offered.

When all of these elements have been assessed by the buyer and seen to be favourably in their advantage, you will be able to justify the initial investment, which now becomes less important than ever, because they see the value of your solution over the period of time that will mean so much to them.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat
Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image by Stuart Miles at

Posted in Prospecting | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

An Impressive Way To Stand Out From Your Competition

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standing outI watched the First Night of the Proms at the weekend (well, there is a little time left in my life for culture!) and, as usual, the co-ordination and cohesion between all the players in the orchestra was magnificent. The harmonies majestically played underneath the main themes and everyone was beautifully controlled by the conductor.

It set me thinking about how interdependent each person was on getting their job completely right. One duff note by one person would have been noticed by everyone, one instrument out of tune would have ruined the whole experience for orchestra and audience alike.

This is also true in businesses that serve customers. The interdependence of each department getting their processes correct is vital as they produce the items that each customer requires. For example, what happens in a business when production problems happen and delays to deliveries affect the shipping department?

Production schedules have to be altered, customer services get calls from unhappy customers, targets start to be missed, loyalty becomes harder to establish, salespeople become disgruntled, market share starts to slip away, morale drops and profits may fall.

Yes, it’s only one part of the whole process, but it affects everyone down the line. This is because of the interdependency of one section of the business on another and another and another.

Think about this in terms of your customers. They will be interdependent on each other for the success of their business, and you, as salesperson, can determine the best way to present solutions by understanding the pains that each department may be facing and how they could affect other departments.

For example, if you were to know the contributing reasons for their problems and the impact those problems might be having on other parts of the process chain, you could link your solutions with those pains and problems, hence identifying how you could alleviate them for the decision-makers.

Knowing this information differentiates you from your competition, as buyers are impressed by the fact that you know their business better than the competition does.

To do this, you need to know what challenges each person in the buying chain is experiencing and how it affects others.

For example, you may have found out the following during your research:

The finance department are experiencing falling profits, caused by missing targets, increased costs and bad debts; the sales team are missing targets because not enough hunting is going on in the market place, the increasing overheads, the bad debts and poor number of new customers; the sales manager recognises the current system doesn’t give him enough information to meet the needs of the sales team, so the team don’t have the opportunities made clear to them where the new business should be coming from.

Now, imagine if you went into a sales meeting with the decision-makers and you presented your findings based on your research that hits their pains exactly? Not only that, you show you understand the reasons for the pain and how they impact the other departments when they are out of harmony.

If you can trace the challenges that occur throughout the organisation, i.e. the impact each situation that one department faces has on another, you will see very often that the pain gets more intense and the disharmony accentuates itself.

Sometimes the correlation is exact, like when poor production scheduling affects delivery dates, which affects customer’s customers, which affects loyalty, which affects further sales, etc, etc.

Sometimes it isn’t that exact, so we may have to do some connections with the client to determine the impacts of the various challenges being faced.

This can differentiate you from the competition, as it concentrates on their business issues rather than the products and services that the competitor’s salespeople may try to put at the forefront. You don’t talk about solutions at this point; you convince the buyers and other decision-makers that you, through a complete understanding of what is happening in their business, are the person to trust and confide in when they DO need to talk about solutions.

Think of the harmony that your prospect’s business has to work at. If there are some disharmonies occurring, show your ability to identify where they are occurring, their effects on others and the results of not changing the status quo. They will think of you as being the conductor of affairs and follow your lead as you progress towards solutions that your company can help them with.

They will also see the progress to their business as you deal with the challenges and improve your value over and above your competitors.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat
Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image by Stuart Miles at

Posted in Lessons For Sales People | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Six Steps to Convincing a Customer They Should Use You

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handshakeIt’s fascinating to see the changes that are going on in the world of selling. If you Google books on the subject, the plethora of ideas and techniques could leave you reeling in its complexity.

If we try to apply all the new ideas that are available on how to sell, and listen to all the ‘gurus’ who claim to have the golden ticket to making the next sale, we would spend 24/7 just updating our knowledge; and be more confused than ever as we progress!

However, there’s one key question the customer wants answering that hasn’t really changed over the years. If we know that question and are able to prepare specific answers for it, it will give us a big head-start as we attempt to progress the sale.

We’ve said so very often that the customer doesn’t really care about what you’re selling. They only care about how your solution will aid themselves or their business. So the question most customers will subliminally be asking all through the buying process is, “Why should I choose your solution?”

Most salespeople will immediately start with something like, “Well, our company is the leading provider of electronic widgets in this industry, so that makes us a safe and reliable choice for you”. Or “We can make you more efficient and save you money by using our latest software”.

This doesn’t help the customer at all because there are no quantifiable numbers or money associated with what you are stating. If you were to prove that your solution would be best for them, their company or them as an individual, then there would be a mindset shift towards thinking about how you can improve their future performance.

How’s the best way to do this? Well, if you can prove what you say by recalling success stories with other clients, it gives this current prospect or customer a chance to see how it could apply to them. It gives them a SIGNAL as to why they should choose you.

In this case, SIGNAL is an acronym standing for Situation, Issue, Give reason, Need, Answer, Legacy.

Here’s an example of what I’m referring to:

When a customer asks why they should choose you, talk about how another similar company, or one in a similar industry, benefitted from using you and what the results were. It could go something like this: (Let’s say you’re talking to the Chief Buyer)

Situation: One example that might be of interest to you is the Chief Buyer of a manufacturer in a similar industry

Issue: They were facing big challenges because their current customers weren’t renewal their contracts after the first round of purchases

Give Reason: This was because the processes they needed to go through were long and cumbersome, tying up time and effort by the salespeople, so making it difficult for them to develop new business

Need: What they needed was a way to streamline the order process so they could re-order simply and easily on-line without having to go through all the effort of re-inputting all their details and the details of what they wanted

Answer: We installed a new software package that made it easy for customers to re-order with just two or three clicks

Legacy: They now have over 70% of their customers reordering on-line and their orders have increased by an average of 28%. Their salespeople now spend more time looking for new business, and in the last six months have brought in 18% more revenue.

You will see how these six steps, SIGNAL, help you to build good reasons for the prospect to think about how that could apply to them also. Of course, your success story will have to relevant to the specific problems your prospect is facing, so you won’t go into these details until you’ve found out all you need to know about their business needs. Also, the examples have to be real. Imaging if you made something up and then the customer said “Really? Put me in touch with this chief buyer and if your story stacks up, I’ll go with you!”

Use these six steps to describe how successful your customers have been in using your services, and see how much more impactful they are than just regurgitating product details!

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat
Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image by Ambro at

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Buyers Want Appreciating Assets, So Turn Yourself Into One

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increasedWhen an asset such as stock, property or personal property increases in value without any improvements or modification being made to it, it’s called appreciation.

Certain things have the potential to appreciate, and it all depends on a number of issues, including uniqueness or increased demand.

If a business can have assets that appreciate for them, there’s a fine chance that they will value these assets highest within the business.

Imagine if you owned something that was appreciating in value all the time. How would you view it?

You would take care of it, see it as precious and use it with care.

Imagine if you proved yourself an appreciating asset to your customer. How would they view you? Exactly the same!

As we said, an appreciating asset increases in value as time goes by. For you to become valuable to your client, this will require you to show how you can add value to them and their business as the relationship builds.

Ways you can do this include:

  • Showing how other successful companies have positively used your products and services to achieve the same and better results as you’re suggesting this client could achieve
  • Identifying how a consultative approach to your client’s business could improve how they approach their own business strategies
  • Becoming a strategic influence with the decision-maker
  • Identifying how the users of your products and services could improve their working lives by increased efficiencies
  • Sharing LinkedIn stories or articles that are of interest to your client and their business
  • Offering trips to your production facilities
  • Holding buyer forums and discussion sessions to talk about improvements of usage of your products
  • Being the ‘go-to’ person whenever challenges with your products occur
  • Using your business Twitter and Facebook accounts to keep up-to-date with how your clients’ business are going and how they can improve
  • Describing how new improvements to your products could affect and improve the way their company works and the results they achieve
  • Acting as a business consultant to assist in their strategic decisions
  • Being part of their decision-making team when the time comes to improve selection
  • Helping them with competitive offers by offering advice and suggestions to consider, especially if competitive pricing is causing them to ask questions
  • Showing your availability when they need help and assistance
  • Generating recommending improvements to how their business can be run, not necessarily by using your products

If you are able to help your client’s business grow, expand and improve, they are likely to see you as having the ability to be a real asset to their company, in the long-term.

They would then take care of you, see you as precious and use you with care. And what an asset you would prove to be then!

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat
Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image by Stuart Miles at

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