I recently observed a sales rep engage in a few sales calls. Not just one, but a few and I was surprised to find that he wasn’t selling at all. He took calls, inbound calls, and answered questions. That’s it. No selling.
One round of dialogue went something like this: “Yes it does that. No it can’t do it quite that way, but can do this in this way” on and on until finally the customer said “ok, I’ll take three”. From what I heard, this is normal with the exception that in the other two calls, the prospect did not say they wanted to buy and as you may have guessed, the sales rep did not ask for the sale.
The question taker.
Are you this sort of sales rep – the question taker? Is all your sales dialogue based on a reactive discussion with the prospect? Only fielding questions and answering based on your product knowledge and whatever the prospect throws out? If so, good luck. You’ll need a lot of help to improve your close ratios and sales opportunities.
A question taker has no context to the prospects world. No skin in the game. No understanding of where the client is trying to go and is only along for the ride with the prospect. Better hope the prospect knows where he’s going or you will both be lost.
The prospect is only sharing a small piece of the big picture and you have no idea what that picture is. In this case, the prospect thinks they know what to ask, what is missing, and how you can help them. However, in almost every sales environment though, the prospect is not able to properly help themselves and the prospect is flying blind and so long as he is the only one asking questions, you’re flying blind too.
Become the question maker.
The question maker sees every question as an opportunity to reveal why the prospect has that question, what is the prospect thinking/doing that led to that question. Once you understand where the prospects questions are coming from you can understand their objectives and speak directly to their goal and desired outcome, not just merely answering a question here or there that may or may not actually impact the desired outcome.
Ultimately the prospect is asking questions as a way to show their willingness to do business with you if you can just show them how and why. Often, this is really about using these questions as a starting point to how you can work to satisfy their business goals. As the expression goes, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” so don’t get caught up in only addressing the one way the prospect has in mind.
As the question maker, its your job to ask questions that lead to the prospects overall goals and then work with the prospect to lead them to conclusions that show you understand their needs and can lead them to the desired out come. By then, you will already have the sale, it will just be a matter of the details.
The question maker is able to become the trusted guide and can give the prospect the answers to their blind spots and that’s what they want anyway.
Don’t be the question taker. Be the question maker… and always ask for the sale (or the next action that brings you closer to a sale).
About Justin McCullough
Justin McCullough is mentor, marketer and leader with more than 10 years of selling experience from startups to large corporations. Justin’s experience ranges from advertising agencies to newspapers and web development firms to book publishers. You can find out more about Justin at www.justinmccullough.com or www.leader4hire.net .
(Image by Tim Parkinson)