In a previous blog post called “Why You Should Only Present Solutions To Needs & Not To Problems” I stressed the importance of presenting your solutions to the prospects needs and not just their problems.
After all, a prospect can be faced with a BIG problem but have no real need or desire to fix it.
So how can you unearth these needs in the discovery phase?
This is what this post is all about.
Let’s assume that you’re meeting with a prospect for the first time to discuss their situation.
Generally, you begin the discovery process with some assumption as to how and why the prospect may have a need for your product.
You’re there for a reason whether you have instigated it yourself through prospecting or if they have requested a meeting with your company to see if you can help.
In front of the prospect, the process moves to a discussion of their current situation, i.e., what is the prospect doing now, how is it being done, who is supplying the product, where is it being used etc.
It’s important to begin with a discussion of the prospect’s situation for several reasons:
You are gathering general information that verifies or denies your assumptions.
You don’t know whether the prospect perceives even a need or a problem in his or her current situation.
If you focus on problems or needs without first understanding how the prospect operates, you risk not having all the information you need to focus on the real needs.
The prospect may be satisfied with the current situation, not perceiving a problem or a need.
As you learn more about the prospect’s current situation, you pick up clues as to possible problems or areas where your product might “fit.”
You explore these in depth, trying to understand and get the prospect to understand that they can be solved.
Once you have identified a problem, you confirm that the prospect would like to see it solved, thereby converting it to a need.
As a salesperson you are also a diagnostician.
Your first questions should focus on the general situation.
As you find an area of the problem, seek more specific information. As you go, provide information to the prospect, give him or her a frame of reference so that he or she understands how to respond and knows what kind of information you’re seeking and why. Provide feedback as you go. Let the prospect know that you both understand and appreciate the information you are receiving. Encourage the prospect to continue by showing you understand, and by frequently supporting your prospect’s remarks.
Discovering is not an interrogation!
Do not conduct an interrogation in which you ask a lot of closed ”yes” or “no” questions. Use closed questioning mainly to confirm your understanding of what you’ve been told.
Allow the prospect freedom to express feelings, needs etc
Open questions allow the prospect to express feelings, problems, needs, opinions and facts; they are the most useful type of question as they allow a dialogue to proceed, giving the prospect the freedom to express needs from his or her perspective.
Useful in confirming and regaining focus; limit response
Closed questions are useful in confirming your understanding of what the prospect has said and in regaining lost focus.
Examples (mainly used as confirmation):
Improper Use of Closed Questions
Remember, you are attempting to view concerns from the prospect’s perspective. Closed questioning if used without a prospect-oriented focus, can be viewed as manipulative, and can create resistance.
Closed questions are directive and assumptive, almost forcing a re sponse favourable to the salesperson’s pitch. Rather than put the prospect in a box, when a “no” response is possible, be open with your questioning and avoid closed questions when possible.
To maintain dialogue, position questions and provide examples
A steady stream of questions, without feedback, turns into an interrogation. Discovering is a conversational process in which you share information and provide a rationale for your question. Use it to keep the prospect involved.
Builds a bridge of empathy with the prospect
We tend to seek out and respond well to people who understand our views and agree with our opinions. Be supportive of your prospect at all stages of the sales process to build empathy and advance the relationship.
Look for areas of agreement and actively acknowledge the prospect’s feelings.
Using the tips and techniques above you should be able to start discovering the prospect’s needs very early on in the meeting – meaning that you will have more time during the meeting to present the right solution.
I hope you got a lot out of this article and I’d love to hear your own experiences of this?
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There are 3 main aspects of your performance in a sales meeting that can really encourage the prospects or client to come on board with you. Find out exactly what these 3 key ingredients are in our infographic below.
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Have you spoken to prospects and they’ve said ‘Thank you, but I’m happy with what I’ve got’?
This is the single most common response to salespeople today, in person or on the phone. the prospect has no reason to change because the product or service they’re using is working just fine, or it provides everything they need at the moment, or they see no need for a change at all.
It’s normally the killer for most salespeople because they think that’s the end of their chances. If they’re happy with their current solution, why should they change? Many say that if I pursue my sales pitch to the, they’ll get annoyed, saying something along the lines of ‘which part of ‘no’ did you not understand?’
Let me ask you something. Have you ever made an impulse buy? Maybe you were walking down the street and you passed a shop window and something caught your eye. That new pair of shoes or that new suit…that new television or that new computer.
What ever it was, you may already be wearing something like it or have something like it at home already.
What made you not only see it, look closely at it and investigate it, but also walk into the shop, examine it, check it out and, eventually, purchase it?
Well, you succumbed to the age-old human feeling of desire. How do we create desire in ourselves? Easy. We look at our current situation or position, we compare it with what we would feel like if we had something better, and we take the opportunity to get that which would make us feel better. The current dissatisfaction evaporates, we feel good about ourselves, rationalise the decision and move on, now with the new suit or shoes or computer or whatever.
This dissatisfaction is what makes us make decisions. And your prospect is the same. If you can create a feeling of dissatisfaction with the current position in his mind, he is more likely to at least give you a hearing ear.
Here are some tips on how to do this:
1) Raise the level of expectation of how his current solution should perform
You can do this in three ways:
a) Teach the buyer how to be more successful through using your products
b) Teach the buyer how your solution will help him catch up with or stay ahead of the competition
c) Teach the buyer how you can provide a better business partnership in the long run.
2) Identify how others have used your products in their industry and seen measurable results from them
They can identify with competitors or similar people in their industry, and if they see how these have benefited from your services, it may cause them to re-evaluate what they are currently getting from their current product.
3) Create a need for your product by checking on what his future expectations will be
If your product or service will give better returns or productivity or raise the chances of profitability in the future, they will experience dissatisfaction with the current solution and look to something better in the future.
The only reason that someone moves away from what they are currently using is if they see the potential for better results in the future with something else.
This gives you the chance to show how you can achieve higher goals for them and create more opportunities.
So, create this feeling of dissatisfaction in a prospect’s mind and you open up the chance for him to experience your solution and reap the benefits.
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Due to circumstances well beyond your control, the new software version upgrade will not ship as promised. The sales team has anxious clients waiting for the upgrade, in addition to many prospects who are interested in seeing the new version. Moreover, the delay means that regular monthly maintenance fees are suspended and the sales team will not receive their monthly residual commissions!
In business, things do not always go as planned and there are times when your firm may have to endure negative, costly and painful information. How you deliver such information to your sales team is critical.
The Positive Sandwich
You may have heard of the concept of the positive sandwich, in when delivering disconcerting information, you simply position the bad material in between two positive discussions. Lead off with something good, quickly disseminate the bad, and then close with something good. While there is nothing wrong with this concept as it makes sense and works quite well in many situations such as public speaking; today’s modern sales people may need a bit more.
Start at the Bottom and Go Up
Eliminate the emotional rollercoaster. Begin with the worse news possible, and then deliver good news. Follow that by even better news and then the best news. Finally, show some example of this good news in action.
As an example, using our hypothetical software upgrade above, you would deliver the bad news that the upgrade is late as are residual commissions. Then, share the good news that the upgrade has additional features and benefits. Better news; that clients who upgrade will get a reduction in their monthly service fees. Follow that by best news that sales people will get a raise in their residual percentage. Finally, share an example of the good news with the fact that the new features will open up new markets and more sales opportunities for the sales team.
Expectations Shape Perception
The most powerful way to deliver bad news to your sales team is to shape their expectations of that news.
Have you ever felt a movie would be the best movie of its genre you have ever seen, only to find that the movie was not as good as you thought? Alternatively, the movie you thought would be a flop, was not as bad as you thought it would be.
A company earns $200 million in profits. However, the company failed to meet the Wall Street expectations of $206 million, and therefore did not perform very well. Expectations greatly influence perception.
When you need to deliver bad news to the sales teams, start by shaping their expectations of the upcoming news. Let the team know that in the next meeting, you have some very bad news to share. You do not want to exaggerate or lie, and you don’t have to. Individual human imagination will run rampant as sales people envision their own worst possible nightmarish fears.
Now, by the time you deliver the actual news, you can rest assured that it will be nowhere near half as horrible as they thought. Now use a nonchalant, light-hearted tone of voice when delivering the news and the sales team’s perception will be that the news was really not that bad at all!
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In the recent post, “The 3 Worst Practices For Conducting A Successful Sales Meeting,” I highlighted the three main DON’Ts for a successful sales meeting:
Now let us look into three BEST practices to help you structure your sales meetings to raise people up, increase sales and elevate your sales team to the next level!
#1. DO Educate
While this important “DO” seems obvious and easy, it’s usually not the case in most sales meetings. You need to coach or train during every meeting. Sales people need to learn more and such continuing education is everlasting and is an investment.
The problem is that many managers have difficulty in figuring out exactly what to train/coach/teach. The sales team has already gone through the company sales training. You went over objections a dozen times and there seems to be nothing left to talk about when it comes to prospecting. In fact, the sales team feels that they know everything.
So where do you get educational topics that are not only informative, but also useful and timely solutions?
Uncover Problems and Pain
Just as when dealing with prospects, with your sales team, you need to unearth their problems even when they are unaware that they have any.
You then need to use those problems as the basis for your sales meetings.
You should have a personal one to one meeting with each sales person at the end of every day or month, depending on the logistics and your sales cycle, even if it is by telephone. During that individual meeting, you want to make note of the problem areas the sales person has. However, do not correct those issues then.
If your correct the sales person at that time, it will come across as a de-motivator. Instead, make note of the issues, and uplift the sales person. Then, in the sales meeting, do not single out that sales person. Simply use that issue as a training topic.
Here’s an example:
In your one to one meeting with Steve, you noted that at least twice, he lost sales you think he should have closed. You ask some questions of Steve and find that he is not correctly demonstrating how to run the Profit & Loss Reports of the accounting software.
There are three ways you can handle this situation.
a) You can inform Steve of the problem right then…
“Oh Steve! I can see exactly what you’re doing wrong. You are not showing the P & L report the right way. It’s in your manual! As soon as possible, come in and I will go over it again with you…”
While this appears to be an innocent approach, what really happened is that Steve went home depressed. He knows he lost a few sales he should have closed and that he is probably doing something wrong. His self-esteem is at an all-time low. Then his wife hammers on him that money is tight and he should forget that sales thing and get a real job. Then he calls his sales manager, who confirms the fact, “Yep, Steve! You blew it!” Not good.
b) You can bring up Steve’s problem during the sales meeting and completely embarrass and berate Steve. Not good.
c) You can bring up the problem as a general training topic for the group.
You can bet that if Steve is having the problem others are as well. Also, it cannot hurt to reiterate something that is apparently so crucial that it can mean the difference in closing the sale or not.
With this method, you single out or berate no-one, and the sales teams always receive just-in-time training topics that are always relevant.
Ask questions to uncover the problems and then offer the solutions as educational topics in your sales meetings.
By illustrate, I’m referring to demonstrating, or proving what you say. This relates to such things as in the above example. Demonstrate the method of how to show the P & L report. If you have sales people who may be experts with that part of the sales interaction, then have them illustrate to the group. In this way, you not only keep the older pros interested, but you also help ensure they stay on track.
Illustrate other topics as well. When you speak of goals and milestones that are possible, exemplify such with someone who has done it. The key is always to back up, show and prove what you say.
As you can see, with this structural process, there is already a certain amount of motivation embedded into the sales meeting. In fact, the very structure itself leads to motivation.
Now it’s time for the rah-rah, pep rally. Now is the time for the cheering, congratulations and new sales incentives. Now when you talk about reaching new heights, the sales team can believe it because you demonstrated exactly how. You illustrated how to do it or showed how someone did it in the past. Also, you gave them the education and the tools they need to reach the next level.
Do this and your sales team’s belief will expand their reach and their reach will always slightly exceed their grasp.
Bestselling Author, Sales Authority & Speaker On Modern Day Selling Methods
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While a good sales meeting can invigorate sales people and increase revenue, a poor sales meeting will cost you more than you can calculate. Incredibly, many sales managers take the structure of a sales meeting for granted. It is the old, “If it’s not broke don’t fix it…” attitude.
However, here are three basic things to understand about sales meetings:
1. There is no such thing as an ineffective sales meeting. Sales meetings have either a positive effect on your sales team, or a negative one.
2. The sales meeting is never the blame. When sales are off, typically the blame falls on sales people, market conditions and everything else, other than sales meetings.
3. Sales people do not tell you that sales meetings are ineffective. First, many sales people would never understand if a sales meeting is effective or not. Second, a sales person is not usually going to go to his or her boss and say, “Your sales meetings are boring and I am not learning anything…”
The point is that just because it does not appear to be broken, does not mean it is not. Below are three DON’Ts, the worst practices for conducting a good sales meeting. Then, posting December 15, 2011, I will detail the three best practices, the DOs for sales meeting success!
#1. DON’T Berate
While you may never have a conscious goal to demean sales people or in anyway, put someone down, it happens all the time in the sales meeting. When a sales person has a problem, or is not performing well, it is easy to use that person’s situation as an example. Never point out someone’s shortcomings in a group sales meeting. Always discuss a sales person’s negative issues in private. Also, remember that as I explained in the post, “The Zero Tolerance Approach to Sales Management,” that a sales person’s failures…are actually YOUR fault!
#2. DON’T Intimidate
Be careful not to intimidate sales people with pressure or threats. Some managers believe that negative motivation is a useful tool in that fear is a far stronger emotion than desire. While it is true, that fear can get people to do things they might not otherwise do; unfortunately, that includes the good as well as the bad things. In addition, when you intimidate one person in front of the group, the negative affects spread like an airborne virus throughout the group. Also, be aware that you can intimidate people without actual threats. Challenges and goals that are beyond the sales person’s belief or imagination, can intimidate, frighten or embarrass a person when done in front of other people.
By definition, to subjugate is to bring a group under control or submission by force: to overwhelm, overpower and conquer them. Unfortunately, such is the organisational philosophy of many sales managers. Demanding better performance is not managing. To lead, people must follow, and that does not mean forcefully dragging them behind you.
Be careful not to build yourself up, in meetings. Instead, uplift the team. In addition, never demand the team do things that you cannot, have not, or would not do yourself. You want to lead, not rule. In sales meetings, be careful not so issue orders or commands. Instead, offer objectives and action plans to reach those objectives.
Just as in dealing with a prospect, with your sales team, you need to PULL, not PUSH. You need to ASK not TELL, and you need to HELP not SELL.
Don’t demand that your sales people succeed, and order them to do it. Instead, show them how to succeed and help them do it.
Posting December 15, 2011:
The 3 Best Practices for Conducting A Successful Sales Meeting
Bestselling Author, Sales Authority & Speaker On Modern Day Selling Methods
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Maybe you’ve faced the situation where you’ve prepared a great presentation for the client and you turn up with all your materials and examples of how you can help them, only to have them say ‘You’ve got five minutes. What can you do for me?’
All that preparation, all that research, all that time spent on getting your pitch ready…and NOW they tell me they have five minutes! Great!
How can you ensure this unpredictable client won’t come up with something like this on your next call?
The best way is by confirming with the client what the format of the meeting will be before you actually turn up.
You should confirm what the essence of the meeting will be, describing the objective, the amount of time allocated for the meeting, and its intended outcome. It’s almost like an agenda that you both agree over the phone and can confirm via email.
It will go something like this:
“Mr Client, I would be happy to meet with you to discuss your coaching needs, and see whether we can help you achieve your objectives over the next six months. During the meeting, I will be asking about your current performance and how it compares with where you need it to be. So it would be useful if you had those figures available.
Naturally, you’ll have some questions about our capabilities and what format the coaching would take, so I’ll be happy to answer those.
From my experience, these type of meetings take about 45-60 minutes. By the end of the meeting, we should be in a position to assess whether our services can be of value to your company. Are you happy to invest an hour of your time to assess if we should move onto the next level?”
Both you and the client now know what will take place during the meeting and how it can be more predictable. It may not stop the odd meeting starting with ‘I’ve only got five minutes’, but at least you will be able to confirm another time and date for the meeting without feeling guilty or under pressure.
Also, by phoning the client on the day of the meeting, you can confirm that they still have the time set aside for you before meeting them.
All this should help you make the meeting more predictable and ensure you have the opportunity to present yourself in the best light, without rushing through your presentation.
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
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Your product knowledge is an essential tool in your sales armoury, and must be used at the correct time. By this, I mean that if you just present your product without finding out what the real issues are the customer is facing, then this scatter-gun approach will do more harm than good in your sales meeting.
The best salespeople we work with are expert questioners and use this undoubted skill to earn the right to deliver their product knowledge. You need a bank of questions that will draw out the challenges, issues, problems, rewards and opportunities that will make the prospect think about using you.
Here are some questions to ask before you even think about stepping foot in your prospect’s office:
1) Are my questions clear, precise and relevant? Does the customer understand the implication of the questions I have planned?
2) Do my questions make the customer think about the solution coming from my services or products? How can you phrase them in a way that links the solution to you?
3) Do my questions take the prospect down a new road of thinking than they would if they were talking to my competitor? How would the competition ask them, and how can I go deeper?
4) Am I supporting the direction the prospect is thinking by asking quality questions down that path? Are my listening skills sufficient to keep track of issues they bring up?
5) Are my questions making the prospect think about the pain of staying in the position they are? What will be the outcome if the prospect does nothing?
6) Do my questions concentrate specifically on the business situation the customer is facing now? What is the exact current situation?
7) Are my questions directed towards the rewards the customer may get by changing the current situation? What opportunities might there be for them in the future?
8 ) Do my questions make the sale easier? What do they expect the product to do?
9) Am I creating enthusiasm for the solutions I may come up with for the client? Do my questions make them feel they want to know more?
10) Have I lined up some commitment questions that ensure the customer feels safe and confident they are making the right decision by choosing me?
These are questions that will help you achieve your goals by pointing you in the right direction to formulate quality questions in your sales meetings.
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
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I had an interesting experience this week.
A company called us to introduce a new CRM system that they had developed and made an appointment to come and see us at the office. The salesperson arrived on time, looking very professional and very official.
Now, you know me through my tips and blogs, and you must know how I like to be sold to. This salesperson didn’t, and he started by talking about his product and how wonderful it was, without even asking me a single question, except what we used at the moment.
But the main reason it was so interesting was the fact he had prepared his presentation on his new iPad.
Having one myself, I wondered how he was going to use it to sell his product.
Well, he started it up. All fine so far. Then he spent about five minutes trying to find the file he wanted. It wasn’t there. So he dived into his briefcase and brought his laptop out. The battery was dead.
You can imagine how flustered he was. He spent the next few minutes nervously describing what the system would do and explaining how good it was. He offered to return later that afternoon with the correct demonstration materials, but by then I’d lost interest. Not because he couldn’t back up all his claims, but because he came across simply as unprofessional.
Technology is a great asset to salespeople and can make your products come alive so clearly. We use technology every day in our presentations, and they can be mightily impressive. But when it goes wrong or lets you down, it can make a complete idiot of you.
The morale? Check, check and check again before you present your solution using technology. Make sure your battery is fully charged if you’re using your laptop. Make sure you can find that file before presenting it.
And make sure your technology adds to your offering, rather than making a fool of you.
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
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If you want to make sure that your next sales meeting and visit bombs quicker than Liverpool’s chances of winning the 2009 Champion’s League then make sure that you take the advice of Ivegotta Closeya, one of the most successful, unsuccessful sales people in the world.
Here’s his top 6 tips for making sure that your next sales meeting is well and truly a sales meeting from hell!
1. Just Wing It!
Go into the meeting with no specific objectives in mind. Just play it be ear and have no specific outcome for what you want to achieve. That’s a real test of a salesperson! Fly by the seat of your pants!
2. Research Is For Whimps
Conducting clent research is a real pain in the 8ss! Just don’t bother. After all, sales is a numbers game isn’t it? If the next sucker doesn’t buy then some other sucker will…won’t they?
3. Decision Maker? Keh?
Assume the person you are going to meet is the decision maker. After all, they must be important to be meeting you right?
4. My Kit Has Never Let Me Down Before
No need to check your laptop cables, your laptop batteries or whether you’ve got a back up plan if the laptop packs up. What’s the use of that? Also, you’ll have plenty of business cards either in your brief case or in your jacket pocket so no need to waste time on them.
5. That’s Enough About Me, What Do You Think About Me?
Me, me, me, me, me! Love it! I’ve perfected my pitch and I’m gonna close this person and get them to buy it. I’m not going to waste time hearing about their pain and their issues as I know these already. So I’m gonna go for the kill. Wish me luck!
6. I Get Objections All The Time, I’m Great At Handling Them!
I was once told by my Sales Manager and some Bald Sales Jedi Guy to frontload my objections into my presentation but that’s a waste of time. I love it when objections surface at the end and then I have a ping pong match in overcoming them. Oh, yes, that’s the true test of a sales rep! 15 love!
And now a tip from “The Bald Sales Jedi Guy” – Ivegotta Closeya is a complete loser!
Make sure you reverse his logic and tips and be prepared for your next client sales meeting!
Happy Sales Meetings!
“Bald Sales Jedi Guy” – thank you Ivegotta!
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