Category Archives: sales dialogue
Building rapport is a fundamental component of any client or prospect interaction. However, it still tends to get overlooked, even though it is a key element in establishing and expanding relationships. Rapport is the first step in Relating, which with Presence, Questioning, Listening, Positioning, and Checking, forms Richardson’s Six Critical Skills for effective client dialogues.
Building rapport is where sales professionals break the ice with prospects. Because this is often associated with chitchat and social graces, few sales professionals really prepare when building rapport. They take the Popeye approach: “I yam what I yam.” As a result, they miss the opportunity to differentiate themselves and make an important connection.
Building rapport with a sales prospect can be established or thwarted in minutes. And, contrary to popular belief, it is not all about being warm and fuzzy. Sometimes you are able to break that wall down, and sometimes you cannot, but I always try. It can be difficult when you don’t have a genuine connection with clients. How many times are you going to talk about the weather? You also don’t want to sound bored or like you are faking conversation.
This does not mean that without rapport, you will never win the business. It just makes interactions more difficult or awkward. You risk not having a champion, so there will be no one to advocate for you on the client side.
How do you win over clients if » Continue Reading.
In Part I of this series, I focused on the strategy of questioning skills — the “what” to ask. In Part II, we’ll move on to the best way of asking sales questions — the “how.” The elements involve proper empathy, pacing, and back-and-forth dialogue.
The objective is to have a two-way dialogue with the client so that the meeting doesn’t feel like an interrogation. The skills for achieving this include acknowledging, little nods, and paraphrasing back — “If I hear right, Mr. Client, what you’re saying is …” You become an active listener, being there in the moment instead of thinking about your next question or your next meeting. You demonstrate empathy.
I’ll share a true example of how not to do it. This comes from the time of the global financial crisis when a salesperson meeting with a client began the conversation by asking, “How’s business?” He said it more as a throwaway icebreaker as he was getting himself settled. The client was an entrepreneur who had grown the business to several hundred employees, including family members. The client responded, “To be honest, this has been the toughest of my 20-plus years in business. I nearly lost everything. I couldn’t even sleep at night, thinking about the impact losing the business would have on my family and employees.”
How did the salesperson respond? He said, “Oh OK, so what I wanted to talk to you about today was …” » Continue Reading.
In Part I of this series, I talked about the changing sales environment and how more buyers are buying than being sold. As a result, salespeople need to dig deep into buying motives to establish credibility and provide new ideas and insights to buyers.
One of the techniques that I used in my 30-year career in sales, including 15 years as a senior vice president of sales in the IT services industry, was to conduct a targeted dialogue with buyers. I would start by asking them to tell me about their top ten customers:
What are the common themes among their largest customers? Why do their customers continue to buy from them? Is it because of long-standing relationships, customer service, speed to market, or any other specific advantage? On the negative side, what about the top ten customers that left to go with a competitor? Are there any common themes among those who are gone?
Even though most buyers could not give good answers about their customers, I was able to gain credibility and position myself as a business partner who could provide value.
For me, it’s all about research and sales preparation before meeting with buyers. First, you have to know where they’re coming from, what’s going on with their company, who their competitors are, what markets they’re actively going after, and what the common problems are associated with these markets. You have to learn so much about » Continue Reading.
Moving Beyond Price: Differentiating Yourself through a Consultative Selling Approach
When we interview our clients to learn why they picked us for a sales training solution, the reason we hear given most often isn’t what you might expect. Although we offer comprehensive sales solutions, exceptional customization capabilities, outstanding facilitators, and many other tangible strengths, the reason we hear the most is that “you were the best fit.” When we look further into that answer, we usually hear phrases, such as “you really got our business and our culture” and “we had confidence in your ability to deliver what we need.” In a time when buyers have instant access to volumes of information at their fingertips, soft factors still matter. They can matter a lot.
As a sales professional, you work in a world where your competitors may be able to match you in price, product quality, and even features. So, how do you convince a potential client to buy from you? You must use a consultative selling approach to help differentiate your solution and yourself from your competitors. You don’t just offer yourself as someone who can supply good solutions; you offer yourself as someone who is fully vested in the client’s success, not just someone trying to sell to the client. You strive to be the best “fit.”
So, how do you become the best fit? This process starts with preparation before the conversation. You need to identify the decision makers » 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 as » Continue Reading.
The Best Sales Questions to Engage Your Prospects
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin
Salespeople who call on prospects or clients without well-researched, well-prepared sales questions to ask are likely to walk away knowing little more than when they began.
The four main objectives in any initial sales dialogue should be these:
To establish yourself as a credible professional and partner by being prepared and thoughtful in the sales questions that you ask To seek to understand the prospect’s current situation, which includes an effort to validate what you’ve researched or the assumptions that you’ve made To uncover a broader and deeper range of information, from strategic objectives to immediate business needs To seed new ideas to either influence or disrupt the prospect’s current thinking Asking Open Ended Sales Questions
With those four objectives firmly in mind, your next step is to develop a series of open-ended questions that you will ask to engage clients in a meaningful dialogue. Sequence your sales prospecting questions to create a flow. Forget about yes-or-no sales questions. Don’t provide multiple-choice answers. You want each question to elicit a thoughtful answer from the prospect’s or client’s point of view.
What is the initiative we’re here to talk about today? What is the driving force behind this initiative? Why is now the right time for this initiative? How will you » Continue Reading.
Building Rapport with WIIFO, not WIIFM
Salespeople can spend a lot of time on the road, traveling to meetings or client presentations. Thoughts naturally wander to internal dialogue: “How am I going to meet my goals?” or, “What’s in it for me?” — known as the shorthand, WIIFM.
When you get stuck in WIIFM, you’re not as “other” oriented as you should be. Building rapport is much easier and successful when you focus on what’s in it for others (WIIFO).
In conversation, focusing too much on your own thoughts and what you’ll say next stands in the way of personal connection and rapport. It is better to come to the discussion well versed on the area that you’re addressing and then to have that conversation with a nonjudgmental, open mind.
Consider the Buddhist parable of the empty cup. You can come into a conversation so full of information that nothing more gets in, just as pouring tea into an already full cup causes it to spill over. But, if you are ready to listen, becoming an “empty cup,” you can receive more than you came with.
Building rapport happens when there’s real openness about what is actually going on in the moment between you and the other person. You’re not talking to an organization, but an individual — a person, a human being — who is largely an emotional being. So, if you’re not connecting at an emotional » Continue Reading.
Maintaining the Sales Machine
In their November 2013 Harvard Business Review article Dismantling the Sales Machine Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, and Nicholas Toman of the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) assert that “Leaders must abandon their fixation on (sales) process compliance.” In place of “disciplined sales process” they favor a flexible approach to sales in which salespeople rely on their own insight and judgment. That they find sales process discipline and a sales force capable of insight and judgment incompatible seems untenable.