We’ve often asked salespeople why the client or prospect should actually agree to meet with them. Their answers range from ‘Our product is best for them’ to ‘Our solution will solve their problems’.
These and other statements may actually be true; however, if the prospect doesn’t see a valid reason for meeting with you, expect objections and stalls. It’s not what you think that matters; it’s what the prospect thinks.
That’s why it’s so important to have quality reasons for establishing enough trust for the prospect to say yes when you request a meeting. And those reasons MUST make sense to them, not you.
These are the questions to ask yourself to ensure you have built up enough quality reasons for the prospect to meet you:
1) Does this quality reason build up enough priority on their to-do list that they are willing to spend the required time with me? What this means is they have to see the rationale as so important that it supercedes everything else they could be spending their time on.
2) Does this quality reason answer the prospect question, ‘What’s in it for me?’. This question will have to answered in the affirmative for you to even have a chance of seeing them.
3) How obvious is it that the reason relates to the prospect’s business more than it does mine? That is, is it clear that the meeting will concentrate on the current situations the prospect’s business is facing, rather than highlighting why I should be their choice of supplier?
4) Can you summarise the business reason well enough that it can be said in a message or voicemail left for the prospect? If it’s framed purely to say what you want to sell, then there is no point in leaving it. They won’t be interested. They’re only interested in what it will do for them.
Having sufficient quality reasons for the prospect to see you will underpin your and your prospect’s time that you are both giving up to discuss the options going forward.
Identify those reasons before even calling the prospect, so you both know the benefits both parties will achieve in solving the challenges they face.
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In a book I hold dear in my library, business loyalty guru Fred Reichheld revealed the question most critical to your company’s future: “Would you recommend us to a friend?”
Just think about that question for a moment.
If you asked all of your clients, they may well say ‘yes’. But what does it actually mean?
Firstly, ‘recommend’. When you recommend something, you have built up many reasons why it should receive your approval. It must make you feel better in some way, either through the service you received or the quality of the product. It also has to make you feel confident and hence build trust in it in some way.
So, for something or somebody to receive my ‘recommendation’, it will have to have added some real benefit to my life or business. I don’t easily give my endorsements on LinkedIn, for instance. The person really has had to impress me and given me cause to say that they are due that reward.
If someone is willing to recommend you and your services, it means they like you, believe in you, have confidence in you and trust you. They certainly wouldn’t pass on your details to a friend or colleague if they lacked even one of those components.
Secondly, think about the term ‘friend’. This is someone they are close to and they don’t want to be made to look a fool if they recommended something to this close acquaintance that turns out to be a dud or poor quality. By answering the question affirmatively, they are telling you that they trust you enough to deleiver the same kind of quality and service to someone they are close to, even in a business sense.
Make a list of your loyal customers. At your next meeting with them, ask them Fred’s question. If they answer ‘yes’, ask them why. Their answers will clarify what they really think of your company and how your future relationship will pan out.
Known as the ‘Ultimate Question’, it delivers a powerful message to you and your team, from the person who really matters; the client.
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I get a real kick out of getting new business. Call it an ego thing, or whatever you like, but when a customer signs on the line that is dotted, it makes me feel good about myself, my company, my colleagues and my services.
About a month ago, a prospect emailed me to say that they were going to use our services. We had been courting them for a couple of months and had gone through the usual beauty parades. I was hopeful and enthusiastic for positive results, and so it was great to receive confirmation that we had the nod over our competition.
After setting the ball rolling, I had a conversation with the decision-maker over the phone, outlining resources and timings for the start of the project. Then I asked a question that I always ask to gain a clearer understanding of who we are working with.
I asked, “By the way, what made you choose us in the end?”
The answer pleased me and made me contemplate at the same time. She said, “You were the only provider who asked really tough questions that made us really think. Your competitors asked the normal stuff, questions we could answer in our sleep. But you asked us questions that stopped us dead in our tracks, making us puzzle over the answers and causing us to rethink our end goals. Those questions made us realise we need a partner who can challenge us and drive us forward in different ways”.
As you can imagine…music to my ears. And it made me realise that, as salespeople, we often don’t consider the really hard questions that will challenge the current level of thinking of our prospects and their future business orientation.
They’re called ‘Power Questions‘ and your job is to have a number of these that stop the prospect in their tracks and make them feel challenged.
I ask questions like:
“Whose job is on the line if you don’t solve these problems?”
“How do you keep up-to-date with what your competition is doing before they take your customers away from you?”
“What would it cost you if you didn’t do anything?”
“How will you sell these changes to the people who matter?”
You need to challenge the prospect to think in a different way. Imaging you are up against three of your biggest competitors, all pitching for business with the same client. How would you stand out against them? By asking questions that make the client feel you will challenge them to be better than they currently are. You must prepare these questions before the sales meeting or you run the risk of being lost in the pack and not standing out from the competition.
We were delighted to get the business, naturally, and the hard work starts now. But it’s a really good feeling to know that our approach and interest in their future business success (rather than price or discounts) got us the business in the first place.
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What makes a great salesperson? Product knowledge? Great organisation and timekeeping? The ability to prospect effectively?
All these are, of course, vital in the armoury of the salesperson who wants to make a success of their profession.
But there’s one skill that I believe puts a salesperson head and shoulders above their competition, especially when they are actually face to face with the prospect, at the cutting edge of the decision-making process.
And that skill is the ability to ask hard-hitting, thought-provoking, stop-me-in-my-tracks questions.
Now, you already know how important questions are, and you’ve probably heard you need to ask open questions to get the prospect talking. That’s ancient sales talk.
However, the type of question that will set you above all other salespeople is what I call the ‘action-inducing’ question.
These are questions that focus not on what I think the prospect needs, nor the problems faced, nor what the current pain is. Instead, they focus on what the prospect is doing now and what the results of those actions are.
This way, we get a clear picture of what is going on, how they do things and what changes might have to be made to get the results they are requiring.
For example, we are currently working with a large European company in the construction industry. They approached us for help on how to develop their salespeople’s skills in the consultative process. Rather than just having the salesperson go in armed with all the knowledge of their products, this company wants to change the mindset so the approach is one of solution-oriented consultation.
Our first approach, then, was to find out exactly what the salespeople actually do and say right now.
We asked “How are you inducting and training your sales staff now in order for them to go out into the field? What continuous training and development do they receive to get them confident in asking for business? How do they currently approach challenges and concerns that they face on a daily basis?”
These questions are all about the actions the company and salespeople make in their day-to-day operations, and it’s vital we know the processes they go through before we can see if any changes are required and in what way those changes should be rolled out.
If we had simply designed a programme on consultative selling without finding out about the actions currently employed, we would most likely have missed the key points needed by this client, and any programme would have been sterile at best and pointless at worst.
The questions that are needed are based on current action, so you get a clear picture of what is happening now. This is essential if you are to identify the changes that are required to get different results from what’s happening at the moment.
Formulate your questions to ascertain what the prospect is actually doing now and you’ll find your relationship-building is easier, more meaty conversations are carried out and trust is built much more quickly.
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We have spoken at length of value-based propositions, and we have discussed how buyers who understand the complexity of their needs are more open to value-added solutions.
The question is, how do we get buyers to understand that their needs are more improtant than price, so they are willing to pay more for a better solution?
Well, we begin by getting them to appreciate their needs and wants fully, by convincing and hard-hitting questions that put the emphasis on their busienss rather than the cheapness of the competitions’ offerings.
Much reserach has demonstrated that your undersatnding the quantatative value of your benefits to the customer hels you gain more value form your market. What value is your solution worth to your customers? What impact does that value hav eon their businesses or their lives? You can shift your buyer’s focus onto value and away from price with thse type of questions:
1) Questions that focus on non-price issues
See if you can get these type of questions into your discussions:
“What do your buyers look for from you?”
“What takes away some of your profitability?”
“How much technical support do you require as back up?”
What will you gain by finding a solution to this problem?”
What trends are you seeing in your customers’ buying motives?”
These will help you focus on things outside the question of price and identify other issues that are probably more important than price to them.
2) Questions that focus on your added-value
This builds the strength of your company in the propsect’s eyes.
“How much flexibility do you require from a supplier?”
“How can we make it easier for you to buy from us?”
“What issues concern you the most?”
“How important are back-up services to you and your customers?”
“Do you have special ordering or stock-level considerations?”
“Would it help if we offered training for your staff in using the product?”
3) Questions that create urgency
These focus on acting quickly, a motive that could reinforce reasons for using you.
“What impact do delays in process-ordering have on your customers?”
“What are your short-term objectives?”
“How much do delays cost your company?”
“Are you getting full utilisation out of your current solution?”
4) Questions that paint pictures of the future
Focusing on a successful outcome for the customer will encourage them to think of you as they associate success with your product.
“What do you see happening as you move forward on this project?”
“If you had the ideal solution, what would it be?”
“How would the future look for your business if you succeeded?”
“What pressures would be taken off you when you make a decision to go ahead?”
These type of questions shift the buyer’s perspective away from price because they get them to focus on ideas and concepts that build value, and the emphasis is on results, not processes. Get the buyer to think in terms of the benefits they can receive from what you offer, and they are more likely to see the value of doing business with you, as long as those values are aligned to their buying criteria.
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