businessman on the beach

The “Dog Days” Of Sales0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

There is no denying that summer brings a different rhythm, energy and cadence to sales. Vacations, kids out of school, longer sunnier days are but a few contributing factors. Unfortunately, this just feeds in to tribal notions about selling the summer; no doubt helped by prospects and customers using “summer” to hold sellers at bay and fend off making decisions.

No, It Can’t Wait

While on the surface some of the reasoning presented by prospects (and often accepted at face value by some reps), may sound reasonable, they are not. When looked at in the cold light of time and quota, one can never take their eye off the prize, or assume that time somehow ticks away differently on the summer. A simple litmus test next time a prospect brings up summer, is to explore how tolerant their company is of seasonal short falls or slackness in effort.

Seasonal Adjustments

businessman on the beachOne benefit that the relaxed pace of summer brings, is people’s propensity to do mid-year reviews and status checks, and then adjust course accordingly. If you have dealt with a specific vertical, or set of buyers, you could be in a position to add to this process. Being that you have had greater exposure to best practices, you are in a position to offer value without talking product or sales. Having seen how different people and organisations approach similar opportunities, you should always be in a position to introduce new lines of thinking or tools that will help them complete their task, or enhance the effort. More on another way this can be handy in a minute.

Given that the cast of players in decisions is increasing, used to be 5.4, now it’s 6.7. Given that some of the players will be on vacation, others may be reluctant to make decisions. But that should not prevent you from going full speed into education and influence mode, using their relax stated to introduce elements into the discussion that will rekindle their enthusiasm, revive their energy to levels when they started their journey.

With the pressure gauge down, you will find it easier step back and refocus on things that precipitated the journey. We have had experiences, where mid-way through the year the focus and energy dips to where the project is abandoned, which explains the almost a third of deals that go to no decision. This is your opportunity to not worry about the ultimate decision, and have them emotionally recommit and reinvest in the project, which is an opportunity to review and learn what has changed, what would they do differently if they were to start over again, or at least based on their journey to date.

You must remember that some of these will in fact get back on track this year, others, while they may see merit again, will slip into next year, better than no sale at all.

Taking advantage of the mood of summer also allows you to explore the dynamics internally, and those that will have to be in place to ensure a decision coming out of Labour Day. How and who makes the decision, who can and has killed projects in the past, and other important facts that are much better exchanged in the Dog Days Of Summer.

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EDGE Process

When All Else Fails1

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I recently had the pleasure of recording a podcast with Jeb Blount, as part of the addition of Proactive Prospecting Program to Sales Gravy University. One area we explored was what we can do when we are having a day, or a streak, where everything we touch turns to shite, and it makes us afraid to touch the phone or the next opportunity. Now I know we pundits are supposed to be an optimistic lot, almost intentionally ignoring the dark side of sales, rah rah, and all that stuff. Fortunately, Jeb is a more real than that, and wanted to explore a reality all in sales face, and regularly.

As with most things in sales, the outcome is not based on one single thing or action, but a series of connected and incremental factors, executed simultaneously that lead to results.

This is why, those who do see sales as a science artfully executed will have an advantage, not just when things are going well, but more importantly, when they are not. At the heart of this is having a clearly defined, better yet, clearly “followable” process.

When in doubt, work your process. If you are a successful sales person, one that usually makes quota, and you have done that by sticking to your game plan, based on a clear road map, highlighting desired outcomes, paths to that outcome, contingency plans, and more; then you know that what got you there. Your process! Your consistent execution, your success, especially when almost half your peers are not making quota, is all driven by your process. At a time of struggle, don’t abandon it, double down, recommit and execute.

This isn’t about blind faith. Part of any successful sales process is that it is dynamic in nature. Meaning it evolves with your markets, not locking you into a singular means of execution, but instead reflecting changes in the market. For this to take place, a dynamic process, is an ongoing “feedback loop”. That feedback is captured from two key sources.

EDGE ProcessThe first is the customer; as their expectations, reactions, objections, change and evolve, so should your process. Many companies make the mistake of designing a process; then altering it not to reflect the market, but the inadequacies of their CRM. The second is the rep, if they fail to contribute their experiences in the field, and fail to contribute to process reviews (these are not opportunity reviews), then the process will stay as is. This allows your sales enablement team (when they are not fiddling with the latest app), to combine these two inputs, along with market sources to ensure that your process not only reflects the market, but that allows your sellers to leverage that view, and allow them to win not only more deals, but more predictably. This is how the process evolves, stays dynamic, and provides you with a proven and fair advantage.

If you have that process in place, and you hit a slump, as every pro does along the way, then the resolution is simple, stick to what got you there. If you don’t have that kind of process in place you have two choices. One, find a company that does, and you’ll make money. Second, Hope the pinball ride ends and you bounce back before your run out of time.

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Win lose draw dice

Let’s Make A Decision!0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

We’ve all been there, a real-life version of the popular game show. You’ve done your work, and have arrived at that final fateful stage of the sales.

Three possibilities, three doors:

  1. A positive Decision
  2. A negative Decision
  3. No Decision

While it is clear which door the individual sales person want, the question is how to get that. Much of that will depend on the state of the buyer and their organization at the time of decision. Broadly speaking three sates: 1) Actively looking, those people out there consuming all the content you dangle in front of them as they willingly march down their buying journey. You know all about these folks, 57% of the way… blah blah blah. They know what they want, why, and they are geared to get it. 2) Passively looking, they know they have to make a purchase, but they are not driven by the same urgency as their Active cousins. The things these two groups have in common include that they know they have to make a purchase, one now, the other sometime in the next 12 to 18 months. The other, is that they are both at the point of choosing the product, and will most likely end up with doors number 1 or 2. The other thing to consider is that these two groups make up less than 30% of the over target market.

But if you are only selling to this small group of buyers, an informed and opinionated set of buyers, you are most likely facing a decision based on price, features, or both. The good thing is that while you may not like the decision, at least you’ll get one.

What about the remaining 70%, the Status Quo, the complacent, set in their way, completely oblivious and removed from the market? Unlike Active or passive buyers, these people are not even thinking of playing, never mind deciding. Which is one of the key factors behind the high and rising number of deals that end up behind door number 3, no decision! According to sources some 30% of opportunities going into the top of your funnel will end in no decision. Take out the Active and Passive folks, who will make a decision, even when not in our favour, this means about half of deals initiated with Status Quo buyers go nowhere. Not the best use of time or resources.

While there a host of reason for this, but I think the key is what we are selling these folks. Because most sellers are practiced at selling to Folks who have made the decision to act, and are now down to selecting a product. Status Quo people are much further back down the road, they need to be convinced that a change is necessary. When we are successful at doing that, then they enter the product, or if you like, the solution, selection phase. The reason half don’t make a product decision is we were not successful at showing them why they need to leave the safety and warmth of their current means of doing things. Without that, they don’t need to decide on a product, feature, price or any of the common features of a buyer initiated and driven sale. Active and Passive buyers do most of the lifting, they just need someone to place an order with once they made up their mind.

Win lose draw diceSuccess with getting Status Quo buyers rests in being able to engage them on how they do things now, how that aligns with or detracts from their objectives. If we fail to get them to understand that there is another way to achieve those objectives, there is no need for a product decision.

Forget what makes you successful in winning what’s behind doors number 1 & 2, to win what’s behind door number 3, you need to create a reason for them to have to decide, this is about everything but the product. Active and Passive buyers have made the decision to decide on their own, leaving the sellers who service them no opportunity to exercise by sales people who are only selling to these buyers. Frankly a challenge for many inbound types, and others.

Adding to the challenge is that as soon as we go “product” with these buyers, they turn off, for them that is putting the cart way, way ahead of the horse. Your options need to look to their internal processes, and how those are enabling or preventing them from achieving current objectives, or objectives you can get them to adopt. The half of Status Quo buyers who choose not to make a decision, are not rejecting your product, but your inability to persuade based on anything other than product.

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pier

Are your prospecting calls a long run off a short pier?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Sellers are a wonderfully optimistic lot, having drank the Kool Aid about their “solution”, believing that they are indeed the cavalry coming over the hill to heal all that pains their potential prospects. This unbridled optimism and energy works great when you have a willing audience, say a play, where the audience comes with interest and openness to the message. That however is not the reality of a prospecting call, or dare I say, cold call; enthusiasm is not enough, in fact can be your undoing.

In no way do I want to douse your enthusiasm, but I do want to infuse a bit of reality into how prospecting unfolds these days. While I use calls to demonstrate the points, the basics hold true for e-mails, or other forms of “disruptive selling”. You can dress it up any way you like, but if your call or e-mail or other method of approach is not scheduled, and is news to the recipient, then we are disrupting that buyer. Nothing wrong with that, you are practicing Disruptive Marketing; if they taught Sales 2.0 or 3.0 were cool, Disruptive Marketing is just plain Arctic. Take pride in what you do, change the title on your card to read “Professional Interrupter”.

If you are going to interrupt someone, make it count, make every second of the call count, especially the first few. Even in an e-mail, if your subject line sucks, and your opening line is subpar, you’re beat from the start, as the prospect will never take in the real reason you called or they should speak with you. Those first few seconds are crucial, which is why I don’t understand why some many seller, so many professional interrupters, squander those important seconds.

Time after time I hear sales people talk about the most irrelevant things when the prospect unsuspectingly answers the phone. Rather than dealing with and delivering to the most important thing the prospect wants to know, i.e. “What’s In It For Me?” They ramble on about stuff not even their wives care about.

Caller: “Hi my name is Harvey Brown, I am the mid-Atlantic Account Executive for Blah Blah Inc., a Fortune 500 company and award winning manufacture of Machines Learning Widgets”. Frankly who really cares, Mom?

From the prospects’ perspective, you are almost at the end of the pier, and you haven’t even turned the corner of saying anything of interest to the prospect. With this approach, by the time you get to anything they may be able to evaluate and base a meeting on, the prospect has certainly checked out mentally if not hung up. In the case of e-mail, you can bet your last dollar that they have deleted your e-mail by now and have moved on.

What’s in it for them is not who you are, what you do, who you sell for, or what you sell. What’s in it for them are the outcomes and impacts on their business. So, start your call with that.

pier

Start with the very end, and then use your sales meeting to work back to why your product. Lead with the impacts on their business, what it will look like after they buy from you, don’t focus on what they are buying from you. If they don’t see the “how things will be different (better), then they could care less about what you sell. To do this you need to inject it into the call early, and not waste time giving long rambling demographical data that will make you run out of pier long before you can deliver the impact.

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Time To Change The Sales Rhetoric0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

You know it’s getting bad when the pundits are spending more time picking at each other, than dispensing advice to the masses who clearly yearn for knowledge and means to achieve quota.

Pundits are no different than other vendors or providers, they want to sell their services, I know I do, to that they need to find an audience, that’s what I am doing right here. Knowing that the old saying that one can catch more flies with honey than vinegar, they tend to spread the honey liberally in the hope of catch an audience. (You know I much preferred the other way of expressing the above, namely, “where there is horse shit, there will be sparrows”).

My concern stems from the number of pieces delivered by pundits that are not about how their followers can change elements of their approach or execution to improve their sales and outcomes, but instead waste time and space knocking some other method of selling or point of view. Given that there are few if any black and white or definitive things in sales, I don’t see how anyone can truly believe that they have the secret, the only way to achieve a specific task or an entire means of consistently and continuously succeeding in every sale they are involved in. Sure, it makes for a good cover, but don’t be sucked in to believing that any single sales approach will prove to be the only one you’ll ever need.

But you suspect that the cupboard is bare when more is thrown at other schools of thought than at the challenge at hand, elevating the state of sales. At one point, it becomes more amusing than bothersome, and if you do have a balanced view on how to continuously expand your toolkit and improve your sales, it can be somewhat amusing.

leader

For example, if you are missing Samuel Beckett or Sartre, just sit back, read and absorb the absurdity of someone passionately litigating the uselessness of social selling, yet doing it all on social media. Or the alternative of a pundit who continues to tell me why cold calling is dead, and I need to adopt a more social approach, all in an unsolicited e-mail, addressed to a generic address they scraped from my website. Although both were more entertaining than the blog post (although it felt like a dissertation when reading), about “personas”, which if I had to give the Reader’s Digest Version, simply amounted to titles being substituted for Persona.

I know people get passionate about things they feel strongly about, but that does not make that view right, unique or absolute. I also understand that despite all the moving parts, good selling comes down to some core concepts, these core concepts don’t multiple or dramatically change over time, how you execute will, but the reasoning has been fairly steady since Eve, the Apple and poor Adam. So, I understand that after a while we may run out of new ideas, but that’s alright there is no need to panic.

I see part of my role as helping reinforce the core elements of execution, the fundamentals. No shame in that, in fact it should be more prevalent in pundit world. So rather than panicking that you may have run out of ideas, and turning to the dark side: “Hey I think I need to poo poo on other’s ideas, and proclaim to have the only game in town”, feel comfortable with your view, the advice that got you this far, and help those interested, in improving their game. Shitting on others may get you points with the malcontents of sales, but these same sellers may not be around to read your next piece, and boy will you be even more pissed then.

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stranger in their own deal

A Stranger In Your Own Deal?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

It’s interesting to see how different sales people and organisations deal with lost deals. In light of the fact that most sales people including me, have an initial engagement to close ratio of less than 50%, meaning we lose more than we win, you’d think there would be more of a focus on understanding the reason for the outcomes of our opportunities. A better understand of why things turned out as they did, more importantly, how to change things to change the outcome moving forward should be of interest to sales types.

Even among those who do have a formal review process, they at times are limited by their scope and process.

A proper review of a loss is not easy, and may in fact be bruising to the rep involved. Which is one reason, I believe, that the rep involved in a lost deal should not be part of the process for loss review, at least not in parts involving the prospect in question. This is not some form of punishment, it is to ensure you get the best feedback for driving change.

Almost always, when you send the rep in to find out why they lost, you get no usable feedback. First off, the prospect, having made their choice has now shifted to implementing what they just bought (from the other guy). The easiest thing is to tell the rep it was price and product related differences. The reps have egos to protect, so what better than having the convenience of having price and product to blame. “See, it’s just as I and the rest of the team have been telling you….”

You really want this guy walking around the sales floor looking good for loosing?

stranger in their own dealIf you are looking for loss reviews to have real meaning and bring change, not only should you have someone else do it, but have a plan and specific areas that you will probe. Depending on the size of your deals and company, your best option is to go with a third part specializing doing post mortems.

One such professional I spoke to, told me that most of the time they uncover things the rep was not even aware of. As you may expect, reps spent their time on the “product selection” elements, even before the prospect(s) were at that stage of their buying process. As a result, the rep was beat long before price and features were even on the table.

In essence, the rep brought nothing new to the discussion, and early in the buying process was relegated to being the “low end benchmark”. As soon as another vendor/rep took the discussion to a direction that had nothing to do with product, but instead, to place that everything to do with the buyers’ objectives, business realities, and impacts they were seeking, the PP rep (Price Product), became the designated low end comparable, which is why he/she was allowed to stick around, and also why you need someone else to do the post mortems.

While you can’t relitigate the deal, you do have to make sure that you get to the core issue(s). On the surface this may seem like it is about why the rep blew it, but it is really about understanding what needs to be different next time. And if the rep objects, you just remind them that in reality, they were a stranger in their own deal to begin with, so it may as well be so in the post mortem, especially if you really want to learn and change.

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Looking in

Where’s You Next $1,000,000 Deal Coming From?0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

To do something right, you need to set time aside to understand things, to come up with a plan, and then finally doing it. All of these are elements of success, and they all require time to complete. This is why I want the sellers I work with to not think about time management, a really silly concept, but instead focus on time allocation.

To do that you must first know what are the key activities you have to do over the course of a sales cycle, prospecting, research, play-off pools, account management and more. This will vary from seller to seller and impacted by what they sell and to whom. Next you have to figure out and understand how much of your time needs to be allocated to each activity, but again only the activities you need to succeed, so I’m thinking maybe the play-off pool should come of the list. First thing you have to accept is that there is no right number, just your number. Some will have to allocate more to an activity than you, and for other key activities the opposite will be true. The only number that counts is yours, and the only thing that counts is how you improve it, because next year, your quota is going up, but you ain’t getting another second in the day to work with.

Once you have that together, you need to make sure that it makes its way into your calendar, and in the proportions you came to above. So if you had for example 20% of your time allocated to prospecting, (and were able to validate that with your metrics), then over the course of a four week sales cycle, assuming you work a 50 hour week, you will set aside, bank if you will, 40 hours over the four weeks for prospecting. If you don’t block that time in your calendar in advance, like you would with other important things, like say client meeting, pipeline reviews, and oh yes, play-off pools, it won’t get done.

Now some will tell me that they wanted to prospect, but couldn’t get around to it cause too many things came up. Things like what?

Seriously, what’s more important than ensuring you have enough fuel in the tank to take you to your destination? I don’t see a lot of sales guys heading out for Miami with only enough gas to get half way there, and no plans or means of acquiring more fuel before they run out.

The most common things is closing a sales or looking after customer issues. But if you had allocated the time for closing and the time for managing accounts, then why take from an equally important activity. I know closing is important, sexy and rewarding, but wasn’t that once a prospect?

Looking inTalk to wealthy people, and they all say, they put a specific amount away for retirement and other things that were important to them, before they would spend money on other less important things. So what’s important than filling your pipeline with your next opportunities, think of them as baby deals.

If you wanted to prospect, you would set time to do it, just like you do for closing calls, upsell calls, or vacation. These things are all in your calendar now, are the hours you will prospect next week? No!

“I’ll prospect as much as I can, depending what else I have to do”. Wrong, you should prospect as much as you committed to, based on your conversion rates and other metrics.

No, carve out and protect time to prospect, and then fit in all the other activities around it.

I ask reps, if you had a call set, where they were going to sign a $1,000,000 deal, what would I have to do to keep you from going? Yet when it comes to finding the next $1,000,000 deal, ah, that’s not that important.

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sillhouette of cheering fan in stadium

Participants vs. Observers0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Ask sales people why they lose deals and most will offer either price or some aspect of the product that led to their demise. I bet the over 40% B2B reps who fail to attain quota in a given year will also lean on the same crutch. While I understand the defence mechanism, you have to wonder when they will face the truth, and actually consider that it is the way they sell that leads to the results they get, nothing else.

Before I go on, it is important to mention that the sales person is not in this alone, the things I will speak to below are not just the fault of the individual seller. Their organizations and immediate manager are complicit in this, and not only enable, but often encourage, with the help of pundits, the behaviour that continues to plague sales, and leads to the results sellers see.

The problem is that most sellers (and their managers, and in many cases leaders in their respective organizations) are nothing more than observers, spectators if you will, rather than full time participants in the arena they are selling in. Being a spectator gives one a great vantage point, but not the same vantage point, or experience, as the actual on field players have. The best sellers, learn to observe and speak to things from the perspective of the player on the field, a real participant, not just the perspective of a super fan, which is how many sellers come across to buyers as. “Enthusiastic, informed, empathetic, but clearly hasn’t walked a mile in my shoes, and does not get the detail required to understand my view” is how one buyer put it.

Here’s a live example, I was working with a group of telco, IT wannabe sellers. At one point the question of why should or do people buy from you or your company?

sillhouette of cheering fan in stadium

Rep: We help them be more productive
Me: How?
Rep: We increase their people’s productivity.
Me: OK, give me an example, how do you make them more proactive?
Rep: We increase efficiencies
Me: How?
Rep: By increasing productivity
Me: OK, I’m with you, give me an example

You can hear the gears grinding, smoke ever so slowly seeping out of the ears, he wants to go to price but realizes the VP in the back of the room had him in the cross hairs.

In a last-ditch attempt to salvage the moment, he went for it:

Rep: We help them eliminate their pain points by offering the right solution.

Yup, that should cover it all, I didn’t have it in me to ask what pain, and what he was gonna solve with his solution.

Sure this may seem humours, till my role is played by an actual buyer, in the real world, who is actually a day to day participant in the “game”, not a “spots center” hack who may know the game, the players, and the rules, just hasn’t spend any time on the real field.

You can fake a lot of things in sales, but your buyer will know in a second if you are a real participant who can make a difference to them, or second rate color commentator who can’t contribute to the game.

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Football substitue 2

Change The Candidate – Not The Rules!2

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

I am not big on politics, but it’s hard to avoid, seems to be everywhere one looks and steps, believe it or not, I have even witnessed it in corporate boardrooms where apparently, business was supposedly being conducted. But I was recently struck by an interesting parallel between some current political theater, and things unfolding in some sales organizations.

In the circus surrounding the recent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, Chuck Schumer was making the rounds with a well rehearsed set of talking point regarding the potential for filibuster in an effort to delay Gorsuch’s confirmation. While I could care less about the confirmation, Schumer made an interesting argument in the face of the “Nuclear Option”, I paraphrase: “If you can’t get the requisite 60 votes, don’t change the rules, change the candidate.”

Many sales leaders could learn a bit from this motto. If we expand the concept of rules, to include the broad sales environment, there is a lot of wisdom in the notion of taking another look at what they need to change to achieve their desired outcomes.

Football substitue 2I see too many organizations making too many accommodations to suite the talents, or shortcomings of their sales teams. Don’t get me wrong, it does make sense to do things in a way that allows more people to succeed, but it should be done in context of the overall organizational goals.

Assuming that the goals and objectives of the organization and by extension the sales team are realistic, then we need to strive to bring together those assets and skills required to hit or exceed those goals. This may not always be a safe assumption, we have all seen companies that set such audacious goals, that they went way beyond being big and hairy, to being crushing, discouraging and counterproductive in every way.

But if the goals are doable (not easy), then sales leaders need to look at how they assemble the right assets to achieve those goals, which includes their team. But many organizations seem to make different accommodations for their human assets than other key resources. We have seen organizations change the rules, incentives, quotas or other things, mid stream, just to accommodate an underperforming rep, or asset.

Imagine if new rules were introduced in the middle of the second quarter to balance out the inability of one quarterback to hit a receiver or complete one hand off, never happen. The player would be pulled, and eventually traded. All with the support of the fans and pundits.

Organizations that choose to change elements once the game has started as a means of leveling the playing field for underperformers, in most cases are just delaying the inevitable, the rep either leaving due to frustration, or being fired for underperformance. While I fully believe that everything reasonable should be done to help reps develop the skills and habits to win. Some will take longer to ramp up, some will hit slumps, but there are some, obvious to most, who will never cut it without some form of “corporate subsidies”, i.e. changing quota, territory, or just allowing compromise on required activity or metrics.

Unlike the Gorsuch discussion, where Schumer could do little more than just talk, sales leaders have the ability to change the player rather than the rule. Rather than a temporary fix between now and the inevitable, that will lead to current and ongoing success.

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Clouds in shape of question marks

Answers Are Only As Good As The Question0

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Communication, which at the core selling/buying is, will always be a mutual exercise, which why monologues work well in theater, but not in delivering revenue or quota. As such, a bit of forethought and focusing on how you’ll choreograph the sales are important. Which is why it is that much more noticeable to all, including buyers, when the effort is just not there in how sellers choose to engage and carry on a sales interview or conversation.

“I may make you feel but I can’t make you think”

Sellers need to put more effort into planning their interactions with prospects than many do. This needs to be on two levels, first the areas or topics they choose focus on, second the kind of questions they ask. Sellers forget that their prospect is talking to a range of people about the purchase they are about to make. If the questions I ask, the areas I choose to explore and drill down on, are no different than the three or four or eight other vendors they are speaking with, then the selection and decision will go back to the same old, usually the lowest common denominator, moderated by price (the lowest price).

Areas of Focus – Too often too many sellers start from the erroneous assumption that their buyer has their act together, know exactly what they want, and all that is left is to pick a product. That is a false premise, and as such leads to longer sales cycles and missed sales. While anecdotally we always knew that buyers are not as together as they sometimes appear, or sellers believe, the data is now in. Some will see this as good news, allowing them as sellers to bring more value to the conversation by helping buyers in ways much more meaningful than features and price. Sellers have the benefit of having worked with many buyers with similar experiences, allowing the perceptive ones to see themselves not as product reps, but conduits to others’ experiences, good and bad. The value they can bring is in helping buyers better understand what they are dealing with, and their best option, not options, in addressing those specifics.

Even if a prospect has advanced past the stage of deciding what they want to do and how, sellers benefit from starting “back” there, before moving to asking questions about how they plan to address things, i.e. product. Retracing a little, will show them as being different, and will also help the seller understand the buyer’s thought process, which may allow for more unique input, and to demonstrate they are different and truly “buyer centric”, by not jumping to product right away.

What we Ask – The kind of question go a long are key. You have to assume that you are the fifth sales person they spoke to that day; how will you make a different impression than the four who went before you?

If you ask the same as them, what will they base their selection on? If you reinforce perceptions rather than challenge them, are you not telling the buyer to base it on price and emotion?  Your questions are not just about the response, they need to get them to think, think beyond where they are now, and where the other sellers have taken them.

If they can answer your question without thinking, you’re in trouble! But many sellers I meet are afraid of asking questions that put the prospect on the spot. Remember the goal here is not to embarrass the prospect, but to help  them really think through the issue before they commit, whether they commit to you or another. I worked with one sales pundit who felt asking the prospect “Why” questions were not cricket as it may stump the buyer. Well if you can “stump” the buyer, it is evidence that they have not thought things through, and you are doing them a favour.

Getting an answer is easy, getting an answer that moves the process forward in a way that helps buyers is not. Which why the answers can only be as good or productive as the questions.

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