Top Sales People Ask Different Questions

When you do a ride-along with top sales performers, one thing you immediately notice is that they are asking their prospects questions that many of their sales colleagues are not comfortable with asking. These questions turn out to get the answers a salesperson needs to craft a solution the buyer would be really interested in buying.

Not asking these questions is actually one of the main reasons why average sales performers are not closing enough deals. How does that work?

Discovery and strategic questions

No doubt, you all have learned from your sales training sessions that you need to “discover” a buyer’s need.  Sure, that is kind of obvious. However, unfortunately, many salespeople never discover a need at all. Yes, they do go through their Discovery Phase with their prospect and fire a lot of questions, of which many they should have known the answers anyway, by doing a little bit of homework before meeting with the prospect. But when it comes to analyzing the prospect’s needs, they make the crucial mistake of assuming that the prospect still has the same needs they had when they bought the products & services from the current competitor. In other words, they assume that not much has changed with the prospect’s business.

The truth is, to survive and prosper, every business is always looking for improvements that will impact their top-line growth, their cost or both. In the end, the more profit, the more the company can invest back into their business to grow, to achieve higher quality products, expanding to more markets etc. The business’ competitors do, of course, exactly the same, so everyone monitors each other to ensure maintaining or growing market share.

What average sales performers don’t ask their prospects are strategic questions such as:

– What are your plans to be more competitive or to be more successful in the future?

– What are your focus improvement areas right now? Or in the next six months?

– Where does the needle need to move, and by how much?

– What has changed in your business that drives the need for these improvements?

Changes affect strategic decisions.

Every business’ success is very much dependent on changes that are happening around them. These changes can happen externally, so outside the company, changes may or may not have an influence. Or changes happening within their organization or some changes that occurred with their suppliers and distributors.

Businesses with the ability to react to these changes quickly and effectively are always more successful.  They benefit from these changes rather than have to deal with negative impacts. For example, if the prospect’s competitor launches new products or services that are favoured by many consumers, then this may harm the prospect’s current customer loyalty; this may impact their income and profit.  Or, there are increased taxes on the prospect’s products in a certain export market, so the company may decide to reduce volumes to that country and take part of their business somewhere else.

Changes of their own customers’ behaviour, like a preference for one particular product or a sharp decline in purchasing another product, are also quite common, causing the business to look for improvements or speeding things up somewhere in their business. There can also be changes within the customer’s organization that may impact the top or bottom line. For example, a marketing department is preparing a product launch in country X.  Or, the business is slowing down, and the CEO directs all their departments to reduce costs wherever they can.

Suppliers are also causing changes like the price of raw materials has gone up, affecting your prospect’s production cost and the retail price of their products. Or, some changes happened at your incumbent competitor that are causing your prospects to change processes, or they need to adjust resources managing these processes. Sometimes changes at the supplier simply impact production or service performance and quality promises to their end customers.

Find the root cause of changes.

The key message? You have to find out the root cause of changes impacting your prospect’s business.   Just be aware that these will not be presented to you on a golden platter. In the eyes of business people, there is no ideal supplier, everyone has flaws, and many prefer to find a workaround to deal with these rather than changing to something they do not know.

Understanding the external, internal and supplier changes that is impacting the business is crucial to moving opportunities forward. See the business through your customer’s glasses and try to understand WHAT but also WHY they want to improve things. To ask these kinds of questions and have these types of conversations with your prospective buyer will get you a lot closer to your understanding and their realization that there is really a need for change. Try it, and you will see. Top salespeople do this all the time.

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