Tag Archives: questions

7 Tips on Conducting a Better Needs Analysis

Want to know the secret for significantly improving your sales results, generating more revenues and making more commissions or bonus?

Get better at conducting a needs analysis.

Depending on your target market and the product or service you sell, a needs analysis is quite possibly the most important activity in which you can engage.   Needs analysis help you AND your prospect identify areas of opportunity and areas of challenge. Done correctly, an effective needs analysis can also quantify those areas and ultimately determine if there is a need that your product/service can fulfill.   In other words, it is the key to sale.

Here are 7 tips to help you improve your approach to analyzing a prospect’s need:

Tip #1: Write out every single question you can possibly imagine

Here’s the toughest part but it’s worth the time and effort. Think of every single, solitary question you could ask your client relative to your product/service application. Everything: big or small, significant or insignificant.

And then write every one of those questions down on a sheet of paper.

I know. It’s tedious. But here’s what happens. First of all, this exercise gets you to stop and think. It makes you more thorough in your thought process because you have the time. Second, and maybe more significantly, this exercise begins to imprint the questions on your conscious or subconscious mind. It will help you remember them and conjure them up when conducting your needs analysis.

Tip #2: Group your questions into categories

You can do this step in conjunction with Tip #1. Where possible, group your questions into categories. This makes them less random, easy to access and easier to remember. Categories create another level of focus for you and help with the imprinting process.

For instance, you might have a category called “situational questions” which might be questions that ask about the prospect’s current situation or environment. These might be fundamentals such as number of employees, number of locations, types of niche markets, the machinery they use, the processes they follow, the software applications etc.

Another category might be ‘motivator questions’ i.e., those that explore possible challenges, problems and issues or opportunities, enhancements and improvements that your client might be experiencing relative to your product/service solution. Of course, these are important questions because they uncover needs and motivators.

A third category might be ‘analysis’ questions which are questions that get the prospect to quantify and elaborate upon a problem or an opportunity.

Tip #3: Ask yourself, “Why am I asking this question?”

By now, you should have a pile of questions. Now it’s time to cull and refine that list. Review each question and ask yourself “why am I asking this?” Is it vital information you absolutely NEED or is it nice to have?

Re-write those questions that you absolutely need to have answered on another sheet of paper. Write these in RED. They are ‘must haves.’ This is your “master list.” These questions go to the heart of needs analysis. Keep them in their categories.

In blue or black ink, below your master list, have your ‘nice to have questions.’ You can ask these questions if they are relevant or helpful to you and/or the prospect.

Tip #4: Ask yourself, “How will asking this question make my prospect feel? What will he/she think?”

Review your revised list and think about how your prospect might feel when asked. Some questions, particularly questions that probe for problems and concerns can be sensitive in nature. Some might feel defensive. Others might feel embarrassed. Others might be a bit hostile because you seem so ‘nosy.’ Think about this from THEIR perspective.

Identify the sensitive questions and then move on to Tip #5

Tip #5: Ask yourself, “What is the best way to ask this question?”

If you have a question that might make a prospect feel awkward, embarrassed, cautious, defensive or hostile, use a ‘softening trigger phrase’ before asking. A ‘softener’ is phrase that can take the ‘sting’ out of asking a sensitive question and make the prospect more receptive to replying.

For example, “Jim, some of the safety directors I have spoken to have expressed concern over the new OSHA ruling on … Let me ask, you what are your thoughts…” In this case, the prospect recognizes that he is not alone, that others have concerns, and that it’s ‘okay’ to speak up. He becomes less self conscious.

Here’s another one: “Debbie, hypothetically speaking, if you could improve production by 10%, what would be the net impact on profitability?” In this case, Debbie is not being held to specifics and not necessarily being held accountable for the estimate. In other words, she is not putting herself at risk because the question is creating a ‘make believe’ scenario. This makes it easier to truthfully answer.

Here’s one more: “Pat, sometimes clients see this as a sensitive question but I ask because it goes to the heart of what we can solve. We are finding that…” In this case, the softener trigger phrase warns the prospect that a potentially awkward question is coming up. In this manner, he/she is not caught off guard. In addition, the phrase explains why the question is being asked and implies a benefit for the prospect.

Tip # 6: Create a needs analysis cheat sheet

Once you have created your list of questions including softener trigger phrases, create a ‘cheat sheet’ or job aid. Use colored paper, use colored ink. Use large font. Hand write it or use Word and cut and paste. Put you questions on an 11 x17 sheet so there’s plenty of room. If required, paste two 11 x 17 sheets together. Make your needs analysis sheet big, bold and brassy. No one can see it but you. Post it where it is easily accessible and visible so you can reference it.

Tip #7: Drill, practice and rehearse asking your questions.

The last tip is to drill, practice and rehearse your needs analysis. You could do this with your manager, or a co-worker, friend or spouse. You can rehearse it in your mind. The idea is to familiarize yourself with the questions and get comfortable with them. Use your cheat sheet and get comfortable with it too.

IMPORTANT!

The objective of this entire process is NOT to ask every single solitary question, one by one, like conducting a survey. The idea is to ask the appropriate questions when required. You might begin with a few situational questions, then segue into a motivator question, then back to a situational question or two, and then move on to an analysis questions.

No one can teach you the flow of questioning. That is a factor of the client and the information that he or she gives you. But KNOWING the questions ahead of time ( having them imprinted on your mind) makes asking the appropriate question at the appropriate time much easier.

Summary

Good needs analysis differentiates you from your competition. Your prospects tend to see you as more consultative. You will get better, more relevant information. This gives you a distinct opportunity to sell more. Take the time and do it right

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The Top 5 Reasons Why Tele-Sales Reps Don’t Ask (More) Questions

Why is it that despite the mountain of evidence and the billions of words written discussing the merits of questioning that telephone sales reps don’t ask (more) questions?

Boil it down and there would seem to be five distinctive reasons.  Do any of them apply to you?

Reason #1: Fear

Scratch the surface and you’ll discover the number one reason why reps don’t ask (more) questions is due to fear and uncertainty.  Some reps:

  • Fear that  the client will see the questions as intrusive and will get annoyed with them
  • Fear the client will cut them off right away if they don’t get to the point
  • Fear they will look stupid if they ask a ‘dumb’ question
  • Fear that they won’t look like the expert if they don’t quickly spout their expertise

So what do you?  Give your head a shake.  Prospects like it when you question them and hate it when you don’t.  They like it because it shows you’re interested in them and their needs; questions make them feel important.  They hate it when you don’t because it makes you look presumptuous.  Do you think they really want you to vomit up a solution or describe your product ad nauseum without some sort of needs analysis?  Come on, man!

Reason #2: Complacency

The second most common reason why telephone reps don’t ask more questions is because they’re complacent.  (Dare I say, lazy?)

This typically applies to a veteran or seasoned rep that’s ‘been-there-done-that.’  In their minds, they’ve seen and heard it all and so they’ve got it all ‘figured out. The rep is satisfied and content that in depth questioning is really not necessary.  Maybe it’s because the product or service is so simple and so intuitive.  In these cases, it is so much easier to simply skip to the pitch and trust (hope) that their charming and persuasive nature will win the client over. It rarely does.

What the complacent rep doesn’t realize is that even if the product or service is simple and straightforward, the client is flattered when they’re asked questions for the reasons listed above.  It makes the rep more trustworthy and likeable. Net result? People like to buy – and buy more- from reps they like and trust.

Are you complacent? Well, look at your sales. If you’re the top of the heap and ploughing through you’re sales objectives, you’re probably not complacent. If you’re not then maybe you should do some serious thinking.

Reason #3: Lack of Preparation

Some sales reps don’t ask questions because they haven’t done enough – or any – preparation.  Depending on the nature and complexity of your sale and depending on the client with whom you are speaking, some sort of research might be necessary.  The better the question the better the answer.

What should you do?  This one is easy.  Before you ever speak to the client take the time and think about the kinds of questions you could or should be asking.  Develop questions that get the client to elaborate on a problem or expand upon an opportunity.  Ask questions that get your client to quantify the challenge or the opportunity. Get their personal thoughts.  Push yourself and prepare with a pen in hand.

Reason #4: Ignorance

Another reason why reps don’t question more is that they don’t know what to ask. Usually this applies to a rookie rep that hasn’t had enough experience with the product or service.  Or it could also suggest that there hasn’t been enough training or coaching.

What to do? If necessary ask for more skills training.  Go to your manager and ask for help in preparing; role play, drill, practice and rehears; get them to monitor your calls and provide feedback on what you should ask. Buddy up with some of the top sales reps in your company and find out what they ask and why.  Learn more about your product and service so you better understand the problems they solve or opportunities they provide. Finally, learn by doing. Get on the phone and call. Sure you’ll make mistakes but after the call analyse what you asked and what you could have asked.

Reason #5: Forget

Blame it on human nature, but some reps simply forget.   They get caught up in the moment or they get distracted or the conservation veers off on a new tangent and they forget to ask a question. It’s only when they hang up that suddenly they realize that they’re missing some information.

There are a three ways to minimize this issue.  The first is old fashioned preparation as discussed above.  When you jot down the questions ahead of time, you’re more likely to forget.  How simple is that?

The second way is to take notes as you listen.  Here’s the thing: there’s no way you can think of EVERY single question you should ask.  Depending on the answers given by your client, additional questions tend to manifest themselves.  As the client talks take notes in point form.  Jot questions down as they occur to you.  Go back and review them with the client.

The final way to tackle forgetfulness is simply to pick up the phone and call the client back!  Explain that you had one or two or three more questions that occurred to you after you hung up.  The vast majority of clients will be impressed that you took the time to call back. It shows you’re conscientious.  It implies that if you are this thorough at questioning then you are probably equally thorough about implementation and customer service.

Summary

Now that you know why reps don’t ask (more) questions, you can remedy the situation if it applies to you. Questions are the keys to successful sales. Use them.

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10 Easy Ways to Instantly Improve Your Cold Call Opening Statement

Without a doubt the opening statement is the most critical part of a cold call. If you don’t grab the prospect’s interest at this point, you  really don’t have to worry about the rest of the call, do you?

Here are 10 ways to make your opening statement better, more effective and more successful at getting your prospect to listen and to engage.

1. Script your opening statement. Yes, SCRIPT it.  Word for word.  Not the whole call. Just the opener  Most people don’t like scripts because they sound ‘canned.’  Instead, they wing it. They think that an off-the-cuff approach is more natural. It may be more natural but it is less effective.  You absolutely, positively need to have a well scripted opener to ensure you maximize the few seconds you’ve got. Remember, if you don’t get them here, you won’t get them at all.

2. Know the primary objective.  The primary objective of your opener is NOT to establish rapport. It is NOT to be their best buddy. It is NOT to pitch the product.  And it is NOT to set up the appointment. The primary objective is to get the client to LISTEN another twenty or thirty seconds. It’s to hook them. It’s to get them curious…skeptical, maybe … but curious enough to give you a little more rope. (See Point #7 to learn how).

3. Do NOT ask “How are you today?” Survey after survey reveals that prospects think this is a trite and insincere question. And they are right.  This question labels you as a ‘salesperson’ right off the bat and it puts your prospect on the defensive. Eliminate it.

4. Never ask, “Did I catch you at a good time?” or words to that effect. When you do, you give your prospect a ready-made excuse to get rid of you.  Instead, use this handy little trigger phrase, “Brian, if I have caught you at a good time, what I would like to do is ask you some questions…” The prospect senses that you’re asking if it’s a good time but what you are really saying is that you’d like to ask some questions. This is a VERY good technique.

5. Don’t say “We are a leading supplier (provider) of …” Boring!  Everyone says that. It’s a lame claim.  Who cares? Who believes it? What the heck does it mean anyway? If you want a prospect to sit up and take notice, use adverbs that describe the problems that you solve.  For example, an investment adviser might say,  “I work with single moms who are worried about  financing their children’s education.” A recruiter might say, “I work with HR departments who are frustrated with the quality of candidates.”

6. Tell the client precisely why you are calling. Remember: your prospect is not expecting your call. You are catching him off guard. Their focus is random. Therefore your message has to be succinct and to the point.  Tell them precisely what you want.  In the above example, the reason is clear:  “… what I would like to do is ask you some questions…”

7. Provide a benefit. Please.  Sadly, this  is the most ignored component of an opening statement.  This is how you get the prospect to LISTEN longer (see Point #2).  When you script your opener put yourself in the client’s shoes and ask “Why should I care?”  You must be able to answer that inevitable question, ‘what’s in it for me?’ The more specific, the better.  What will working with you (or buying from you) do for that prospect?

8. Bridge to a question and get the prospect involved. Once you’ve identified yourself, your company, the reason for the call and the benefit, ask a question. This will not only get the prospect involved and engaged but it will also stop you from pitching further. It creates a dialogue. It eliminates a monologue.

9. Practice until you are blue in the face.  Every word, every nuance, every syllable must be practiced until it is delivered with conviction. If you don’t practice, your opener will sound read.  And that’ll be the end of the call. If you don’t practice, you’ll start to wing it and that will dilute the quality of the call. And that too, will be the end of the call.  You’re on stage. Deliver your lines like a Hollywood star.

10. Stay disciplined. Stick to the script you’ve developed for the first twenty five live calls.  Don’t change a word. You’ll be tempted to edit after every call. Note your thoughts but do NOT change it. It will take that long for you to feel comfortable with the words and it will take that long to evaluate the prospect’s response.  Only then should you go back and edit your opener.  But only change one component of the opener. In doing so, you are controlling the ‘variables.’ If you revamp the entire thing, you won’t know what was working and what was not. Change your benefits. Or change the reason for you call. But do so, one at time and make another twenty five calls.

Give your opening statement a tune up by following these tips. They will help set you apart from all the other vendors, advisers, coaches, consultants, telephone selling reps etc. who call those same prospects.

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Hidden Telephone Selling Gems – The 10 Best TelesalesMaster Articles of 2011

There’s over a hundred articles on this site. Pretty daunting, isn’t it? To make it easier for you, here are the 10 most popular articles on this site (and other sites!)

#1:  The ABCs of Tele-Sales – 26 Powerful Tips for Tele-Sales Success – In this article you’ll get even more links on variety of tele-sales skills and techniques.

#2:  7 Cold Call Opening Statements From Hell – If you don’t nail the cold call opener, you don’t have to worry about the rest of the call.  Here are 7 openers you want to avoid.

#3:  How to Leave a Killer Voice Mail Message (And Get Your Calls Returned) – Tired of a lack of response from your voice mail messages?  Try this one on for size.

#4:  How to Slay a Sales Slump in 15 Minutes or Less – We’ve all experienced a slump. This award winning article tells you how to manage it.

#5:  The 5 Voice Mail Messages From Hell -Are Your Guilty of One of These? – The reason why your voice mail messages aren’t being returned is probably because the messages are weak. Do you leave one of these messages?

#6:  8 Sales Questions You Can’t Live (and Sell) Without –  The key to telephone sales success is in the questions you ask.  Good questions mean good answers. Here are 8 good questions!

#7:  How Mr. Spock  Would Plan and Prepare for a Follow Up Call – This article not only provides you with practical tips but also a job aid that you can download and use to plan your next follow up call.

#8:  “I am not interested!”  Dealing with the Ultimate Brush Off Objection – We’ve all heard it and it’s a tough nut to crack.  This article provides a rather provocative strategy to dealing with it.

#9:  8 Tips on How to Make a Perfect Follow Up Call – By far and away, this has been the most read article I have ever written.  Thousands and thousands of hits around the world. Find out why.

#10: 5 Ways to Overcome the Dreaded “Let Me Think About It” Objection – Don’t be caught off guard when a prospect tosses out this objection.  Here are 5 ways to deal with it.

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How Mr. Spock Would Plan and Prepare for a Follow Up Call

Mr. Spock, the venerable Vulcan from Star Trek would make a heck of a B2B telephone rep especially when it comes to making a follow up call to a prospect.

In many ways, a follow up call is more significant and critical than the initial cold call.  While the cold call may have initiated the sales cycle, the follow up call (or calls) completes it. It is here that the prospect turns into a customer … or at least takes another step down the path to becoming a customer.    Whether you are following up on a proposal or quote or webinar or whatever, making the most of the moment is the key to success.

Enter Spock.

Just in case you have never followed Star Trek,  Vulcans are a humanoid species that value and cherish logic above emotion.  They are trained from birth to think, analyze, and prepare for virtually every situation and event.  And that’s precisely why Spock would be magnificent with his follow up calls. His dedication to logic and planning would ensure a highly effective call and increase his chances for a sale.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be from another planet to be successful with your follow up. All you need to do is apply Spock-like principles to the planning and preparation of your call.  To help you with the process here is a downloadable call guide to get you thinking like a Vulcan.

Mr. Spock’s Tele-Prospecting Follow Up Call Guide

Spock’s tele-prospecting follow up guide is really nothing more than a job aid that you can use with each and every follow up call. It provides you with a 7-step process for organizing and planning your call.

1. Background Information and Assessment

The first step to a Spock-like call begins with a review of your last call to the prospect.  What was the key motivator that you uncovered? What were the hot buttons? Was there any personal information you can use to build rapport?  Note these items in the space provided on your guide.

Of course, all this really does is force you to pause and ponder.  It gets you to think before you dial. It takes only seconds but it will give you insights on how to proceed.

2. Objectives of the Call

It would not be logical for Spock to pick up the phone without having clearly defined objectives. Objectives force you to precisely determine what you want to achieve on the call.  Spock’s call guide forces you to prepare at least three objectives.

The prime objective (#1)  is the ultimate goal for that particular call. In a perfect world, this is THE NUMBER ONE thing you want to achieve.  In many cases, that objective is a sale but depending on the nature of the transaction, it might be something that moves the sale further through the cycle. Either way, it is definitively established.

But Spock’s approach  goes two steps further by getting you to establish at least two additional back up objectives. These are goals you would like to achieve in addition to the primary objective. Or they might goals you’d like to achieve if the primary goal is NOT met.  In other words, it is a means of salvaging the call should a sale or an advance not occur.

3. Opening Statement

Spock would never speak to the prospect without having prepared his opening statement because he would know that this is the most critical component toa follow up call. It is here, at this precise moment, that the prospect’s interest must be re-kindled and nurtured. Prospects are busy. They either forget what prompted them to agree to your follow up or, over  time, the sense of urgency has diminished.

Whatever the case may be, it is vital that you quickly bring the prospect up to speed to capture and keep their interest. Prepare your opener word for word and don’t wing it.

After introducing yourself and your company, take the prospect back to the prime motivator that was uncovered in the initial cold call AND the benefit that you could provide.  This gets the client engaged and actively listening! Secondly, provide an agenda of what you’d like to accomplish in the call. This primes the client for the remainder of the call. It creates focus and efficiency. For example,

“Hi Carson, It’s Mr. Spock calling from Trek Training.

Carson ,when we  last spoke on Monday you indicated that the average value of your sales were down and this was impacting your bottom line.  At that time I promised to send you some ideas on how add on selling training could help improve the average value of a sale by as much as 25%. I sent that on Tuesday.

What I’d like to do is explore your situation a little further,  review the proposal I sent and, if it makes sense, determine the next steps, if any, relative to training…”

4. Key Question, Key Points, Potential Objections

Bearing in mind your objectives, prepare three other elements to your follow up call.

First,  prepare a few ‘killer’ questions to gather more information and ‘build your case’ for a sale. Killer questions are those that get the prospect to THINK.  For instance, questions that get the prospect to quantify the ‘pain’ they’re experiencing . In turn, this magnifies the need for your solution.

Second, prepare a  list of 1-3 key selling points that support the solution that you’re offering.  Jotting these points down will  act as a prompt when you present.. It ensures you don’t forget!

Finally, Vulcans know all about contingency planning. Objections can derail your call in a New York minute.  Listing the typical objections that the prospect might toss helps ensure you’re not caught off guard.  It takes only seconds but it gets your mind oiled and greased.

5. Notes

Spock probably doesn’t need to take notes because he has a mind like a steel trap. But unless you have that Vulcan-like quality taking notes is a heck of a way to stay focused and to remember key points, objections or issues. Don’t argue. Just do it.

6. Actions Plans

Spock’s guide also provides space for you to list any actions that might ensue as a result of your call. Of course, a sale would be great but sometimes you need to take a few additional steps to move the cycle forward.  Whatever the case, note it.

7. Voice Mail Strategy

If Spock called and the prospect was not there at the appointed time,  he’d have his voice mail prepared and ready to go. He would not stutter and stumble and ramble about.  Do the same thing.

Summary

Spock’s call guide is not complex.  In fact, it is common sense.  Vulcans have common sense in abundance. Humans sales reps often don’t. Ultimately, the call guide creates a discipline process that trains your mind to thinking in a logical, step-by-step process. All it takes is a couple of minutes to complete. Peanuts.  Use this guide to provide structure, direction and focus. When you do, you’ll get better results.

Sell well and prosper!

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3 Questioning Techniques from Dr. Phil That Every Tele-Prospector Should Know

Can you imagine if Dr. Phil was a tele-sales rep?

He’d be utterly fantastic!  There is a reason why Dr. Phil has such a popular show. He’s a master at getting his guests to open up and discuss the core issue of a problem or a situation. Once the real issues are on the table, the therapy can begin.

When you think about it, tele-sales reps should be doing the same thing. Your approach should be more ‘therapeutic’ with the aim of getting the client to open up and discuss the core issue of a problem or a situation.

You can be the ‘Dr. Phil’ of tele-sales if you follow these three questioning tips:

1. Use Therapeutic Questions

Dr. Phil knows that it takes his quests a little time to get ‘warmed up’ when he questions them on his show.  Their initial responses to his questions are very often general, vague or superficial. It is not necessarily that they are hiding something but rather because it is human nature to be reticent with information when speaking with people we don’t really know.

Kind of like selling, isn’t it?  Prospects typically don’t open up and blossom like a flower right away when questioned by a sales rep.  Prospects hold their answers close to their chests like playing cards simply because they don’t know you and don’t trust you. Knowing this Dr. Phil has a couple of questions that always get to the heart of the matter.

“How Do You Feel About That?”

Asking a prospect how he ‘feels’ about situation or event is brilliant because the question seeks to tap into the ’emotional’ side of selling. At some level, even in B to B, buying is an emotional event. How a prospect ‘feels’ about a situation often directs his or her buying behavior.

For example, suppose you ask a client about their sales growth over the last quarter and the client replies, “Twenty per cent.” That sounds good, doesn’t it? But is it?  Dr. Phil knows there might be more to this answer than meets the eye (ear?) so he would ask, “How do you feel about it?”

“Are you kidding me?” says the client, “In this market and with this product we, should be nailing 30-35%!” Instead of assuming that the current sales growth is good, the sales rep discovers it’s a source of angst.  Whole new ball game in terms of an approach.

“How’s that working for you?”

Here is another question that Dr. Phil would use if he were a sales rep: “How’s that working for you?”  It’s a superb question because it is not only open-ended but it casually asks for an evaluation; it gets the client to elaborate, expand and explain.

For example, if the client says, “I am getting my yearly accreditation at a weekend seminar in Tampa,” Dr. Phil would say, “Oh ya, and how’s that working for you?” as a means to get the client to evaluate the process. He wants their opinions and thoughts and this question helps elicit them.

So, if the client says, “It’s a royal pain in the backside. I lose the weekend and I have to drive 75 miles there and back on Saturday and Sunday,”  you know precisely how it’s NOT working for him. The devil is in the details and this question helps get you the details you often need to evaluate the client’s situation.

2.  Watch Your Delivery

Delivery of these therapeutic questions is critical. Dr. Phil knows that the manner in which he presents a question can influence the quality and the nature of the response from the client.

If you watch him, you will notice that his tone is neutral and non-threatening.  He does not want to give away a bias one way or the other. He doesn’t want to appear too intrusive and too direct because he knows that will put the guest on the defensive.

In the world of tele-sales, your delivery is important for precisely the same reasons. You must ensure that you are not giving your prospect the sense that she is being interrogated.

3. Let them Answer

But what Dr. Phil does best is that he lets guest answer the question. He does not interrupt. He does blather on.  He waits patiently as the client formulates the answer and responds.

Some reps have learned to keep silence but many are not evaluating what they hear but rather they are waiting for their turn to speak or they are waiting to ask the next question regardless of what was said. Dr. Phil would NOT do that. Instead, he listens and evaluates what he hears and based on this analysis he can ask more questions or provide feedback as appropriate.  In short, he is flexible in his approach to question and goes with the flow of the response.

You can do the same. Let your clients answer and tune in to what they are saying and how they are responding to that question. Does it make sense to you? Does it need more elaboration? Does it create other avenues to explore? Think and proceed just like Dr. Phil.

Summary

Wear your Dr. Phil hat the next time you question a client or prospect. Follow these three tips …and let me know how it’s working for you and how you feel about it.

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8 Sales Questions You Can’t Live (and sell) Without

Make no mistake about it questions are the key to good selling. Good questions will get you good information. Good information helps you sell and sell more. But the real question is “what’s a good question?”

Here are eight great questions that you simply can’t live and sell without. By no means are they the only questions you can ask but these will do you well in every selling situation.

1. The Who Question

Never, ever assume that the person you are speaking with is the decision maker i.e., the person that can ultimately say “yes” (and no) to your sale. Your contact might be only one of a number of individuals that can influence the sale. It is important you know the players so that you don’t get blind sided and so that you can prepare strategies and tactics to deal with them.

The challenge however is to find out if there are other participants in the decision without putting your contact ‘on the spot.”  If you’re too blunt, the prospect might mislead you. Here is a simple, easy to use question that you can’t live without. Use it every single time:

“Amanda, apart from yourself, who is involved in this decision?”

Or here’s a variation: “Kevin, in purchases like these, there are usually several people involved. Apart from yourself, who else would have a vested interest in the decision?”

 

2.  The When Question

I am amazed at how many reps ignore this powerful and insightful question:

“Kathy, when do you see the final decision being made and delivery taken?”

“Mr. Woods, if this were a go, when do you see it occurring?”

The ‘when’ questions is important because it helps assess urgency.  A decision that will be made within a week has a little more impact than a decision that will be made in three months.  Knowing when the sale might conclude helps you set priorities, determines the time and effort you devote and dictates your follow up strategy. All in all, the when question makes you a wiser sales rep.

3. The Scenario Question

Discovering a prospect’s needs can be challenging in the early stages of selling. Because prospects don’t know you they tend to be much more reserved in the information they provide. Many are not comfortable telling you about their “warts and blemishes” (i.e., their needs, challenges, weaknesses and concerns) until some rapport and comfort has been established.

One of the best ways around this hesitancy is with a scenario question. As the name implies, the scenario questions paints a scenario that addresses a problem or a concern but doesn’t put the prospect on the spot.  Here are a couple of examples:

 

“Ms. Bixby, much of our research with our clients shows that cash flow is sometimes an issue particularly with the fluctuating price of oil.  Let me ask you, what has been your experience with cash flow over the last year or so?”

 

“Scott, we are getting more and more feedback from IT Directors and managers from large corporations regarding the misuse licensing agreement. It’s creating some concerns about compliance. Let me ask you: what has been your experience with this so far?”

 

The scenario question is based on the premise that ‘misery loves company.’ You want the prospect to think “Gee, if others are experiencing the same thing then its okay for me to open up.” Master the scenario question and you’ll get to needs quicker which reduces the sales cycle which helps you convert more sales in less time.

4.  The Net Impact Question

Even if you use a scenario question and the client opens up to you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the prospect’s need is strong enough to act upon. . .at least in the client’s mind.  One of the best questions you can ask to determine the “depth and breadth” of a need is “net impact” question. Here are two versions:

“So what’s the net impact on your firm when cash flow is tight?”

 

“What’s the possible net impact if licensing agreements are abused in your branch offices?”

This “net impact” forces your prospect to think about the rippling effect of a problem. It gets them to do some analysis. In effect, you want them to say “Gee, I never thought of it like that.” Suddenly, seemingly minor problems can be more significant.’ Or, you’ll learn the net impact is absolutely minor. That’s good too because it means you should not waste your time here. Move on. Because the question is opened end it gets your client to expand and elaborate. You get information and information is power. You simply can’t live without net impact questions.

5. The Explain Question

Do you want a versatile, ‘catch all’ question that can be used in many different scenarios?

If so, here it is. It is less a question and more of a directive. No matter how you slice it, it gets the client to open up. It enticingly invites your client to speak up, expand, pontificate, ruminate, elaborate and articulate. For instance, suppose the prospect tosses the classic price objection. Say this:

‘Eric, could you ‘explain’ to me what you mean by too high?”

What a great question! You’re asking for elaboration. Is the price too high relative to budget? Or relative to a competitive bid? Or is it a smokescreen? Regardless, the client must open up.

Suppose your client says “We’re not all that happy with flux modulators.”

“Wendi, could you explain to me why you’re not happy?”

How easy it that. This is a buying signal. Exploit it. Suppose the prospect say, “Well, I’d have to go to committee with that proposal.”

“I understand completely. Joel can explain to me how the committee operates and how they go about evaluating a proposal?”

 

Suppose you’re probing for needs. Here’s what you can say,

 

“Ms. Giuliani, explain to me the challenges you’re experiencing in penetrating the Canadian market.”

 

Dare I say you cannot possible sell without this question ready and waiting?

6. The Make Sense Question

You might want to call this a ‘trial close.’ Keep it handy because you’ve use it a lot.  Use this simple, close ended question during and after pitch your product or after you’ve tackled an objection. So, for example, suppose you have presented a financial planning strategy regarding mutual funds. Just ask,

“Does that make sense to you so far?”

“Am I making sense to you right now?”

Now, this question does a couple of things. First of all, it tosses the conversation back into your prospect’s lap. This creates ‘give and take’ dialog and forces you to relinquish control of the call. This is s a good thing because it stops you from rambling on.

The second thing is does it helps you gauge if the client is on board or not. To make this happen you’ve got to listen to the words and the tone of your client. If your prospect says, “Ya sure, I guess” but with a vague and uncertain tone, clearly it does not make sense. You need to stop right here and reverse gears by saying, “It sounds like I may have confused things a bit and I sense some hesitancy. Can you explain to me what you’re thinking?” (Notice the versatile “explain” question)

On the other hand, if the client gives you a positive and enthusiastic remark, “Ya, it makes total sense” they have, in effect, given you a buying signal which says, “Go on, I like what I hear?”

Don’t be afraid to liberally pepper your sales call with “make sense” type of questions. Variation include, “do you follow?” “How does that sound to you?” “Am I on the right track?”

Does that make sense to you?

7.  The Removal Question

Here’s a question that every rep should keep in their hip pocket and use when dealing with objections and concerns. The Removal Question simply and efficiently ‘removes’ the issue at hand and asks the client their thoughts based on that scenario.  Suppose a prospect says, “It’s really great but it’s just not in our budget.” You reply:

Fair enough Brandi. Let me ask, if budget was not an issue, would you proceed with the proposal as outlined.”

If Brandi says yes, then you can negotiate or come up with terms or arrange financing or do whatever because her objection is not a smokescreen but the real thing.  If she says, “Well, ya. . .but I am also a little concerned about maintenance program” you’ve discovered that it’s not a budgetary issue or that budget is only part of a number of issues.

Suppose the client says, “Well, I have to go to the buying group on this one.” You say, “I understand. Steve, suppose there wasn’t a buying group, what would be your decision?”  By removing the objection you can determine if Steve’s on board or not.

Either way, you are well on the way to handling the client’s issue.

8. The Try Question

It’s time to close the sale. One of ABSOLUTE THE best questions to close the sale is this:

“So, Angie, would you like to give it a try?” or

 

“Why not give it a try?”

I stole this question from Jeffrey Fox, author of “How to Become a Rainmaker.” He calls it a “killer sales question” and he’s right. I use it now and I cannot sell without.

Why?

Because, as Fox explains, to most people ‘try’ is a revocable act and a decision that can be reversed. It sounds and feels temporary or impermanent. Fox concludes that people feel that to try something is a sample or a test, not a commitment to buy. But in reality, they either buy or they don’t buy. There is no “try” buy.  But, psychologically the prospect has an easier time making the decision to say yes to the purchase.

It’s brilliant and it works!. Try it. You’ll like it. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Summary

These are eight of the best selling questions of all time. This is not because I say so but because millions of sales reps have gone before you and tried these. They are classic and they work. You will sell better and sell more when you use them.

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The 5 Worst Tele-Prospecting Questions – Are You Guilty?

Questioning a prospect is a good thing, right?

Questioning builds rapport, uncovers needs, gathers information, and identifies possible objections.  There are lots of benefits.

Or so it would seem.

But the truth of the matter is that there are some questions that telephone users should utterly avoid.  They annoy your prospects and they can threaten the success of your call. Here are the four most maddening questions of all time. Purge them from your calling process.

Worst Question #1: How are you today?

Nothing, absolutely nothing, puts a prospect on the defensive faster than this question!

While YOU might think it’s a real rapport builder the vast majority of your prospects think just the opposite.  When surveyed well over 90% of prospects felt that the question is trite and insincere.  They found it ‘wastes time’  but perhaps more significantly, it puts them on their guard because it creates a stereotypical (and negative) image of an invasive “telemarketer” who is trying to sell them something.

Look, the bottom line is this: you don’t really care how the prospect is, do you? You want a sale, lead or an appointment. And they KNOW that.  They know you don’t care. They know it’s a filler question.

So why would you use it?

It buys you absolutely nothing and it may cost you a lot. It may tarnish your ‘professional’ image.

Worst Question #2:  Did I catch you at a good time?

This question is a real sales killer. Hands down.

While asking a prospect ‘is now is a good time’ is polite and considerate, what it really does is provide a ready-made excuse to terminate the call.  Picture the scene: how many times have you asked that question and the prospect says, ‘Ya, sure…It’s a great time! I wasn’t doing anything important. In fact, I was just sitting here with my feet on the desk hoping that a sales rep would give me a call and pitch me?”

Rarely happens, right?

Of course, some prospects do say yes but the majority don’t.  At the moment they say ‘no’ you flounder and stumble around a bit and murmur something about calling later or ‘when is a good time.’  If the prospect does give you a time, they are never there when you make your follow up call. Waste of everyone’s time and energy.

I am all for polite and courteous tele-prospecting.  But instead of putting your call in the chopping block, try this,  “_____, If I have caught you at a good time what I would like to do is ask you a few questions, get a feel for you situation and see if there might be a way …(insert your benefit).’

Positioned this way, the client gets a feel or a sense that you have been polite about the ‘time’ thing but you are not really asking about the time; you’re asking about questions.  If you move seamlessly into your first question, your client will likely answer.

This subtle but extremely effective technique can dramatically change your contact rate and help you convert more contacts to sales or leads.  Use it.

Worst Question #3:  What do you like about your current supplier?

OMG! What a ridiculous question!

In effect, here’s what you are saying to the prospect, “Tell all the great things about your current vendor so that you will convince yourself not to make a change.  Remind yourself why you made this brilliant choice in the first place so that you can pat yourself on the back.”

Forgive the sarcasm.  But this question is definitely maddening. It does nothing to help your selling cause. It builds your competitor up and because the prospect is articulating their merits it’ll be awfully hard to knock them down.

Instead, ask the prospect what they like to see in a vendor.  Let the prospect tell you about the ideal service they would like to get.  See how you compare. Don’t even bother with the current competitor. Who cares? It’s not what they do, it’s what YOU do.

Worst Question #4: Is there anything you don’t like about your current vendor?

Think about this one for a moment. The prospect doesn’t know you from Adam or Eve and out of the blue you are asking him/her to divulge the faults and flaws of your competitor.  How often do you think that’s going to work?

It’s not.

Sure, if you get lucky you might find a flawed vendor and an annoyed prospect.  Even a blind squirrel finds a nut.  But in the vast majority of the calls you make, this question will get you a blunt “no.” Like Maddening Question #3, the prospect is reminded that there’s nothing wrong with their current supplier or, at best, better the devil they know then the devil they don’t. Net result? Resistance to change.

Stick with what they’d like to see in a vendor.  Determine what elements are the most important (price, delivery, selection, terms etc.)  Create a general question like, “Are you getting all those elements all the time?” Ask if they’ve ever been caught short? Ask what they do if there’s a delay or if a product is unavailable? Ask if they have a back up plan?

These questions can open doors, not close them.

Worst Question #5: what do I have to do to earn your business?

And finally…

This maddening question has been around for decades and has been driving your prospect nuts for just as long. In their mind what you are really saying is this, “Make this easy for me because I don’t really want to work at it. Tell me what you want so I don’t have to probe and find out.”

Prospects resent this. It’s lazy. And those that give you an answer often give you ridiculous answers like, “I want free shipping on every order over ten bucks…and oh…I want 120 days… oh… forget the days, how about consignment?”

Look, if you don’t know how to probe for needs, start learning now!

Summary

Questions can work for you or against you.  Think about your questions before you ask!

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How to Instantly Become a Better Listener in 5 Minutes or Less

One of the challenges with telephone selling is listening.

Listening is tough in a non-face-to-face situation because it is easy to get distracted and hard to stay focused especially if it’s the 23rd call of the day. The net result is that key points are missed, certain questions are not asked, important objections are never answered, follow up items are forgotten, and action items and details are lost.

And that is how YOU lose sales.

The Secret to Listening

The secret to improving your listening ability on the telephone is to listen with a pen in your hand and a pad of paper on your desk. Take notes.

Not a very exciting or sexy solution, is it? But it really is THAT basic, THAT fundamental and THAT effective. Taking notes in a journal or on a sheet of paper is common sense and has been around for about five or six centuries but in this ‘high tech’ age it seems to be a skill that has been lost or forgotten or ignored.

Taking notes may not  be new but it is still is a hela ‘uva way to improve your listening, become more attentive and make more sales.

10 Good Reasons Why You Should Take Handwritten Notes

1.       Taking notes forces your head down.  You can’t peer out the window. You can’t see the commotion around you.  You don’t notice your buddies goofing off.  You are less liable to get distracted or flustered. This creates greater focus and concentration!

2.       With a pen in your hand you can jot down questions that you want to ask the client without interrupting him or her.  If the client babbles on, you won’t forget them.

3.       When your client tosses out an objection or expresses a concern, you can note it. Put a star beside it, circle it or underline it.  And then, when appropriate, you can return to it and address the issue. It won’t fester.

4.       Taking notes is interactive.  You are using your ears AND your eyes AND your hand. You triple, your focus and triple your comprehension and retention.

5.       With notes, you can summarize your clients’ situation, problems or opportunities. They’ll be stunned, amazed and delighted with your thorough and comprehensive recap.   This will give them immense confidence in you and your abilities. Makes you look smart.  It gives you a competitive edge.

6.       Taking notes reduces the chance of errors in an order, quote or proposal.  This saves you time and hassle. And embarrassment.

7.       You can use the notes to thoroughly debrief your manager if you need to discuss an issue or an opportunity.

8.       Handwritten notes provide a permanent record that can be accessed anytime.  You can go back and review the discussion whenever necessary … for whatever reason.  Nice ‘insurance’ policy for any number of reasons.

9.       Notes allow you to gather important data such as phone numbers, e-mail addresses, web sites, quantities, colors, sizes, …whatever.  Your accuracy improves.

10.   Note taking on paper allows you to group ideas and information.  For example, if the client expressed three concerns over a 3 minute dialog, you can group those three concerns together to ensure that they are covered.

Keying Data on Your Computer?

Sure, you can take notes on a computer.  But most people don’t type that well or that fast. They get fatigued trying to keep up… and so they quit.  Often there is little room for notes. Sometimes there’s no room for notes at all. Keying is not nearly as efficient or effective.

But here’s the important thing.  The notes you take by hand are not necessarily the notes you place in your customer profile.  The notes by hand are designed to get you listening and keep you focused. The information you put in the computer is the data you want permanently stored; data that others can see and use.  Don’t confuse the two.

Action Item and Summary

Go out and buy a proverbial black book; a binder; a journal; a ringed notebook … anything…something upon which to jot your notes.

Have the book open every time you make a call. Start take notes, become a better listener and become a better telesales rep.

Simple, eh?

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Make Friends with Closed Ended Questions

Closed ended questions are much maligned and it just isn’t fair!

How many times have you heard sales trainers and managers harp on the inadequacies of closed ended questions? They tell you that they don’t invite 2-way dialog, that the client feels interrogated, that it can lead to too many no’s.

Sure, if used incorrectly, a closed ended question can be detrimental to a sales conversation.  But used incorrectly, an open ended question can be equally have a negative impact on a call.  They can annoy the client, make them impatient, make them wonder about the relevance and tarnish the professionalism of the tele-sales rep.

So it’s not the question, it’s the questioner.

Having said that, let’s look at fundamentals of closed ended questions.

The 2 Types of Closed Ended Questions

For the sake of clarity, closed ended questions are short answer questions, not just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. If you ask a prospect how many printers they have, you are asking for a definitive answer not for makes and models. Having said that, there are two fundamental types of close ended questions

The Fact Confirmation Questions

Fact confirmation questions are designed to gather specific data or facts.  They help clarify, confirm or verify information.  For instance,

How many printers do you have?

Are they color or black and white?

Do you use electro medical devices in your practice?

How many patients do you have?

Do you have an assistant?

Who is your current supplier?

Have you completed your continuing education credits for this year?

How much time do you spend preparing?

Will you ask your IT people about that?

Would you care to attend our webinar?

Are you finding that challenging?

Depending on your industry or your situation, these are dang good questions to ask!  They give perspective and help you evaluate the situation.  So go ahead and ask them.

But what you don’t want to do is ask more than three of them in a row.  When you ask three consecutive questions, people get uncomfortable because they are not fully participating.  When you ask five consecutive closed ended questions they ARE uncomfortable.  Beyond that they are disengaged and will typically terminate the conversations.

So here’s the thing: be conscious of this fact.  Think before you ask.

The Directed Questions

The second type of closed ended question is that which directs the client’s thinking.  For the most part, they are designed to elicit a ‘yes’ response. For example,

That’s reasonable, isn’t it?

That’s a fair assessment, correct?

That’s easy, right?

Doesn’t it make sense to give it a try?

Isn’t it time consuming to …?

Wouldn’t you like the system to run faster?

More passive income makes sense, doesn’t it?

These can be highly effective questions because, if used correctly, they illicit a positive response.  They are almost rhetorical in nature but they get the client to see the obvious or reasonable nature of a comment. It gets the client to acknowledge the logic of your statement.

But there is an added bonus; they act as a trial close.  It tells the questioner if they are on track. Listen carefully to the reply. If there is a trace of doubt or scepticism, deal with it right then and there. Say something like, “John, I hear a little uncertainty in your voice.  Can I clarify something for you?” (Nice closed ended question, eh?)

Of course, directed questions can be abused as well. For instance, “you want to save money don’t you?” Everyone wants to save money. If delivered carelessly, this question can sound patronizing. So watch your tone.  And too many directed questions can trivialize your point by simplifying things…

Summary

Closed ended questions used smartly can garner information. Closed ended questions can direct a sales call to a positive conclusion. So don’t avoid them.  Make friends with closed ended questions today.

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2 MORE Not-So-Smart Questions to Avoid

Remember what your teachers used to say: “there’s no such think as a dumb question?”

Well maybe that’s true in most cases but in tele-sales there are some not-so-smart questions that you should avoid because they can act as real show stoppers.

Not-So-Smart Question #1: How are You Today?

Please, at all costs, avoid this question when you’re tele-prospecting. Please.

While YOU might think it’s a real  rapport builder the vast majority of your prospects think just the opposite.  When surveyed well over 90% of prospects feel that the question is trite and insincere.  They find it ‘wastes time’  and puts them on their guard because it creates a stereotypical (and negative) image of an invasive “telemarketer” who is trying to sell them something. Is this how you want to start your cold call?

Look, if the prospect is telling you NOT to use this question, don’t use it.  Simple as that.  It doesn’t buy you anything and it can certainly cost you a lot in terms of credibility.

Not-So-Smart Question #2: Did I Catch You at a Good Time?

Don’t use this question either.  Oh, I know the argument: it’s polite and not using it can be seen as presumptuous by the prospect.  But be honest here, how many times have you asked this question only to hear, “no, it’s not a good time.”  I’ll wager it occurs 99 times out of 100. When you ask if it is a good time you are giving your prospect a ready made excuse to terminate the call. Hey! Isn’t tele-prospecting and cold calling  hard enough without you fueling the fire?

Instead, say this, “Jim, if I caught you at a good time, what I would like to do is ask you some questions, get a feel for your situation and see if we might   (provide a benefit).  Let me ask…”

By doing this, the prospect gets a ‘sense’ that you are asking if it is a good time (which positions you as courteous and respectful)  but you aren’t really doing that. You’re asking if you can ask some questions.

Of course, the prospect can still object but you’ve made it just a bit harder to do so.  And that gives you a slight edge and slight edges are might all you need.

Summary

By avoiding these two not-so-smart questions your ‘image’ will be a little less tarnished and you’ll increase the number of times a prospect allows you to continue the call.

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The 2 Most Stupid Questions in Tele-selling

Is there such a thing as a stupid question in tele-sales?

You bet your bottom dollar there is! Absolutely!

Questions are not unlike tools. You select the right tool for the right job. The wrong tool can make a mess of things. For example, using pliers to hammer a nail is an exercise in futility and self destruction.

It’s the same with questions. Use the wrong question and you can make a complete and utter mess of the sale. Here are the two stupidest questions to ask in tele-sales:

Stupid Question #1:Tell me what you like about your present supplier?

You might argue that this is a good question. Reps tell me that they learn what a client is looking for in a supplier. This is good information, they say.

Are you kidding me?!

Look at this question from another angle. When you ask a prospect what he or she likes about their present supplier, you get them to bask in the glow all the positives.  In doing so, they are reminded of the good relationship they’ve established. They are reminded of all the benefits they get from doing business with this firm. In some cases, you remind the buyer of all the reason he used to justified the use of this supplier.

So how can you possible get a wedge in the door when you’ve helped them articulate how fantastic their supplier is? You can’t. You’ve helped make them bullet proof. The best you can do is match them on benefits but in a ‘tie’, the incumbent always wins. Always.

Stupid Question #2: Is there anything you don’t like about your present supplier?

The logic here is that the prospect is going to gift wrap a problem and place it on your lap.

Like that’s going to happen!

It’s not. In a prospecting situation, rarely- very rarely- will anyone open up and tell you about a problem they are having. Look at it this way,  by admitting there’s a problem with the current supplier, the prospect might be admitting a mistake that she or he made. Who wants to do that? By admitting there is a problem suggests they haven’t done anything about it?

One more thing: no one wants to acknowledge warts and blemishes in their buying decisions or actions because it may reflect on them personally. Even if there are some problems, most clients will cover them up. And only in extreme cases will they raise their hand and tell you.

What to do Instead

To find out what the prospect might want in a supplier ask this simple question:

‘Tell me, great what are you looking for in a supplier, apart from a competitive price?”

Deal with the price issue right up front by tossing it aside. Now you’ve got the client thinking about availability, delivery, guarantees, selection and other value items where you might have some comparative muscle. Other good questions include: who are you using; how long have you worked with them; and do they use alternative suppliers for other products of a similar nature?

Summary

There are many questions that will provide good information that can lend perspective. Think before you ask but above all,  avoid asking these two stupid questions!

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How to Slay a Sales Slump in 15 Minutes or Less

Are your sales slumping?

You’re not alone. Sooner or later we all stumble into a rut.  The longer you stay in the rut, the worse things seem to become.  Sound familiar?

How Most Reps Respond to a Slump

Here’s the thing: When sales dip and stay dipped  many reps start to point fingers to explain their less than stellar performance. They blame the crumby list, they blame the market or the economy, they blame the product they are selling not to mention the price.  Slumping reps will blame their competition, their manager and the alignment of Jupiter with Mars.

The trouble is, the moment you begin to ‘blame’ results on external factors is the moment you become a victim.  Victims feel sorry for themselves  because things are seemingly out of their control. Victims are  ‘helpless.’  Victims are ‘victimized’ by circumstances. Or so they think.  And so the slump continues.

MOTQ – The Moment of Truth Question

How do you slay the slump?  You ask yourself this question:

“So…what am I going to do about it?”

Heavy emphasis on the “I”.  That’s it.  That’s all there is.

You see, at the end of the day it’s YOUR responsibility to deal with the slump. It’s not the manager’s job.  The economy won’t change for you.  Your competitors aren’t going to cut you a break.  The product isn’t going to miraculously change. And good luck on the price.

The only thing that can change is YOU.

This is a liberating question. If you let it, it will galvanize you into action because what it means is this: there’s absolutely no one who will bail you out … but for you.

When you realize that, you realize you have a choice.  You have a choice to do nothing, stay victimized and fail miserably.  Or you have a choice to get up off your butt and DO SOMETHING. Once you  come to grips with this reality, the easier it is to slay the slump because your mind is now in “fix” mode , not “whine” mode.

Action Plan

If you are in a slump or if you sense you’re sliding into a slump, follow these 4 Steps:

1.        Give yourself 10 minutes to feel sorry for yourself. Cry ‘whoa is me.’ Lament. Gnash your teeth.

2.       Then, take a deep breath and say, “So what am I going to do about it?”

3.       Then take 5 minutes to jot down your options. Put everything done from the sublime to the ridiculous. Leave nothing out. For instance, you might write:  “ do nothing,” “quit the job”, “hope things improve”, “get coaching”, “check the internet”, “buy a book”, “ask a colleague”, “come  in earlier,” “stay late,” and all the other options you have.

4.       Analyze each option. Some are ridiculous. Toss them out.  Some have merit. Those that do, begin implementation right away.

The act of ‘doing something’ doesn’t mean overnight success but it the first big step to recovery.

FREE Poster

To  make things easier for you I have created a poster you can hang on your wall.  It says, “So, what are you going to do about it?” When you hit a slump, a problem, concern, dilemma,  or issue simply glance it. It will get you get you moving in the right direction.  Click here for your mini poster. Poster -So, What Are You Going to do About it

Start slaying the slump today.

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How NOT to Question Your Prospects – 5 Lessons from the Obama/O’Reilly Super Bowl Interview

Bill O’Reilly of Fox News might be a feisty TV journalist but he would make a lousy sales rep.

O’Reilly interviewed President Obama on Sunday prior to the Super Bowl.  That interview helps to illustrate what you should NOT do as a sales rep when questioning a client or prospect.

Lesson #1: Beware The Interrogative Style

For the most part O’Reilly grilled the President. His tone and approach to questioning was aggressive and intimidating.  Part of this is O’Reilly’s style and character and it probably serves him well in the world of political journalism.  But in a selling situation, prospects will often feel intimated with rapid fire questions delivered like a cop interrogating a suspect.  Watch your tone.  Be careful of the number of consecutive closed ended questions you use. Balance them with open ended questions. If you don’t,  they’ll feel badgered and will clam up.

Lesson #2: Don’t Interrupt

Did you notice this? O’Reilly interrupted Obama about twenty times in the fifteen minute interview.  This is not an exaggeration. Watch the interview and see for yourself.  http://www.politicsdaily.com/2011/02/06/foxs-bill-oreilly-interviews-president-obama-before-super-bowl/

From a selling perspective, constant interruptions impact the flow of information. The content becomes fragmented and disjointed.  It is difficult to evaluate an answer when that answer is incomplete.  Regrettably, sales reps tend to interrupt a good deal which suggests they are less interested in the answers and more interested in going through the motions of questioning.

At another level, constant interruptions are disrespectful and rude. It says to the prospect, “I really don’t care about your reply.”  How Obama managed to stay polite and not snap at O’Reilly is beyond me.  A prospect would simply have hung up.

Lesson #3: Learn to Listen to the Content

Even without the interruptions, I am not certain if O’Reilly was really listening to Obama’s answers.  O’Reilly seemed more intent on asking his questions for the sake of asking his questions than for the information Obama provided in return. It was as though he had the questions written on his clip board and he was going to ask them no matter what the reply.  Survey-like. The answers were really not of interest.

This is very typical in sales situations. Some sales reps will ask a question, stop speaking, and then simply wait for their turn to speak again.  Instead of processing what they have heard and then responding accordingly, they plough onto to the next question whether it is appropriate or not.

In selling it is easy enough to ask questions but it is not so easy to evaluate the answers.  Effective questioning must be fluid and dynamic.  The answers provided by the client should determine the next question.  While it is important to have questions prepared, you must flexible to the moment and adjust to the information provided.

Lesson #4: Speak Less

It was also obvious that O’Reilly was positioning himself as a hard-nosed journalist by asking tough questions. No problem with that. But at times, O’Reilly was inserting his opinions and views. It seemed to be less about Obama and his policies and administration and more about O’Reilly’s need to be seen as a tough no-nonsense  guy.

I understand that too but in the world of selling your commentary is not needed nor wanted. Speak less. Listen more. Learn more. Understand more.  Only when your client is speaking will you gather insights, knowledge and perspective. Everything you need to sell lies deep inside your client. When you are speaking, they are not. It’s hard to discover needs when your mouth gets in the way.  Let them articulate. Let them expound.  You can make that happen by zipping your lips.

Lesson #5: Understand the value questioning

What was the net result of the interview?

I don’t know about you but by the end of interview I doubt if anyone (the viewing audience and O’Reilly) was further ahead.  What possible value did the TV viewers really derive?

All we got was fragmented sound bytes from Obama. I, for one , certainly did not get a comprehensive feel for anything from the Middle East to healthcare or to the Super Bowl game.  If this were a selling situation, the sales rep would NOT have been any further ahead.  In fact, he would have probably been further behind because the questioning process was a disaster.

You see, the whole point of questioning is to build rapport, to gain an understanding of your buyer, of the needs and requirements.  It should create value for you and it should create value for your client.

Summary

NOTE:  I am a Canadian so I have no political interest in the interview one way or the other. I could care less.   I have no ‘agenda ‘ except  to use the interview as a learning lesson.   Here’s the lesson: questioning is the MOST important skill you can possess when it comes to selling.  Learn from these lessons and don’t  blow your opportunities.

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The Top 10 Most Annoying Traits of Tele-Prospectors – Are you guilty?

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Tele-prospecting is tough enough without engaging in self destructive tendencies. Here is a list of the 10 most annoying traits of tele-sales reps. Are you guilty of any of these traits? Not sure? Ask someone you trust.

#1: “How are you today?”

Prospects rank this as their #1 complaint of telephone reps. The overwhelming majority of those surveyed feel it is trite and insincere and a complete waste of time. It immediately makes them weary and defensive.  What a lousy way to start a call. Since they don’t like it, don’t use it. It’s that simple.

#2: Butchering their name

Prospects hate it when you butcher their name. While it is true that some names are complex and the prospect is used to it, imagine how impressed they will be if you master the name. You do that by calling someone else in the company and asking them for the proper pronunciation. Practice. Write it phonetically. Practice some more. Get it right. Nail it.

3. Presenting in a monotone.

A lifeless and lack luster delivery of your opening statement is a one-way ticket to disaster. The prospect senses that you are bored or unprepared in a split second. Over 80% of your telephone communication is through the tone of your voice. Remember that! Be conscious of your tone before you pick up the phone. The three second you take to say to yourself “Stay up beat,” will pay dividends.

4. Beating around the bush.

Prospects say that many telephone reps fail to get to the point of the call quick enough; they beat around the bush. The prospect gets confused and impatient. The call becomes an intrusion. Get to the point. You do that by using this trigger phrase, “Sandy, the reason for my call is ….”  This simple phrase provides direction and focus in the clients mind. Subconsciously they are relieved because they understand.

Of course, you don’t have to be blunt and say, “The reason for my call is to sell you product X.” Be more subtle, “Sandy, the reason for my call is ask you some questions, get a feel for your situation, and see if there may be an opportunity to…”

5.  Not presenting a benefit.

While some reps are capable of getting to the point, many have failed to delineate the benefit to the client. The benefit is what gets the prospect to tune, listen and listen longer. This is the difference between a mediocre opening statement and great opening statement. If you can reduce expenses, say so. If your service will improve productivity, tell them up front.  If you can improve revenues, let them know.

To carry on with the example in #5 you might say, “…and to see if there might be an opportunity to reduce your acquisition costs.”

6.  Not getting the prospect involved.

No one likes or wants a monologue. The client needs to be engaged to feel part of the process. This means asking questions, getting agreement and seeking acknowledgement so that there is a two-way dialog. This is why it’s a heck of an idea to say the reason for you call is “to ask a few questions to get a feel for your situation…” It alerts the client that the call is about THEM and not you. Once you’ve provided your benefit, ask your first question. Get them involved early.

7.  Not answering a question.

Prospect despise it when they ask you a question or toss out an objection and you ignore it or you skate around by not answering the question directly.  They feel you are hiding something and the instantly, instantly distrust you.  Why risk that? Have your replies prepared.

8. Interrupting

Prospects complain about tele-sales reps who interrupt them with slick answers or more features. When your prospect talks, you listen. Don’t interrupt. Hear them out. Evaluate what they saying. Let them finish. Then, and only then, should you respond.

9. Sarcasm and Rhetoric

Tele-sales reps can blow a sales opportunity by the use of sarcasm or by the ridiculous use of rhetorical questions such as, “You want to save money, don’t you?” or “You’re a smart shopper, aren’t you?  Or “If I could show you a way to save 10% would you take a moment to listen…”Or, “Well, if you’re not interested in reducing the cost of your deliveries, that’s fine by me.” Further comment is unnecessary, right?

10. Not knowing when to quit.

In B to B (much less in B to C), most decision makers will cut you some slack because they know you are doing your job but do not push it. After the third ‘smokescreen objection’ (i.e., the objections seems patently false) you should probably cut you losses

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5 Questions To Get Prospects to Take Action (and keep the sales cycle going)

Not all tele-sales calls end with a sale. Depending on your product, the market, and the price your sales call might have a longer sales cycle. But the longer the sales cycle the more time it takes to meet your objectives and make your commissions.

Here are some excellent QUESTIONS that get your client to take some sort of action.


1. How can we make this work?

Talk about a brilliant question! Use this question after you have done your needs analysis and you’ve presented your solution. It’s brilliant because it can act as an actual close or it can act is a propellant to get the sale moving.  Either way, the question creates momentum.


2. What do you see as the next steps?

This is another superb question because it gets the client to open up and elaborate on what must happen for the sale to continue.  In effect, you are getting the prospect to give you a road map to close the sale. For example, the prospect might tell you that they need a proposal, that the proposal goes to a committee of three whose names are ____ and that the final say on the sale rests on Mr. Big.  In one fell swoop you not only have the process for buying but you also have the three influencers and the final decision maker.
3. How would you like to proceed?

Here’s yet another open ended question that gets the prospect to tell you how momentum will continue. Peel back the onion a bit and you’ll also discover that this question can help garner a buying signal. It’s a test close, plain and simple.   If the client gives you specifics on how they wish to ‘proceed with the sale’ they are, in effect, giving you an indication that they want to buy.


4. What do you need to feel comfortable to continue forward?

This question more or less screams “I am in your corner.’  You are empathizing with the client and he’ll sense it because you are appealing to the emotional side of the buying equation. By asking what make him feel comfortable, you are really asking for any objections or concerns. Once those are laid open, you now have the formula to proceed with the sale.


5. To keep the momentum going, why don’t we set up a telephone appointment for Thursday morning,  at, say 8:15 and we can review the proposal in detail and determine the next steps if any.

This approach is often called the “advance” because it moves a sale forward by getting the prospect to commit to an action (review the proposal) by a given date and time (Thursday, 8:15 a.m.)  If the client agrees to this action, date and time she’s engaged. And that’s a good thing.

Summary

Moving the sale forward is as easy as asking for a ‘road map.’  Get the client to tell you what needs to by done simply by asking. Try these questions and get a move on!

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