Simple Sales Tracking Blog

Do You Always Uncover the Buyer’s Needs?

Following on from the last time when we looked at the introduction phase of the sales interview.

Today I would like to focus on uncovering the buyer’s needs through the use of structured questioning.

For many salespeople who deal mainly with enquires coming in this seems rather straight forward i.e. the buyer states the need, asks for the solution, then the price. The trap of course is we give them a price without further exploration of their needs and if we are not the cheapest then quite often we miss the sale.

The other scenario is we are referred to a prospect who already has a supplier of our product or service and may be happy with them. The traditional sales process would look something like the following –

1. Introductions/Pleasantries
2. Find Common Interests
     . Clients we work with
     . Agencies we have
     . Our experience with similar business
3. A few questions to uncover needs
4. Present Solution
5. Offer of Proposal
Look familiar?

Our goal is to uncover the buyers need – No need = no sale, or a gap in what they are currently getting.

It is important to remember you are wanting the buyer to do one of the hardest things any of us face- to make a “change” – this could be from their current supplier or their way of doing things.

To achieve this you need to meet a number of objectives –

1. Establish trust – If the prospect doesn’t trust you they will not reveal their true needs to you. No Trust = No Sale
2. Uncover the need you can provide a solution for – No Need = No Sale
3. Establish the true size of need. This establishes a return on investment in the buyers mind and creates urgency to act. No ROI = No Urgency = No Sale
4. Elicit an invitation from the prospect to present your solution.

This is best done through asking good prepared questions.

Your questions create not only the reasons to change but also the urgency for your solution.

In structuring your questions you need to understand the different levels of buyer needs – this we will look at in my next article.

Quote of the Week:

Every sale has five basic obstacles:
no need, no money, no hurry,
no desire, no trust

Zig Ziglar

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Sales Impact Group Ltd

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , , ,

Questioning To Build Trust

Following on from last time we are looking at the importance of developing questions.

Many of us feel the need to build credibility and trust through telling the prospect all about what we have done and what great companies we work for however asking the right questions achieves the same goal. It is most important to spend time planning the questions as more sales are lost through asking the wrong questions than are lost because of not having the best price.

There are two more key areas that relate to asking good questions –

3. Good questions build relationships

The act of asking good questions shows that you care about the person and his/her problems. The more questions you ask about your customer, the more he/she feels your interest.

The law of reciprocity indicates that the more interest you show in a customer, the more likely that customer will be interested in you.

Did you ever attend a reception or party and meet someone who was very interested in you? Asked you question after question about yourself? When you parted, you thought to yourself “What a great person”. Why did you think that? Because of what he/she said? Probably not. You thought the person was wonderful because he/she expressed interest in you! And you formed that impression because of the questions they asked of you.

You can make use of this principle by asking good personal questions of your customers and thereby building strong relationships.

I also recommend you take good notes.

4. Good questions convey the perception of your competence

In other words, your customer sees you as competent and trustworthy – not necessarily by what you say – but rather by what you ask.

Here’s an illustration. Suppose you have a problem with your car. You take it into the mechanic down the street and say to him – “My car is making a funny sound” and he says to you “OK, leave it here and pick it up at five”.

You’re not reassured by his approach so you take it to the mechanic across the street. You say the same thing to him and he says to you “What kind of sound? You reply “A strange thumping sound”. And he says “Is it coming from the front or the back of the car?”. And you say, “It’s coming from the front.” And he asks, “Is it a metallic kind of sound or a rubber kind of sound?” And you reply, “It’s definitely metallic” And he says, “Does it go faster when you go faster and slower when you go slower, or is it the same speed all the time?” You respond, “It definitely speeds up as I do.” Then he says “OK leave it here and pick it up at five”.

Which mechanic seems to be the more competent? That’s easy. Obviously, the one who asked more questions. Questions show you understand your prospects problems which in turn builds your credibility.

Got the idea? The focus and precision of your questions does more to give your customer the perception of your competence than anything else.

Every one of your customers wants to feel that the salesperson he/she is dealing with is competent. You convey that perception by asking good questions about the details of your customer’s needs and applications.

Mastering the use of good questions is the salespersons single most powerful interpersonal tool – in every aspect of your sales interactions will dramatically improve your results.

A word of caution, remember what I said at the start – just as the right questions build your credibility asking the wrong questions can just as easily destroy it hence the need to plan your questions – do you homework – do your pre-planning before you ever make the call.

Quote of the Week –

“Price is always an issue if you look and sound like every other salesperson”

In my next article I will look at mistakes to avoid in your sales presentations.

Have a successful week!

BRETT BURGESS is a sales trainer and programme developer for Moss and Associates International.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , , ,

A Question of Questions

This week’s article brings us back to the subject of questioning.

Did you enjoy the last dinner you had out with friends?

You are probably wondering what that question has to do with sales. Bear with me a moment, and answer the question.

Now, pause a moment and think about what you did when you read that question. Your mind probably flashed back and you saw a picture in your mind’s eye of what you had for dinner. Then you recalled your response to the dinner, and made a judgment that you did or didn’t enjoy it.

Here’s the point. I was able to direct your thinking by asking you a question. You thought about what I wanted you to think about, and you thought about it in the way I wanted. That’s an illustration of the power of a question. It directs an individual’s thinking.

That’s what makes asking a good question the single most effective thing you can do with a customer. A well-phrased, appropriately timed question is your most powerful sales tool.

This is why we need to plan our questions in advance.

Here’s what good questions will do for you –

1.Good questions direct your customers thinking

When you use a good question, or a series of good questions, you penetrate your prospect’s mind and direct his/her thinking.

There is something in human beings that makes it almost impossible not to think of the answer when we are asked a question. I’m not sure whether it’s something genetic, or whether we’re conditioned from birth to always think of the answer to a question. Here’s an illustration. I’ll ask you a question, but I want you to not think of the answer. How old are you? If you’re like most of us, you thought of the answer, even after I indicated you shouldn’t.

Now, consider where the decision to buy your products or services takes place. It happens in the mind of your customer. A good question from you helps focus and shape the direction in which your customers mind works.

For example, suppose you’re shopping for a new car. The salesperson asks you, “Which is more important to you, good fuel economy, or quick pickup?” Until asked, you haven’t really thought of it that way. The salesperson’s question helps you understand what you really think, and directs your mind along a certain course. You’re thinking along that line, the conversation naturally proceeds based on the answer.

Similarly, you perform a service for your customers when you ask them good questions. Your questions direct their minds along certain paths, and help them clarify their thinking.

Clients often ask if this is manipulative selling. My answer is your goal is not to manipulate anyone. Your goal is to channel their thinking into areas that are a concern for them and establish if you can offer a solution.

2. A good question is your best means of collecting the information that will help you construct a sale.

How do you know what a customer thinks, or what his or her situation is, unless you ask a question? If you’re selling a new surgical glove, for example, you first ask questions to discover the surgeons concerns so that you are able to point out the specific features of the glove that meet those needs. Without first asking questions, you’re reduced to working on assumptions about the needs and interests of your customers.

You will do a far better job of selling your products and services if you first use good questions to understand your customer’s needs and interests. Good questions help you to see into the mind and heart of your customers, and equip you with the knowledge necessary to present the best possible solution for the client.

I will continue with the balance of the ideas on why good questions advance the sale in my next article.

Quote of the Week:
“Every sale has five basic obstacles
no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.”
Zig Ziglar

Brett Burgess

BRETT BURGESS is a programme developer and facilitator for Sales Impact Group Ltd.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, ,

Do You Use Manipulative Closing?

We have been looking at the closing phase of the sales presentation and last time I touched briefly on objections.

Sales trainers in the past would spend a large proportion of their time teaching methods of overcoming objections. Indeed a common myth propagated by these trainers was that objections were in fact strong buying signals, however studies by Huthwaite have shown where there are a number of objections that closing ratios go down correspondingly.

Our goal as professionals is not to learn 100 objection handling techniques but rather to answer all questions in the buyers mind before we present our solutions.

To achieve this you need to follow a process with your questioning. It is not about firing 101 questions at the buyer. It is about having prepared questions that follow in logical sequence.

Once you have a process for your sales they cease to be a problem. If you don’t systemize your sales they will continue to frustrate and give you inconsistent results. Look at other business models – Ray Kroc of McDonalds is a great example – he developed processes for everything. In 1989 McDonalds were making 10 million dollars a day worldwide by asking one question – you guessed it – “would you like fries with that?”. This shows you the value of processes and also asking the right question. I will be looking at questions in my next article.

Very few salespeople follow a planned sales presentation and so very few are truly successful. It has been my experience that in today’s selling environment the most successful people I see coming through our programmes are the ones who have developed the key elements of the sales process into systems and preplan their interviews.

If we don’t have a system for uncovering buyer needs then we must rely on the old “show and tell” which invariably leads us to the most ineffective way of closing the sales known as manipulative closing and unfortunately these are still taught today.

Some examples (they even have names!)

Distraction Close – catch them in a weak moment Embarrassment Close – make not buying embarrassing Hurry Close – go fast to stop them thinking too much Now-or-never Close – to hurry things up Ultimatum Close – show negative consequences of not buying

And a real oldie of interest is the “Ben Franklin Close –

The Ben Franklin Close

This “close” uses logic to get the closer’s point across to the customer. It is a good “close” to use on a customer who is a thinker or who is reserved and overly cautious when buying a product.

How the Ben Franklin Close is Used –

“Mr Customer, in America everybody has always regarded Ben Franklin as a pretty smart fellow. When Ben Franklin had a problem to solve or something important to figure out and make a decision on, he would take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of it. On the left side of the paper he would write the word “Yes” and on the right half he would write the word “No”. In the “Yes” column Ben would make a list of all the positive and beneficial factors that would favour his decision to pursue or purchase something. And in the “No” column he would list all of the reasons for not doing or not buying something. When Ben was finished with this “Yes” and “No” process, he could simply look at the list and his decision would already be made for him. He would either have more yes’s or more no’s. It was that simple. Mr Customer, why don’t we try that and see what happens, it sure can’t hurt?”

Note: The closer should hand the customer a sheet of paper and a pen and have the customer fill out the “Yes” and “No” column. The closer should tactfully assist the customer on the “Yes” side by giving out suggestions, but on the “No’ side keep quiet and not say a thing. The “Yes” side will always, with the closer’s help, win. When this process is finished the closer should look the customer straight in the eye and ask him to give the product a try.)

It’s a fundamental truth in sales that pressure causes objections and ultimately rejection of your solution.

In today’s market buyers have seen it all and heard it all and are well aware of when salespeople are using manipulative sales techniques on them.

Why would you bother?

Quote of the Week –

I once heard a car salesman say, “I peddle metal.”
Well I disagree. To the extent I do “peddle” anything.
I sell helpfulness and solutions. That to me is the heart of the sales experience.
That’s what a good salesperson really does – identifies a need and fills it.

Marion Luna Brem

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Moss and Associates International.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , , ,

Are You Asking the Right Questions?

By Brett Burgess

As we have discussed in previous articles closing or in our process confirming the sale should be the easiest part of your sales process if you have indeed followed a process to understand your buyer’s explicit needs.

The process I am talking about is all about asking a list of pre-prepared questions to get a full understanding of whether or not the person you are talking to has a real need for any solutions you may have to offer.

Most of us as salespeople ask plenty of questions anyway but they are usually self-serving to help us quickly find some sort of need so we can get on with “selling” our solution. Unfortunately the buyer recognizes these questions for what they are as they have heard them all before from 100 different salespeople and are therefore prepared with their stock standard objections.

The trouble with these types of questions is they do nothing to help you uncover buying motives which in turn inhibits your ability to progress the sale. They make you look like every other salesperson selling a similar product or service and if you look like everyone else then the buyer’s only determining point will be price and in this competition the most desperate salesperson usually gets the sale.

Another key issue is we don’t get the important information from the buyer to be able to adapt our solution specifically to our buyers needs. What we end up doing is prescribing before we have actually diagnosed the real problem or opportunity for the buyer. Imagine if you went to your Doctor and he asked you a few basic questions and then wrote a prescription without delving into the real symptoms of your problem. How confident would you be in his prescription?

Some of the more common questions you shouldn’t be asking include –

How long have you been in business?
Who are your key markets?
How many staff do you have?
Who is your current supplier?
What is your budget for.?

And some of the dumbest questions which you should never ask –

“Have you ever heard of us?” or “What do you know about our company?”

If you have to ask this question, it means you’re probably trying to make certain that your prospect has not had a bad experience with your company prior to your arrival. It’s not important whether they have heard of you before – you are not there to talk about yourself – you are there to identify their needs and talk about solutions. You can gain more credibility by asking intelligent questions than talking about what a great company you belong to and how long you have been in the industry or profession.

“Can you tell me a little bit about your company?”

This question shows your buyer that you were too lazy to bother doing any research on them. Don’t ask any questions that you could have researched prior to the meeting. When you ask buyers historical questions about themselves and their business there is no value to them and they see this as a waste of their time.

The key is to do your research, plan your questions and then follow your plan.

Quote of the Week:
It is better to choose what you say than say what you choose

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Moss and Associates International.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy,


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