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Question, Questions…and More Questions

Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’     –Charles M. Schulz

If you’re like me, you’ve probably gotten a few chuckles over the years from the comic strip Peanuts by cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. The above quote illustrates a great point about where salespeople are today when it comes to developing one of the key competencies of consultative selling–asking good, effective questions. The data I’ve seen tells the story—they’re not improving. Go here to look at it for yourself.

High-performing consultative sellers are good listeners. They’re able to ask intelligent questions that help prospect recognize their compelling reasons to buy, and in the process, differentiate themselves from the competition.

And it all starts with asking great questions.

If you’re a sales leader (or a business owner who serves as their own sales leader) and you’re in the process of developing your sales team, growing them with a desire for them to be stronger in the sales process, listen for the quality of the questions your salespeople are asking when they meet with prospects or customers.

Are their questions open-ended that move the conversation forward or lead to a ‘dead-end’?

Are their questions designed to encourage the prospect to talk or do they result in one word answers?

Are their questions delivered in a manner that’s warm, friendly, conversational or do they sound like part of an interrogation?

And hopefully, you haven’t heard these two sales ‘duds”:

“Are you happy with your current supplier?”

“What keeps you up at night?”

Wherever your team’s skill level is when it comes to asking great sales questions, don’t ignore the importance of sharpening their skills even further and taking them to the next level of proficiency. If you want to shorten your company’s sales cycle, improve the quality of your sales pipeline, lower your selling costs, this is one of the best areas  upon which to focus your attention and efforts.


“How Can You Resist?”

Here is the call control tip of the month:

Salespeople encounter 'resistance' everyday. Resistance from prospects, current customers, internal customers. It usually comes in the form of a stall or objection – "I'm happy with our current provider." or "That pricing seems on the high side."

Amateur salespeople react to resistance by going into "sell" mode to overcome it  by supplying reasons why the prospect is wrong or should be thinking differently. This only results in the resistance growing stronger.

Professional salespeople take a different approach. They realize that any resistance from a prospect must first be lowered before attempting to clarify the reasons for it and resolving them. The most effective way to accomplish this is by making statements with which the prospect can agree. Once the resistance is lowered, it's easier to then drill down on the stall or objection and get to the real issue.


Prospect: "We're happy with our current provider."

Salesperson: "I appreciate you sharing that with me. It sounds like they are doing a perfect job for you and there is no reason for you to look at anyone else right now."

For the prospect who is expecting the salesperson to start 'selling' why his product or service is better, the above response is unexpected. When you say what your prospect isn't expecting, it results in the lowering of their resistance, the changing of their position and the opening of their mind. And you maintain control of the call.

Try it. It works. 

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