Why is it that smart people do the dumbest things? If they thought for one moment about what was coming out of their mouth, they'd keep it shut. Yet day after day, I see sellers talk (or write) themselves right out of opportunities.
Shortly after I sent out my ezine article on Promiscuous Prospecting, I got an email from a reader. He wrote: "I notice you're processing credit cards through your site. That's what I provide my clients! If you're dissatisfied with your card service or you think you're paying more than you should, perhaps we can talk!"
I responded: "Thanks for the note. I'm in the process of switching to a new web master and doing a major update on my site. Right now everything is fine. Things that aren't causing me problems are not on my priority list. But you were smart to check me out!"
Although I was politely trying to rebuff the seller, my response only seemed to have the opposite effect. It invigorated him.
What followed was ...
...a series of lengthy emails about how his company was different from the competition and why I should consider switching even though I was in the midst of other major decisions. He also sent me detailed information about a web developer he highly recommended and links to many of the sites this guy's company had created - even though he had no idea if I'd already made my decision or not.
I know he was trying to help. I really, really know it. But just because his intent was positive, doesn't mean it had a positive effect on me. In fact, it caused me to pull back and withdraw from further interactions.
Coming on like a "bull in a china shop" always has that effect. Prospective customers step back to get out of its way. Charging full speed ahead simply doesn't work.
What's the cure? You need to create conversations with decision makers. And, there's only one way to do this. You need to ask questions to engage prospects in a dialogue, then shut up and listen.
Questions are the key! They have to be provocative, insightful questions that:
- Invite prospects to think about key challenges they're facing relevant to your offering.
- Explore how staying with the status quo will impact their ability to achieve their ever-escalating goals & objectives.
- Clarify criteria and other considerations involved in making a decision to change.
- Spark ideas about taking their business to the next level.
Unless you're some sort of sales genius, these types of questions don't just flow effortlessly from you. Under pressure you're more likely to ask ones that help you assess what you can sell, but do nothing for your prospect except bore them.
That's why you need to plan your questions before meeting with prospective customers or before you talk to them on the phone.
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For more info on asking insightful, powerful questions:
Winning More Sales Manual
Everyone says how important it is to ask good questions, but if you're like many sellers, you're not sure where to start. I've trained a ton of people and I've heard this problem over and over again. That's why I created this manual.
Winning More Sales is not full of fluff. It's a real tool that you can immediately to plan your questions for an upcoming call. Just determine what type of call you're making (per the guidance in this article) and find 100s of questions to select from. I guarantee you'll find insightful, powerful questions you can easily customize for your own sales situation.
You'll go into the call prepared. You'll have a peer-to-peer conversation with the corporate decision maker. You'll advance your sales process to the next step.
You get 160+pages of hands-on sales guidance in this much-needed manual. It includes over 550+ questions to help you:
- Turn prospects into buyers.
- Win in competitive situations.
- Conduct effective executive meetings.
Plus, it provides a complete roadmap for developing your own insightful, powerful questions.
Check out the detailed Table of Contents to see what's included in this downloadable e-manual you can immediately use to plan your sales calls tomorrow.
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To be a really savvy, consider the following factors as you develop your questions:
Status of Decision
This critical piece of knowledge has a significant impact on the types of questions you ask. For example, if your prospect has already allocated funding, you'd ask about what they're hoping to achieve or the factors they'll use in the selection process.
However, most people aren't planning on changing any time soon - even though they're not thrilled with the status quo. If this is the case, focus your questions on uncovering desirable business outcomes they could get from taking action now rather than later.
Level of Contact
Executives think about the future. They're constantly looking 3-5 years "out there" to determine how the company can achieve their desired future state. Mid-level managers think about reaching their annual objectives. Financial decision makers are concerned about strong ROI. Technical analysts want to make sure new decisions fit within their existing framework. End users care about how things impact their job.
Plan your questions accordingly. Make sure they focus on the contact's position, interests, challenges and objectives. As you can see, customized questions are essential. Much as you'd like to have a "one size fits all" set of questions, it's an impossibility.
Your offering impacts specific areas of your prospective customer's operation. It solves problems or closes gaps. You must explore these areas in depth to determine the business impact of your product or service.
For example, if my value proposition centered around shortening time to revenue on new product launches, I'd ask about the current process for introducing new products, the satisfaction level with results attained, the impact of the delays on the sales organization, channel mindshare, profitability, competitive inroads and more.
Don't worry about being impolite or that you might be prying. It's your job to make a difference for your customers and you can't do it without asking about the tough stuff.
If you don't plan questions ahead of time, you'll get caught in "premature elaboration." Before you know it, you can't stop talking - even though you know better. Your prospects will slowly start backing away to protect themselves from your onslaught.
Despite your best intentions, you'll be seen as a self-serving salesperson whose only goal is to close the business. That's not what you want, so don't act like that bull in the china shop. Get your act together before you start careening recklessly around, causing damage with every step.
Entice & engage your prospects with your provocative, insightful questions. Then, they'll come to you.