Some beliefs that we don’t question when it comes to sales persons’ skills
Belief 1 – You have the gift of gab and you can sell ice to Eskimos. You are a great sales person.
Belief 2 – Talk is cheap. Its your ability to listen that makes you a great sales person.
My belief – It is important to be able to talk and listen well but what you are talking about and what you are listening to will not matter if you are not asking relevant questions and responding accordingly.
Asking relevant questions is what your sales people should do best but sadly, there is hardly any emphasis given to good Questioning Skills in sales. I have worked in sales for over a decade and I have never heard of any organisation that trains its sales people to ask good questions and provides sales training on questioning skills.
So, what kind of questions can sales people ask?
I call this technique Diagnostic Questioning and yes the word diagnostic is borrowed from the medical terminology. I feel that being a good solution sales person is almost like being a good doctor. Both are trying to discover what is wrong, however only listening to what the client or patient says is not enough. Asking the right questions is key to making a correct diagnosis, whether it is a patient or a client.
Your job as a sales person is to solve a client’s problem, not just sell them a solution that may or may not matter. In Diagnostic Questioning you seek further information that leads you to either eliminate irrelevant information or takes you closer to the challenge you are trying to solve for the client. This is an approach which should narrow your search and help you discover an insight that the client has not even considered.
Client : “ Our sales is behind target this year and I believe that is coming from a lack of sales skills in our sales teams. Hence, I need your services to deliver some sales training programs for us “
Rather then jumping and offering a million solutions that you may have for sales training you should ask another question.
Sales Person: “Would you please mind sharing what led you to the conclusion that the lack of performance is because of a lack of skills in sales team? “
Client: Well, if sales are not happening what else could be wrong other than our sales teams?
Sales person: Yes you are right most likely its something that needs to be addressed with the sales teams but lets try and find what specifically it could be?
Use of words like… specifically, in particular, what exactly , who in particular….often draws you closer to the problem.
Sales person: “Would you mind sharing with me how your sales teams approach a new opportunity and what systems they use?”
Client: “Yes we have a sales process that we follow. Here it is, you can look at it. We also have a sophisticated CRM system that our sales teams uses
Sales person:” I am looking at your sales process and I am not able to find if you qualify the opportunities that you receive. Is there a process to do that in your organisation ?”
Client : “What do you mean? We are running a business and we do not decline opportunities. A potential opportunity comes to us and we respond.”
Sales person : “That is where we need to zoom in a bit more. Your conversion rate is 25% which is way behind the industry standards and I suspect the reason for that may have something to do with lead qualification. May I ask a few more questions please?”
This kind of questioning will allow you to delve deeper into the customer’s answers, finding out the reasons and emotions behind those answers and its in these reasons and emotions, you will find the insight that you are looking for to tailor the right solution for your client.
So, in the above example you can see if we had not asked Diagnostic Questions we would have never been able to work out the exact issue with the performance of sales team.
Yes, we have to articulate and provide a solution and we have to listen to the problem, but if it was not for a good question… what are you listening to and what are you talking about?
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