Simple Sales Tracking Blog

What Is Your Sales Impression?

As has been discussed in earlier articles, sales teams need to have a process to follow when presenting to new prospects to ensure more consistent closing ratios.

In my experience very few companies I have seen have taken the time to identify the most effective process for selling their products or services which brings me to a sales principle which states:

“For every product category and market segment there is a best practice sales process which ensures optimum sales”

The key is to identify what creates sales and what doesn’t and develop the process into a standard operating procedure.  This will only come about through measurement.

Unfortunately without a process salespeople are left to their own resources and do the best they can.  These same salespeople are given sales targets to meet and budgets to achieve without the sales formula/process to follow and spend most of their time “flying by the seat of their pants”.

So if we agree we need to have a formulated approach to our sales the process could look something like this –

-Introductions and pleasantries
-Agenda set
-Discover needs through prepared questions
-Discussing solutions
-Ask for commitment

Let’s look at introductions and pleasantries.  This is the most critical phase of the whole sales process as the decision to buy from you will be made in the first few minutes of meeting you. The fact that we make decisions about people so quickly is just part of human nature.

Research done with 267 Human Resource Managers from the Fortune 500 companies in America showed that on average they decided that a candidate would get the position being applied for within 40 seconds of meeting them.  They then went on to conduct exhaustive tests and interviews to prove they had made the right choice. 

Think of your own attitudes – have you ever had the experience where you have met someone for the first time and taken an instant dislike to them?   The fact is we don’t buy from people we don’t like!

The keys to this phase are to be on time or 5 minutes early, be professionally presented, have professional tools e.g. high quality compendium, a good quality pen, professional looking business cards, rate cards etc.   There is nothing worse than asking someone for their business card and they pull a dog-eared looking card out of their wallet and hand it over!   Your dress and stationary need to be appropriate to the type of clients you are presenting to.     I was meeting with a senior executive recently and suggesting the company invest in some very good quality leather compendiums for their sales team.   He very graciously pointed out that the majority of their clients were intent on preserving nature – we agreed a recyclable/hessian type compendium would be the order of the day!

You look good, you are on time – now what do you say?

The old school sales trainers would suggest you identify something the buyer may be interested in through observation e.g. they may have a marlin mounted on their office wall – most salespeople would begin by commenting on the fish.  I believe there is a factory in China producing these fish to sell to buyers as an accessory to catch newby salespeople who are trying to build rapport!

My recommendation if you are serious about helping the prospect is to thank them for their time, mention your referral source and then get down to business.

Most prospects are short of time and have answered the same fish questions hundreds of times before– respect their time.

We will look at how to set the agenda of your sales meeting in my next article.

Quote of the Week:

Most people think “selling” is the same as “talking”.   But the most effective salespeople
know that listening is the most important part of their job.

                                                                                          Roy Bartell 

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

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

What Is Your Sales Confidence Level?

Confidence is a huge issue for many salespeople.

Following on from my last article regarding order takers and their comfort zones, my focus today is around the issue of confidence. This is something that always comes up when discussing prospecting for new business.

The truth is not many salespeople feel absolutely comfortable in approaching new prospects with the sole purpose of selling them their product or service.

Confidence comes from knowledge. With salespeople there are two types of knowledge that they must have. The first is they must have a thorough understanding of the products and services they offer and just as importantly the application of these. The next type of knowledge is based around a complete understanding of sales planning, prospecting, and presentation processes.

Firstly let’s look at the sales presentation, or as I like to call them sales interviews as in today’s selling environment our goal at the first meeting is not to present but rather to interview the prospect to uncover explicit needs that we can possibly help with. So if we agree that it is a sales interview then we need to have a list of prepared questions to ask the prospect.

Some interesting statistics I uncovered from a US Survey on sales presentations found that 86% of salespeople ask the wrong questions.

The plan then is to develop questions that lead to uncovering needs and implications and formulate these into a process.

So its all about preparation, remember this leads to confidence. The National Cash Register Co (NCR) was the pioneer in developing a “canned” sales presentation. The canned approach they used which most of us have heard about is known as “AIDA”- Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.

NCR trained every one of their salespeople in this sales process.

While the sequence worked the process failed as it was too wordy and the salespeople were expected to deliver it verbatim and spoke parrot wise and that’s of course how it came across. This was in the 1920’s, interesting some companies are still using verbatim scripts today – these are what most people recognize as “canned” presentations.

What I suggest is a planned approach to your sales interview as opposed to the canned version.

We need to have an agenda or sequence that we follow when interviewing new prospects. This achieves a number of call objectives –

1. It makes the best use of your time and just as importantly your prospects
2. It provides a logical flow to the conversation
3. It uncovers the need if one exists
4. It highlights buying signals for you and the prospect
5. It leads you to asking for the business.

By developing a process that we follow in each presentation we become more confident as we have a track to run on leading to our destination – more sales!

Just to illustrate the power of good questioning and how it invokes thought and focuses our thinking, here is a question to ponder –

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one ability or quality, what would it be?

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

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , ,

Whose Perception Counts Anyway?

We have been looking at why asking the right questions is so important in the sales process – well here’s a question for you.

How can you tell what your prospects are actually thinking?

The answer is simple – ask them good questions and they will give you all the information you need to help them. Wasn’t it Freud who said “If you ask enough questions the truth will eventually come out”.

It’s vitally important that you know what your prospects are thinking – what their problems and needs really are, and what’s important to them – so you can tailor the best solution for them.

If you want your prospects to think about the convenience your product or service provides, ask a good, open-ended question about that topic. While the prospect is talking, you know his/her mind is focused on that topic. When you want to focus the customers mind on something else, ask a question on that new topic.

Never ask a buyer any questions about a subject you don’t wish them to think about.

This may sound obvious however many salespeople ask questions about current providers and budgets. What happens in the buyers mind when they think – we have spent our budget this year?

Think of questions that will enable you to uncover your prospects’ wants and needs and potentially give you the opportunity to sell him/her your solution(s).

The best sales questions to ask prospects are the ones that get your prospects talking.

Once you ask your questions you can employee your ears before you engage your mouth. Your questions put you in to an automatic listening mode. Not asking questions gets you, the wrong person, talking too much.

Being a good listener is the fastest way to increase your sales – it also happens to be the best way.

No one ever listened their way out of a sale.

Guide to Preparing Good Questions

. Be sure your questions are open-ended. You’re not a lawyer. You’re an explorer. You won’t learn much when you ask yes/no type questions. Remember your goal is to get your prospects and customers talking.

. Be sure your questions are personalized and tailored to the person you’re talking to. A good question shows interest and reveals your concern for the buyer’s current situation.

. Great questions also help create trust and rapport

. Prepare your questions in writing. A really good question starts in your mind and ends up on paper. If it’s not on paper you can’t make it better.

. You can make every word count by eliminating all unnecessary words from the question you are crafting. Make sure every word in your question adds value to the questions.

. The right questions can demonstrate your understanding of the prospects business and build great credibility for you in the prospects eyes

. Focus on brevity. If you want to be clear, you must be concise. Less is always more when it comes to a carefully worded question. Short and sweet is better than long and sour.

. Unfortunately, what most salespeople don’t get is, your choice of words during a sales call is even more important hence the need to pre-plan your questions.

. Its no use having the right answer if you aren’t asking the right questions

. Remember – Never tell a buyer anything you can ask them!!!

Quote of the Week –
“If you are speaking and not getting a reaction, well you are just making a speech”
Author Unknown

Have a successful week!


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

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, ,

Where Are Your Questions Leading?

We have been looking at developing a questioning process for our presentations and how most salespeople are so desperate to talk about their products and services and all the solutions they can provide they end up talking too much and presenting solutions too soon therefore losing potential sales.

The trouble is the salesperson has seen the prospects problem many times before and therefore knows which solution would work best for them so jumps from problem straight to solution without helping the buyer to understand how big an issue they have.

There is only one perception that counts in a sales presentation – the buyers! We have to help them understand through our questions the need to take action. Asking the right questions will uncover the real issues and more importantly uncover the true buying motives of the prospect.

When I ask participants in my sales training workshops why they don’t ask more structured questions typical replies are –

“I don’t feel confident”
“I’ve never been trained”
“It takes too long”
“Prospects may be reluctant to answer”
“I’d be embarrassed”

The real result of a lack of structure in questioning is lost sales and increased costs of making sales.

Great questions require your prospects to think, they demonstrate your understanding of their needs, and they give you a clear picture of your prospects exact needs which in turn positions you to present the best possible solution.

Old sales training used to focus on only using open questions – questions that require a greater response answer as opposed to closed questions – questions that only require a yes or no answer.

Project Sigma sponsored by IBM and other corporations and conducted by Neil Rackham and his team observed over 35,000 sales calls in 23 countries found that calls high in closed questions were just as likely to lead to orders and advances. This is not so strange as it may at first appear. In theory, open questions result in open answers, while closed questions produce one-word answers. But in practice, this is not always the case. In the context of a sales call, 60 percent of all closed questions receive an answer that is longer than one word. In other words, closed questions very often get open answers. And about 10 percent of all open questions get a closed answer. The important thing is to ask skillful questions that move the call forward. “If you are worrying about things like how many open questions you’re asking”, Neil says, “You’re rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. What you should be worrying about is: Are your questions focused on issues that are important to the customer?”

If you only ever buy one book on selling I would recommend that book be SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. Neil has lead the revolution in selling. The key of course is to then read it and take action.

Structured questions channel the buyers thinking and help THEM tick off their own buying signals in their mind as the interview progresses.

I’ll deal more with the question of questions in the next article.

Quote of the Week:
“Generally speaking you aren’t learning much if your lips are moving”

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

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , ,


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