Beyond Questioning and Listening – How To Build Partnerships

Many salespeople tell me that the greatest skill they can develop is that of excellent communications. And I would agree. Unless you are excelling at this most vital of skills, you risk missing many opportunities that exist out there.

However, most salespeople we train overestimate the quality of their communication skills, some by a vast amount. If I were to ask you how you would rate your listening and questioning skills out of ten, how many of you would say ‘minus two’?!

We think we are good at communicating because we get the sale and we have a bunch of customers who keep coming back to us. But what about the next step in communicating? Here’s my take on things: Salespeople with good listening skills will hear the issues their prospect has. Salespeople with good questioning skills will identify the problems causing those issues. Salespeople with both listening and questioning skills will be able to reiterate those problems and issues.

All good and fine so far. But let’s go further. Some of the best salespeople I’ve met have the ability to recognise the one compelling thing for which their prospect will invest money. You must be able to perceive the one thing that might not even be on the list, and this involves deeper listening and reading between the lines of what might be greater opportunities for the prospect than they had originally thought. It’s deeper than just being a salesperson, deeper even than being a consultant.

It’s partnering with the business in a way that creates opportunities for both parties, rather than just solving current problems. That prospect will spend money with your company to no longer feel overwhelmed with their whole list of issues because you will help them achieve things they couldn’t do with anyone else.

Can you imagine being in the prospect’s shoes when they see rewards they hadn’t seen before, see challenges lifted that they couldn’t see past? Can you identify those areas of concern that has been restricting their business opportunities? If you can, you show yourself as the kind of company and salesperson they cannot do their business without.

Happy Selling!

Sean

Sean McPheat
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
MTD Sales Training

Sales Blog Call to Action

Management Share Blog Button

Ask Deeper Questions To Unearth Treasures in Your Customer’s Business

There was a report in our local paper about a husband and wife who had lived in their house for over 30 years.

The husband was definitely not a gardener, and hadn’t done anything of any significance to his garden for all the time they had lived there. If he had done any work in the garden at all, it was purely superficial. He certainly hadn’t dug down any further than a few inches below the surface.

One day, the husband and wife decided they wanted the garden re-landscaped. He called in a firm to do it for him. On the first day of work, the foreman of the landscaping team approached the husband and showed him some coins he had dug up. They looked very old.

The husband immediately took the coins to the local museum and they turned out to be medieval, and worth a great deal of money.

How deep did the foreman have to dig before they unearthed the coins? No more than nine inches!

The husband was interviewed afterwards and asked how he felt about having such a find so close. He said, “If only I had been a keen gardener, I would probably have found them many years ago, because I would have dug deeper!”

It set me thinking about how many salespeople fail to uncover riches that exist in their current customer base, simply because they don’t dig deeper with their questioning to find out more about their customers’  businesses.

Questions are the life-blood of your communications. They uncover many rich gems of information that would otherwise be left hidden away. They create opportunities that others could take advantage of. What would happen if a competitor came along and uncovered those opportunities, simply by asking your customer deeper questions? Build on the answers your customers have given you so you can find specific areas of concern that your customer hadn’t unearthed before.

Are you aware of how much business may be hidden just below the surface in your customers’ business? Take some of the situations your customer is currently involved in and dig deeper to ascertain if there’s more hidden gems there. That way, you help your customer (and yourself) achieve more business. And you won’t need to say, like that reluctant gardener, if only I had dug deeper years ago!

Happy Selling!

Sean

Sean McPheat
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
MTD Sales Training

Sales Blog Call to Action

Management Share Blog Button

Asking Business Questions To Build Rapport With Prospects

One of our trainers asked on a sales course recently how they open their visits with customers.

Many offered the idea that they should build rapport with customers by commenting on the weather, some items the prospect has in the office, what their journey was like that day, and so on. Our trainer asked how long they take to ask these ‘rapport’ questions. One delegate said he has been known to spend 15-20 minutes talking about football to a new client, simply because they have a momento of some sort that shows they have an interest in sport.

We normally ask at this point how much knowledge the salesperson has gained about the prospect, other than what team they support? Obviously, it’s very little.

Instead of asking these types of questions, salespeople should be asking  business-related questions. Questions that will make your customer think about their business. Questions that will encourage and stimulate conversation. Let’s face it; how many of your prospects have got that amount of time to ‘chew the cud!’

Here are some examples of business-related questions that will get you straight to the point of the meeting

*  What are your company’s strategic initiatives?

*  What are the three biggest challenges in growing your business this year?

*  What are three things that if you could do them better would dramatically improve your business?

*  What would you do if you lost two of your top ten customers?

*  What are your plans to keep them loyal?

*  What are three things that your competitors are doing that you should be doing?

*  Because you aren’t doing things the way you would like, ‘conservatively’ how much money are you NOT making?

My trainer told me that all the delegates were furiously writing down those questions, many of them saying they had never used them before, but would in the future.

Your prospects simply don’t have the time for small-talk these days. If you want to find out what team they support or what their holiday was like, leave it until you have the relevant information and are walking with the prospect back to reception. You’re there for a business meeting, and it’s important to show your professionalism early on. There’s plenty of time for the personal stuff when you have built up trust.

Happy selling!

Sean

Sean McPheat
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
MTD Sales Training

Sales Blog Call to Action

Management Share Blog Button

The One-Word Question That Gets The Customer Talking

You know it’s true that the more information you get the customer to tell you, the more knowledge and background you get to assist in developing their business in the future.

It’s also true that sometimes the customer may simply shut up and make it very difficult for you to get them to expand on a point.

There’s an interesting communication technique that you can use to encourage your customer to be more specific and expensive in his answers, giving you the chance to find out a lot more information. And the technique involves asking a one-word question.

Use this when your customer says something you don’t quite understand, makes a point that needs clarification, or is too general in their ideas.

Put your head to one side slightly, raise your eyebrows, maintain full eye contact and just say, in a very inquisitive tone…”Oh?”

That’s all you need to do. No expansion needed. No further utterances required.

That one simple word, said in an inquisitive tone, will open up the customer to expand on what they were saying, often going further than they would have done if you had asked a specific question that narrowed down the thought-process.

Everyone knows what you want when you ask that one-word question. Use it once, or at the most, twice in a conversation, and see the amount of information you gain multiply.

Happy Selling!

Sean

Sean McPheat
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
MTD Sales Training

Sales Blog Call to Action

Management Share Blog Button

Mind the Gap: Increasing Sales Through Identifying Potential Opportunities

Many salespeople are getting the message that the customer is not interested in their products and services. They are only interested in the outcomes those products and services will provide for them.

Your job is to identify how you can assist your customers achieve their goals, and the clearer you can show your prospect the results your products will provide for them, the better your chances of achieving the sale.

The gap between their present performance and what they need provides both the rationale and the motivation to move forward with you and your solution.

So it’s this gap that you should be concentrating on. If your prospect sees the benefits of using you, and how you can help them achieve their goals, then you will probably see success.

You can ask questions to determine what this gap is. Something like: “How do you see business for you in the next 24-36 months? What will have to happen for you to achieve your goals during that time? Which new markets could you be working in if you had the support and assistance to do so?”

These kind of questions get the prospect to think about the gap that exists between where they are now and where they could be if they had your services.
This gives you the chance to present your solution in line with bridging that gap and solving their problems.

The more you can identify how you can assist in getting the prospect closer to their goal, the better the chance you have of building the relationship.

Identify the gap, fill it and watch your sales increase!

Happy Selling!

Sean

Sean McPheat
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
MTD Sales Training

Sales Blog Call to Action

Management Share Blog Button

"And What Do You Do?"

 

If I had a pound for the number of times someone has asked me that question, I’d be quite a bit richer! Naturally, we answer in terms of what we actually DO, as the questioner is normally edging in that direction.

Many of us have been taught to answer with an ‘elevator speech’, a few succinct words that encapsulate our service or offering in the time it takes to travel a few floors in an elevator. If you’ve tried this, it isn’t too long before most people’s eyes glaze over and you have to wake them up from their hypnotic trance.

Most elevator speeches are as exciting as watching my grass grow, but they don’t have to be. How about something different? How about asking the person a couple of questions that will show your interest in understanding their business pains and opportunities?

This will help them see you as someone who can offer real help and value instead of simply another salesperson up against all your competition.

When someone asks me what I do, I reply with something like: “Well, I’m glad you asked. May I ask you, What would happen if you lost two of your biggest customers?” That’s a hard-hitting question that gets the customer thinking about his business while he’s looking at me.

Then I follow up with another hard-hitting question: “What’s your business plan to keep those customers loyal to you?”

I’ve got the prospect thinking again, and he’s probably stalling while he thinks of the answer.

So I carry on with a quick resumé of what we could do for him: “We are in the business of helping businesses like yours answer questions like these”

It certainly grabs attention, creates desire to know more and piques their interest in what I have to offer.

Most clients have heard elevator speeches that are too generic. Think about how your services would affect your prospect’s business and then think up two or more hard-hitting questions that would make them stop and think about themselves. Interestingly, while their conscious brain is thinking of answers, their unconscious brain is associating the answers with you, as you’re the one standing there in front of them!

So think up at least ten questions that would show your prospects you are someone worth talking to. Then add some more, so you have a toolkit of ideas in your armoury to assist you in any meeting.

Questions get your prospects thinking. Make sure they think about you.

Happy Selling!

Sean

Sean McPheat
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
MTD Sales Training

Sales Blog Call to Action

Management Share Blog Button

3 Critical Sales Questions

Here are three critical questions you need to confirm with your customer before you have a hope in progressing the sale:

Who is going to make the decision?

That’s pretty obvious, but do you know who the key influencers are, too? Who are the people the decision-maker is going to take counsel from, ask approval of, or commit the product and services to? If you know who the influencers are, you may be in a position to present at their level, too

What criteria do your customers use to make decisions?

Each decision-maker will have their own way of deciding on how the decision will be made. If you haven’t sorted out what those ways are, you’re toast.

They might want a particular ROI, or completion within a certain time frame. They may wish to follow a certain process that they followed the last time they chose. Or they may have a certain budget that they have decided to stick to, no matter what. Find out the criteria they are going to use to judge whether they will use you, and you’re firing on all cylinders.

Thirdly, Why are those criteria so important?

Ask your customer why that particular reason is so important to them. It may be that other projects are running parallel to the use of your product or service. You can then make sure your services can assist the customer achieve their goals.

The answer to these questions will assist you in developing a closer partnership with the customer and put you in prime position in their considerations.

Happy Selling!

Sean

Sean McPheat
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
MTD Sales Training

Sales Blog Call to Action

Management Share Blog Button

To Improve Your Sales, Connect With Your Prospect’s Emotions

I was at Geneva Airport recently, after having delivered an Essential Communication Skills course, and mulling over the key points of the programme.

I wandered into the technology store just to kill time. Then my eyes lit up when I saw the new Apple IPad. I’ve read loads about it, and can’t wait to try it out when it comes out in the UK. The assistant must have seen my reaction, because he immediately approached and said “It looks good, doesn’t it?”

My reaction was to say yes, and he started to create an emotional connection between me and this inanimate object. I felt attracted to it by how he was asking questions about how I would use it, what impact I wanted to make with it and asking about how impressed I was with it. I even thought about how I could use some of his words on our communications courses!

It set me thinking about how we as salespeople relate our products and services to our customers.

Often, we only relate to the left-side of our customer’s brain by specifying the logical reasons why they should buy. By connecting the emotional side of the brain to our product, we open up many more reasons why they should be interested.

Start thinking about how you can connect emotions to your product and services.

Ask yourself: “What impact would my product have on my prospect’s business, not just on profitability and productivity, but on other aspects like giving them more security in their role, or making their colleagues more receptive to their ideas.”

“How would my services make my prospect look good?

What impact could they make on their business by using my services?”

These kind of questions bond prospects to you on an emotional level, and they start associating you with good feelings, hence making it easier to justify a positive decision in their minds.

Did I buy the IPad? No, but I will definitely be taking a look when it comes out in the UK! And I will thank that salesperson for making me feel so good about the product!

Happy Selling!

Sean

Sean McPheat
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
MTD Sales Training

Sales Blog Call to Action

Management Share Blog Button