August 28, 2012
The Internet Age has changed sales. Once sales people would tell customers about the bells and whistles of their product or service, and they would neatly hand them a sheet that favorably compared their product to the others on the market. Now, customers search on the product themselves. They can research and compare the product to others and even get opinions from other customers without the aid of a company’s sales person.
So, the role of the sales person has changed somewhat. Now, the sales person is more like a clinical psychologist and the customer the patient on the couch. The sale person is there to help the customer uncover their true problems and help them develop a solution to them.
Uncovering a customer’s problems isn’t easy. For one, you can’t just point them out to them. People have to reach their own conclusions. You can’t convince anyone of anything; all you can do is to provide the information so that they can convince themselves. In the book, Questions That Sell by Paul Cherry, Paul says “You should never point out a problem to your prospects; however, they should discover it for themselves as they reflect on the answers they give to your questions … Most sales people refrain from asking these questions. Why? Because they are afraid of the answers.”
What I have found over the years is the average sales person doesn’t want to have a real dialogue with the customer. They want to give a sales pitch, a one-way presentation of what they have to offer. It’s more of a push sales model. An opened conversation takes them into unfamiliar and potentially troubled waters.
Paul Cherry’s book is fantastic. He covers everything from different types of questions such as questions about the customer’s past, to uncover customer’s problems, to disrupt existing vendor relationships, to strengthen existing customer relationships, to discover more about your customer’s customers, and many others. Even more helpful, Paul explains how to interpret the answers so a sales person can quickly determine a prospect’s true motivations.
An example of the advice in the book is how you don’t want to reinforce your customer’s relationship with their existing vendors by phrasing questions improperly. A sales person should avoid asking, “What do you like about your current vendor?” Instead direct questions to the criteria your customer is using to select a vendor and questions to determine how strong the current vendor relationship is.
This is a book certainly worth reading for entrepreneurs that find themselves in a sales role.
Filed under: Marketing & Sales