Who cares? A sales coaching intro for “Asking questions”
“The prospect needs a quote by tomorrow afternoon” said the sales rep. “Great!” said the sales manager, who believed in sales coaching, but often wondered if she’d somehow gotten on the wrong train. She avoided a temptation to ask “What’s a quote? …I thought we do proposals, not quotes!”, and chose a more moderate angle on the conversation.
“So, how many of our systems do they need?” she asked, “Five? That sounds good – it could be a $100K opportunity. Now, where will they be installed?” The answer was “…the customer has 7 locations in North America – one will be in Chicago headquarters, one on the west coast, one in Canada, and the other 2, well – who cares where they will be installed?”
Really! Just normal human curiosity would generate many questions here, and some business-oriented selling skill will generate the ones that count – for example:
– Which departments/divisions will use the systems? What is the use case?
– What locations do you see them installed at?
– What is the user group staff size at each of those locations?
– Are there any key events coming up at those locations/divisions? (changes in products, plants, people, key meetings, etc…)
– Can I assist you in building a project plan to define the specific application, where the systems would go, and the roll-out sequence – to achieve maximum benefit for your business?
I am assuming here that they like your demo of a product or service – that is great, however it can lead to a trap if the customer then starts asking questions about the product, to the point that the meeting runs out of time, leaving the customer with one last question – “Can you give me a quote?” Whoa! It is bad business for a sales rep to allow customer questions to drive 100% of the conversation.
And preparing “Quotes” can be a waste of time, and commoditize your firm when there is no need to go there. Asking more questions, and asking better questions is a key to getting more sales, faster, with less wasted time, by maintaining respectful control of sales calls. And for Sales Managers, coaching to get better sales questioning and listening is a delicate leadership challenge – thumping your sales reps just causes annoyance and reduced communication.
In this case the sales manager used some clever sales coaching, saying “I am curious, can we find out more about the customer’s business situation first? Let’s explain that we need more info to define the configurations, and be sure we select the right products and options.” By asking these questions internally, she is role modelling a habit of raising business questions and also deflecting a sales conversation toward a better balance of “product” and “business” issues.
Bob Urichuck, a talented sales guru, has written extensively about return on time invested for sales people, and techniques to achieve Velocity Selling – favorite topics of his. In his e-Book “The New Economy of Buyers” Bob raises a few good comments – e.g. “The job of the salesperson is to ask questions, similar to a doctor, lawyer, or any other professional…who is in control, the person asking the questions or the person answering the questions?” (click here for the e-Book)
So, sales coaching is about building various skills, and raising good questions at the right time is a skill needed to accelerate selling.