Category Archives: Consultative Selling
The three strongest words to begin good open-ended questions are what, why, and how. I discussed this in my previous post: Generate Deeper Sales Dialogues with Strong Open-ended Questions.
Now, I want to share another tool to help you develop your questioning strategy — directive statements. These are statements that don’t end in a question mark, yet they draw the buyer into sharing more information with you. Try mixing these directive statements with good open-ended questions to get your buyer talking.
Tell me about “Tell me about your decision-making process.” “Tell me about your top two concerns when it comes to X.” Please describe “Please describe the rationale for putting this out to bid this year.” “Please describe the different criteria that you will measure this decision against.” Share with me “Share with me what you’re looking for in a financial advisor.” “Share with me management’s top initiatives for this year.” Help me understand “Help me understand why you are shopping the business around at this point in time.” “Help me understand the two biggest issues that are preventing you from moving this forward.”
There is one nuance to this approach. Make sure not to sabotage these directive statements.
It is: “Tell me about …” Not: “Could you tell me about …”
It is: “Please describe …” Not: “Will you please describe …”
It is: “Share with me …” Not: “Would you share with me …”
It is: “Help me understand » Continue Reading.
When it comes to planning a questioning strategy, this is my philosophy: It is OK to ask people questions; it is not OK to question them.
What’s the difference? If the police show up at your door, put you in handcuffs, guide you to the backseat of their patrol car, and take you to the station, they’re going to question you. More to the point, they’re going to interrogate you.
When people feel questioned, they feel interrogated. It doesn’t matter if it happens at the police station or in their own office by a sales professional.
If, instead, people are asked questions, a dialogue can begin.
One of the more effective ways to generate dialogue is through the use of open-ended questions. These are the type that allows the customer or prospect to participate, engage, and elaborate in a discussion. Open-ended questions get customers talking and sharing information vs. feeling like the sales professional is drilling and grilling them.
Remember, we are all human beings, and human beings look for two things in an interaction. We want to be listened to, and we want to be understood. If I am a buyer, and I feel listened to and understood, then I will repay the favor and listen to what you have to say about your product, your service, and how you think that you can help me. So, if you want to ask me questions, first, let me talk » Continue Reading.
But, Did Your Follow-up Ruin the Deal?
As CEO of Richardson, I head an organization focused on helping other organizations improve their sales execution. And, as a CEO, I am continually the target of prospecting calls and e-mails by sales professionals who base their approach solely on my position.
In my two previous posts — So, You Want to Sell to the C-suite? and So, You Got in to See the CEO. — I shared reflections on what works and what doesn’t. Now, I want to talk about the sales dialogue itself and follow-up.
Gaining access to the C-suite is not an invitation to launch into a soliloquy where you talk entirely about yourself and your organization. You’re there to start a relationship, and what goes a long way in building relationships is making the prospect feel truly heard. In our time-tested and proven Richardson consultative selling methodology-speak, listening is one of the Six Critical Skills in selling. Simply put, listening is the ability to concentrate on meaning, and when listening at the highest level, you are fully engaged and fostering effective sales dialogue.
As a proponent of the importance of listening in the sales process, I expect sellers to focus on what I say and to be attentive. If you’ve gotten my time, don’t miss the chance to actively listen to the information I am providing you. Too often, I am surprised by » Continue Reading.
In my previous post, Confessions of an Old-school Sales Professional, I discussed several different selling styles — charismatic, technical, aggressor, and consultative — which may be known by a variety of names.
Many sales professionals find themselves stuck in a particular style of selling. I was one more at home with a charismatic approach and, sometimes, a technical approach. I had my share of successes, but I also saw a number of opportunities vanish just when I thought they should be closing. I began to see the limitations of my narrow go-to selling styles, and I wondered how much more growth I could experience by expanding the tools to my skills toolkit. Moving beyond my comfort zone took some doing, so I thought I would share some tips in this post.
The first step to shift your selling style is awareness. You need to become clear on where you tend to live in terms of approach by identifying your default style. Do you focus more on relationships? On technical knowledge? On pushing clients to consider new ideas? Assess where you are and how well your current approach works for you. Think about your successes, and why they have worked. Remember the deals that you couldn’t close, and be honest about the reasons of why they slipped away.
Then, do a gap analysis. What might you have done differently that could have changed the outcome of that opportunity? What different skills » Continue Reading.
Confessions of an Old-school Sales Professional
When I look back over my sales career, I realize that I mainly operated as a relationship-based seller. I had my share of successes with this approach, but I also saw a number of opportunities vanish just as they should be closing.
In one particular instance, I invested 18 months in building a great relationship with a client. At the eleventh hour, as the deal was set to close, it was pulled out from under me. Why? My main contact wasn’t the one who made the buying decision; it was her boss. I had been so embedded in my relationship that I developed a blind spot about considering other people who might ultimately be the decision-makers.
My biggest mistake was believing in old-school sales training, which taught the value of creating a connection with people, because, “if they like you, they will buy from you.” Today, with the knowledge of hindsight, I offer this addendum: It’s not enough to rely on just your interpersonal skills, staying in the opening phase of the sales process, when establishing relationships are key. Too many things can happen to derail the sale, so don’t put all your eggs in the one basket of relationships.
There are several other baskets of sales approaches and, as I’ve come to learn, those that are too narrowly focused can create undue risk of lost sales.
Charismatic: This is the relationship approach. » Continue Reading.
Winning Sales Approach – Asking vs. Telling
Over the past year, I’ve been involved in a number of significant sales training initiatives at Richardson with companies that had first invested heavily in other types of sales performance improvement programs. Each had been trying to make fundamental changes in their sales approach to match the constantly evolving B2B buying environment.
As one of our clients, a recently relayed chemical distribution company’s salespeople had taken another flavor of sales training, and while they liked the training, there was no sustainment of the learning. They weren’t using their new skills or changing their behaviors. Implementation and execution had suffered, and so they approached Richardson for sales training in blocking-and-tackling skills that could help in delivering the expected results.
When I have asked other clients about their experiences and why they’re interested in Richardson’s Consultative Selling Skills, they say things like this: “My guys have been trying to provoke new thinking and ideas, but they don’t have the credibility. They’re 24-years-old and trying to tell executives how they should run their business instead of asking good questions and establishing a meaningful dialogue. They just end up sounding arrogant.”
Age isn’t the issue here; it’s strategy and preparation. At Richardson, we believe that the strategy of telling vs. asking, especially without the proper preparation, can chill many deals. We are, after all, human beings, and we typically prefer a dialogue over monologue.
A consultative selling strategy » Continue Reading.
Creating a compelling Case Against No Action is Critical in Closing a Deal. Learn 3 Sales Closing Techniques to Help Clients and Prospects Get More Invested So It Feels you’re Closing the Deal Together
One of the skills we reinforce and model during Richardson sales training sessions is the Close: asking for the business or next steps to maintain momentum on sales opportunities. This is something sales professionals struggle with, as do clients who don’t want to be pressured into making buying decisions.
That’s why getting clients invested in the Close early on in the sales process is so important.
How this plays out is a lesson in role play — not the kind we do in our training sessions but in adopting different roles depending on the sales scenario.
Here are three sales closing techniques and roles for getting clients invested in the Close:
Be a cheerleader. Early in a sales call, talk to the person about desired results. Learn what is important to them both professionally and personally. With that information, you can become a cheerleader giving them a pep talk. “You are in a position where this could be career defining for you. Have you ever thought of it this way?” Then paint a picture with examples and evidence to support this statement. People who are fortunate enough to be leading these kinds of projects have the opportunity to make an impact in a meaningful » Continue Reading.
Best Sales Questions that Work
You may love watching police dramas on TV, but a good salesperson never recreates the interrogation room in a prospect’s office.
The foundation of a good sales questioning strategy is creating a well-paced dialogue based on asking open-ended questions.
Here is a list of questions that I typically draw on in developing my pre-call strategy. They can be easily honed for specific situations and are intended to draw the other person into a meaningful conversation.
What is the opportunity?
What is the initiative we’re here to talk about today? Why is now the right time for this initiative? What is the driving force behind this initiative?
What are the expectations?
How will you recognize or define success? What changes do you want to see in your organization? What do you want your people to be doing differently How do you see this working within your organization? What are the roadblocks? Are there any champions or other stakeholders with an interest in this initiative?
What are the circumstances?
How have you been addressing this issue? What is your time frame for getting started? What does your decision-making process look like, and who will be involved? What are next steps and your time frames for implementation? When can we schedule time for a presentation to all of the decision makers?
Who else is in the running?
Who else are you considering » Continue Reading.