The JF Guest Author Spot
Imagine for a minute that you feel yourself starting to become ill. As usual, your calendar is swamped with appointments so you try to tough it out hoping you'll get better. After a few days, you feel so miserable it's almost impossible to function. You finally decide to pick up the phone and make an appointment with your family physician.
You arrive at the doctor's office anxiously looking for relief. The physician walks briskly into the exam room and exchanges some quick pleasantries. He rambles something about seeing these symptoms before and tells you to take two pills and call him in the morning.
Do you feel the doctor really took the time to understand your situation? Are you motivated to follow his advice? I'm guessing there's a good chance you'll start looking for a new physician and probably won't be referring anyone else to this practice.
Question: What does this lousy doctor have to do with selling more in today's economy?
Answer: Almost everything.
Rule #1: Prescription before diagnosis is malpractice!
Ever watch a sales rep jump to conclusions and start offering ideas prematurely? It happens almost every day and you know it's not pretty. Even the best qualified prospect will start to disengage and begin formulating their escape plan.
Many reps rationalize this behavior by believing there isn't enough time to truly engage with potential clients. Their focus is on activity, not accomplishment. These reps are convinced that they can survive this economy by making more appointments, increasing their number of demos, giving more presentations and ramping up their number of proposals. A classic case of confusing wing flapping for flight!
Recently I wrote an article that outlined specific ideas on how to create more sales success in these turbulent times. I used the introduction of the article to put a "tongue in cheek" spin on how the soft economy had convinced me to just give up and quit. The entire article was less than two pages (this is about a 3 minute investment if you're a slow reader). One simple paragraph (four sentences to be exact) of doom and gloom I used to set the stage for the rest of the commentary.
Within hours I received unsolicited advice from sales professionals all across the country. Each one weighed in with specific ideas that were obviously formed after reading the first four sentences or maybe just the headline. Although I appreciated the advice, it was completely off the mark. It felt like my doctor has just told me to take two pills and call him in the morning.
So what's the prescription for driving more sales in today's market?
Knowledge - it's the common ingredient found in results, relationships and referrals. The more you demonstrate knowledge, the more prospects will take time to listen. And the best way to establish expertise is not by pitching features; it's by asking questions. Questions that can differentiate the value you bring to every call.
Many selling professionals fall into the common trap of asking questions that are self serving. "What does your purchasing process look like?" is a mind numbing, self serving question that doesn't create new insights. Your customer hears these types of questions every day and they bring zero value to the dialogue.
Instead ask questions that get customers to stop and think. Ask questions they haven't been asked before. Ask questions that get the customer to pause and say, "That's a really good question." Here are some simple examples to help jump start your thinking:
-"There's a lot of information that I could share with you, but I'd like to know what your specific goals for this conversation are. What are the most important things you feel we should focus on to make this meeting a valuable use of your time?"
-"At the end of the day, what's going to be the biggest differences between the one representative that will win your business and the 9 others that don't?"
-"What, if anything, is going to prevent you from taking the next step with me?"
Creating high impact questions takes extra time. But it's worth every minute. Start investing more time doing research and preparation, less time running from sales call to sales call. I know this contradicts traditional wisdom, but this isn't a traditional selling environment.
Don't pick up the phone or walk into the lobby until you're absolutely ready to engage in a meaningful dialogue. You're not going to get a second chance in a slowing economy, so make sure every one counts!
Speaking of Sales is about finding, winning and keeping customers for life. If that's part of your job, then you won't want to miss the next issue.
Tim Wackel is founder and president of a training and consulting firm based in University Park, Texas and is an active member of the American Society for Training and Development. He holds a professional membership in the National Speakers Association. More about Tim Wackel
Tim is also a and you can check out his profile here
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