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A Powerful Tactic For Rapidly Determining a Prospect's
Author: Ian Segail
Here's a question for you...how do you avoid a premature presentation before you've been able to clearly identify a prospect's needs? Three times in the last 10 days I have been asked by different clients to help them with the following dilemma. See if it resonates for you and your sales team.
Let's say that you finally get the appointment. You finally get in to see that prospect you've been hunting down for months. After some friendly chit chat and rapport building it's time to get down to business and you now move into "questioning mode" to determine how you can best help them with the products or services that you offer. Just as you attempt to open up the needs diagnosis, the prospect takes control and says something like... "Well I just wanted to find out about you and what you guys do and what you may be able to offer us?"
What do the majority of salespeople do when faced with a request like that? Well, they fall right into the trap and begin to do their "dog and pony" routine. Talk, talk, talk! And as my one time teacher and mentor Tom Hopkins would say, "If you're talking then you are only learning what you already know, and not learning what you need to know to make the sale!"
Using a tennis analogy, as a salesperson you hit the ball into the prospect's court by asking them a question. They then answer the question, or sometimes they hit it straight back into our court by asking us a question or requesting information. In the previous example, we start asking them questions to determine their needs, and instead of answering us, the prospect says to us, "Well, I just wanted to find out about you and what you guys do and what you may be able to offer us?" Now you have the ball, they have hit it straight back into your court. What is your best strategy for getting the ball back safely and effectively over the net again? Here is a power-house tactic for getting the ball back over the net and keeping it in play, step by step.
Firstly, right now, take out a piece of paper and quickly list, bullet point style, the top 5 problems you solve for your customers - the top 5 reasons why customers choose your organization.
For example, the top 5 reasons why customers choose to work with a Sales Performance Coach are as follows:
Helping clients with:
* Strategies for retaining and growing existing customer revenues
* Strategies for acquiring new customers
* Improving forecast accuracy
* Helping more of the sales team to achieve their sales goals
* Generating more qualified leads
Those are the problems a sales performance coach solves. That having been said, stop right now and write down the top 5 issues that your product/service is designed to solve. (If you don't do this exercise now, then the rest of the tactic will lose its impact for you!!)
What are the top 5 problems that you solve for your customers?
Understand that when you first ask your needs discovery question (hitting the ball over the net initially) in an attempt to uncover your prospects needs, their return volley can only come back in the form of two questions, or requests for information. Firstly, they will either have a specific question in relation to your products and services - most likely a question relating to one or more of the top 5 reasons customers choose your organization, as specified in Step 1. Or secondly, they will toss over a generic opening question like the one above "Can you tell me about your organization and what you guys do and what you may be able to offer us?" anticipating that you will now begin your "sales pitch!" Unfortunately it is this second option request from the customer which happens in the majority of cases.
Where the prospect asks a specific question in relation to your products and services, the job of the salesperson is then to return the ball back over the net with a bounce back question asking something to the effect of, "Tell me more about that" or "Why specifically is that an issue for you?" "What's working, what's not working for you currently in that situation?"
This is the easy option and allows you entry to easily peel back the onion and identify the issues and impact. As pointed out earlier though, unfortunately this situation happens in the minority of occasions. What happens most of the time is when the customer lobs the generic open question of "Tell me about your organization and what you guys do?" that causes most of the difficulty.
So instead of doing the typical salesperson "dog and pony" show, answer the prospect's question with a detailed direct question. Let's say the prospect says something like, "can you tell me more about your organization and what it is that you guys do and maybe what you may be able to offer us?"
My response using the powerful tactic mentioned above will be... "Joan, let me begin by saying that the reasons customers choose to work with us is because we were able to solve one or more of the following problems for them. Firstly, our customers come to us because we are able to help them with effective strategies for not only increasing the loyalty of their existing customers, but we are also able to assist them in growing revenues from their current client base. Secondly, we have helped our clients improve their accuracy when it comes to forecasting. Thirdly, customers choose us because we are able to help them with strategies for acquiring new customers. Joan, the fourth reason we are called in is to help more of our customer's sales team members achieve their sales quotas and then finally we are to help our customers generate more qualified leads.
Now here's the power question that wins the point: Joan, which one of those five reasons would be important to you?
Once the prospect names one or more of the 5 reasons you've just laid out for them, then the job of the salesperson is to easily knock the ball over the net with a bounce back question asking "Tell me more about that" or "Why specifically is that an issue for you?" "What's working, what's not working for you currently?"
This powerful tactic will not only keep the ball in the customer's court allowing your salespeople to keep probing for issues and impacts, but it will stop them from launching into a premature "elevator type pitch" without being able to relate to any specific needs that the prospect may have. If your salespeople are being sidelined by generic questions as to your products and services, then apply the above very influential, directed questioning approach.About the Author:
As one of Australia's leading authorities and coaches in sales management, Ian Segail has been involved in the coaching, training and development of sales managers and salespeople for over two decades. Drawing on 25 years of experience in sales, sales management and leading an HR and training team, Ian brings a strong dose of fiscal reality and practicality to his works as a Sales Performance Coach. Engaging directly with business owners and both novice and experienced sales managers alike, across a wide variety of industries and selling disciplines, the focus of Ian's work is to transform sales results for companies by improving sales management practices. Ian is the author of "Bulletproof Your Sales Team - The 5 Keys To Turbo-Boosting Your Sales Team's Results" and a number of business articles, business reports and white papers including "The fish stinks from the head!" and "Why Sales Training Doesn't Work." Ian has an insatiable hunger for studying selling and people management and has passionately pursued answers to the question "How come some people can sell and most can't?" Download great sales and performance management resources from
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