the Direction of the Call – Part Three
Now that you’ve
had a chance to get to know your client better and to either reinforce
positive comments and perceptions or resolve
problem situations, it is time to delve deeper into your client’s
needs. Specifically, as you work through this stage of the sales
process, you need to find out as much as you can about how your
client feels about you, your company, the products and services
you provide and your competitors.
This is the
stage where you client begins to see you as a business partner and
consultant, not as a sales rep looking to pitch products and services
– the old churn and burn sales type. The focus is to be customer-centric,
not self-centric. This enables you to understand the values, concerns
and needs of those tasked with making or influencing purchasing
decisions at your client site. You can’t hit the target if you
don’t know where to aim.
If you run roughshod all over a client by pitching every product
you sell when a client only needs one product, you are setting yourself
up for failure.
a majority of those who sell today are more often than not pulling
brain dumps on clients. They walk in the door, shake a client’s
hand and then regurgitate everything they’ve ever seen, read, heard
or assumed about their products and services.
will actually ask for this approach. In either case, both the sales
rep and the client will lose. Without
appropriate background information, a sales rep cannot know what
a client truly needs and a client will not receive the information
they need. No one wins.
So, even if
your customer asks you to, “tell me all about your products and
your company,” the best approach is to step back and ask, “Absolutely.
First, would it be okay if I ask you a couple questions?”
We call these questions situational questions. They are
targeted towards understanding a customer’s
priorities, company, requirements and competition. They enable
you to gather sufficient information in order to make an appropriate
recommendation. You should keep in mind not to spend too much time
on situational questions as clients may become bored. This is particularly
the case with those personality styles that are more apt to want
you to “get to the bottom line” and “net it out.”
There are two types of situational questions
you can use:
Open Situational Questions
– to understand a client’s specific situation
Closed Situational Questions
– to clarify specific problems or concerns
questions allow you to gather a broad understanding of a customer’s
situation, goals and role in the buying process. Here are some
sample questions to use when questioning your client:
are the most
important criteria when selecting a manufacturer?
happens to your technical support staff when the system experiences
an unplanned outage?
do you plan on reaching your output goals next quarter?
do you define success in a vendor
challenges are you facing in trying to maintain market share?
issues are you encountering with supply chain management system?
effects do inferior ingredients have on the products that hit
is preventing your team from reaching
your sales targets?
does a delayed response to a network outage affect your company?
role will you play in the decision-making process?
do you feel that the new process is affecting your company’s ability
to meet client requirements?
is preventing your staff from achieving their MBOs?
is the new legislation affecting your group’s performance?
is causing the gap between where you and where you want to be?
questions, on the other hand, enable you to work with the client
towards problem clarification. They allow you to uncover specific
client information. Rather than allowing a customer to provide big
picture answers to your questions, closed situations questions
are very targeted and designed to elicit key data. They are controlled
and focused. Here are some sample questions you can use:
outages happen on a regular basis?
product returns exceeding industry
you feel like your division is hindered by the new procedures?
has your team budgeted for the program?
there a formal bidding process?
the press announcement affect your team’s budget?
offshore development shops
caused problems in the past?
Federal regulations affecting your output?
will work with you to make the final decision?
there be any additional steps in the approval process?
Take some time
to create your own personal list of questions that you can use during
client sales calls. Know your questions well (be sure to bring
a cheat sheet) but be comfortable enough that you can ask spontaneous
questions based on client responses. Keep notes so as to have all
the data you need.
“I Don’t Care” Clients
At some point,
you are going to face a prospect that, frankly, could care less.
They have little motivation and are either comfortable with the
status quo or don’t see any particular advantage to a particular
product or service. Use questions to bring this type of client
out of their shell:
process do you have in place in case your existing system fails?”
you feel like the added performance from the additives won’t provide
the rollout could increase sales by 15%, would that be of interest?
have to make a judgment call based on the person you are dealing
with. Remember what you have learned about personality types to
ask the right questions.