Question have for the most part have become the instrument of choice for most B2B sellers. While that’s good news, it is a mixed story. Many have switched from pitching to using questions, but they have not made the attitudinal shift to fully benefit from questions. Rather than using questions to facilitate a full and – mutual – discovery process, they serve to narrow and limit the discussion to the seller’s agenda. A pitch by any other name is still a pitch, and no matter that wrapping, the intent still come through, and buyers still step back or away.
I recently was prospected buy a provider, going in I told them I was aware of the type of service they sold, but it was not a priority, nor was it on my wish list. At this point sellers choose one of three paths:
1. Tuck and run, saying something like “well maybe I can send you some material for when you decide to consider a service like ours”.
2. Almost as popular, recriminate the buyer by pointing out how things have changed, and they are missing the point, “and let me tell you why…”, dragging out a horde of self-serving stats.
3. The lesser chosen path, educate the buyer by making them aware of things impacting their business that they may not be aware of, and showing them how their offering can help the buyer move towards their objectives.
This is a common scenario for many sellers. It is a fork in the road that separates the good from the also-rans. She chose door number 2, and being the business I am in, I went along to see where we would end up, and told her as much. Needless to say, first thing she asked is “what do you guys do?” When I told her, she still didn’t clue in, and continued by saying “that’s why you need ACME widget”.
The good will use the opportunity to help educate the buyer; the also-rans use it as an opportunity to pitch. Let’s be clear, I am all about the sale, but at this crucial stage, the vendor and product are secondary, and the focus needs to be on engagement, which means using questions as a means of educating. This education needs to be mutual, as stated above, the seller needs to be as open to learning, as they expect the buyer to be. While this may take more effort than the alternatives, it is an evolving cycle, what I learn in my current sale, I will be able to use in the next, the more I learn, the more I sell.
Our friend took the predictable path, recriminate me for not knowing what she does, and not having her world view. After a few perfunctory questions, mostly for the purpose of seeing where I fit on the product grid provided by her marketing team. like “what do you do?” Questions like “did you know..?” Followed by a scary outcome plaguing those who don’t use their product to address the “did you know”. While it may be true that I didn’t know what she wanted me to know, I knew more than she did. In the end, I learned a bit about how she sells, and I will be able to leverage it moving forward. She learned nothing, did not get a sale, and will never be able to recover the 30 minutes she spent on the call.