Effective Sales Questions that get results!

Hi readers,

This blog follows the other topics on which I have written about in the past weeks.

During the training programs that I attended and conducted over the last 18 years, I was often asked, and I myself asked of my trainers- which are the best questions to ask your clients/customers, so that the response meets your key objectives in the sales process?

By compiling elements that I learnt through class room training, numerous Rank Xerox PPS (Professional Selling Skills) programs and field sales experience I have come up with the following questions that I believe are effective , cutting across domains and verticals.

While these questions are primarily derived from my experience with B2B clients, I suspect that they will prove to be just as effective in the B2G  ( Business to Government) business eco-systems. ( Let me have your views as I have no understanding of this space)

Here are the fourteen absolutely indispensable questions ( power tools)  that should be in every sales rep’s bag of tricks:

  1. What can you tell me about your organization… and yourself?
  2. What do you like about what you’re currently doing?
  3. What don’t you like about your current situation?
  4. What would you like to be enhanced or improved?
  5. What can you tell me about your priorities?
  6. What prompted you to start this project now?
  7. What can you tell me about your decision-making process?
  8. How do you handle budget considerations?
  9. What other options are you looking at?
  10. What can you tell me about the people involved in the process?
  11. What obstacles are in the way of moving this forward?
  12. How will you be evaluating different options?
  13. How will the funding for the project be justified?
  14. How much support does this have at the executive level?

According to me –

Get the answers to these questions, and take action based on those answers, and you’ll get the sale. It’s that simple.

This is based on the KISS principle- Keep it simple and sweet!

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The True Meaning of B2B Sales in the Solutions Marketing context

Hi readers,

My understanding of Solutions Sales in a B2B business has been enhanced considerably after my MBA program where I had taken Solutions Marketing as one of my key electives.

Based on my experience in B2B solution sales of 18 years and contemporary coursework in Solutions Marketing taught by Prof. Stephen Hurley, I am sharing what I believe is the essence of B2B sales in a Solutions marketing context.

B2B sales, as I was taught, and which I have practiced  is heavily dependent on an ROI analysis. The numbers used in the ROI analysis are the customer’s numbers, gathered through effective questioning.

(NOTE-2 key skills MUST HAVEs for a successful solutions sales professional- Financial analysis capability AND Interviewing /researching skills)
I taught my B2B sales people to look for ways of contributing to the prosperity of their customers’ business in five key areas: (1) sales, (2) employee or process productivity, (3) profits, (4) competitive advantage, and (5) cost control…If a B2B salesperson is talking about anything other than those five issues they are probably wasting their time and their customer’s time.

(NOTE- Keeping a focus on issues that are top priority for your client is key to success, otherwise there is the real danger to scatter your thoughts and energy all over the place and end up delivering nothing to your client, and certainly losing your incentives!!)

The five elements, mentioned above are interesting because they’re a map of what most companies think are important — and therefore provide hooks for B2B selling. 

I claim that there are only important two (2) goals inside every company: 1) increasing sales revenue and 2) decreasing cost of sales.  

To illustrate this point, let’s look at the five elements mentioned earlier

  1. Sales.  Nobody wants to decrease their sales, so this element is simply a restatement of the goal to increase sales revenue.
  2. Employee/Process Productivity.   Increased productivity decreases the cost of doing business, thereby decreasing the cost of sales.  If you increase productivity somewhere in a company in such a way that it increases the cost of sales, you’re decreasing profitability, which is stupid.
  3. Profits.  Increased revenue and decreased profitability means more profit, by definition.
  4. Competitive Advantage.  Any one can beat a competitor by giving away more value for less money; the trick is to grow at the competitor’s expense and still remain profitable.  Therefore, competitive advantage consists entirely of increasing revenues while either decreasing the cost of sales or keeping them stable.  Even product development (like building a better mousetrap) is actually just a way to increase revenues by making more sales.
  5. Cost Control.  You’d have to be an imbecile to control costs in one part of company in a way that ends up increasing the cost of sales and/or decreasing revenue.  Therefore, the only meaningful cost control consists of decreasing the cost of sales.

To repeat, there are only two (2) things important in a company: 1) increasing sales revenue and 2) decreasing cost of sales.

Therefore, if your B2B offering, through a solutions sales proposal,  focuses on helping your customer do either of those two things, you’ve got something that’s worth buying.

And if your product does both of those things, you’ve got a real winner.

So, in order to help you succeed in your product driven solutions sales efforts, you need to brush up your solutions marketing skills!!

Three Key Changes That Drive Sales Success

Hi Readers,

During my roles in solutions sales B2B businesses, I was often asked by my team members about my mantra for success.

My answer , based on my analysis, was the following- make 3 critical changes in the way you engage with your clients, internalise these changes, and you will have been served well .

These 3 changes that I mention are-

  • CHANGE #1: Describe what you’re selling as a “verb” rather than a “noun.” For example, suppose you’re selling for an industrial glue manufacturer. If you think that your job is to sell “glue” (a noun), you’ll talk to the customer about product features.  If you think your job is to sell “gluing” (a verb), you will tend to uncover your customer’s gluing needs.  Then you can show your offering can fulfill that need.

Another example that I can give here is when I was selling packaging solutions- I would never go and tell my client that I am selling packaging, BUT that I was selling his brand , profitably. This sort of had “shock value” in a market, where all my competitors, were selling packaging, and I was the only exception, selling my client’s brand and that too with a profit- therefore the engagement became more of a solution as opposed to a me-too, product, competing on price. Needless to say that my rate of client conversion was way higher than that of my competitors! Now think of applying that to chemicals industry…that’s another story folks!

 

  • CHANGE #2: Think about selling as helping the customer rather than making a sale. To do this, you simply expunge from your mental vocabulary the standard ways of describing sales process, like “convincing,” “persuading,” and “overcoming.”  Instead, you reframe the selling process of visualizing, with the customer, how (if they had your product) their problems might be solved and their goals achieved.

Guys, if you want to stand out from the crowd of other sales reps in the market, you seriously need to develop superior, communication skills to begin with, and slowly easing into story telling skills, using both visual as well as non visual formats to tell your story to your client- this follows from the change # 1 that I spoke of earlier. First use the change#1, and then follow up by using story telling skills to make a lasting impact.

 

  • CHANGE #3. Consider a sales call successful even when you don’t make a sale. Many salespeople get so caught up in “winning” that they foist unwanted products onto the customer. Rather than adopting a dogged determination to make the sale, make it clear — first in your own head and then directly to the customer –  that you’re more than willing to leave if you can’t actually help the customer.

This comes from having a  high EQ. Simple.

Secret enemy numero uno ( Number 1) of success in sales

Hi readers,

Thanks for your active interest in my blogs, especially the ones dealing with descriptions of the top 5 secret enemies that hamper our performance in sales.

By now you all have read about the enemy number 5, number 4, number 3 and number 2….and I am sure that you are waiting with bated breath to know about the last one, enemy number 1.

So without further ado, let me introduce him to you folks in sales.

drum roll please………

Secret enemy number 1 in my list is….YOU

  • Typical Job Titles: Sales Rep, Sales Associate, Sales Agent, etc.
  • Distinguishing Characteristic: You haven’t taken the time and trouble fully develop your sales skills, attitude, business acumen, etc.
  • Why You’re Your Own Worst Enemy: Your sales success is up to you, regardless of what problems or enemies you face on a day-to-day basis.
  • How You Screw Yourself: Endless ways. You talk to customers more than you listen, you fail to prepare for customer meetings, you don’t follow-through on commitments, etc., etc., etc.
  • How To Cope With Your Limitations: Overcome them!  Decide, right here and now, that you won’t be satisfied with ANYTHING less than the absolute BEST that you can be.  Make a commitment and then take action.  You know what to do!
  • Warning: If you actually make that commitment and take action, none of the other four enemies can possibly prevent you from becoming wildly successful in Sales!!!

Guys I have been my own enemy in the early days of my career as a sales pro.

I would like to take you guys to my earlier blogs on how best to improve yourself and empower yourself to become top notch sales pros and never ever become your worst enemy!!

Secret enemy number 3 of your success in sales …

Hi readers,

This is the 3rd part of my series…secret enemies of sales pros…

this follows part 1 https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/secret-enemy-number-1-of-your-success-in-sales-2/

and part 2 https://ashishtandon.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/secret-enemy-number-2-of-your-sales-success/

Any guesses on who this enemy is?

Hint- Marketing GURU, the next Philip Kotler ( aka MAD MAN !!)

  • Typical Job Titles: Chief Marketing Officer, Vice President of Marketing, Marketing Manager, etc.
  • Distinguishing Characteristic: He thinks that marketing “drives” sales or that sales is just the operative arm of a marketing campaign.
  • Why He’s Your Enemy: He adds to the cost of sales, but adds nothing of value to the sales process.
  • How He Screws You Up: He spends big money on product videos and brochures full of biz-blab that makes customers roll their eyes.

Since I have managed roles of sales head and CMO over the last 18 years, I can take liberty to paint marketing folks as villains!!

 

Secret enemy number 2 of your sales success ….

Hi there,

Just couldn’t pull myself away from the laptop to get this down to you folks…thought it best to keep the momentum going!

The second character who is our secret enemy number 2 is this guy we all know too well…

(Hint- he sits on our monthly expense reports)

THE BEANCOUNTER

  • Typical Job Titles: Chief Financial Officer, Chief Efficiency Officer, Head Accountant, etc.
  • Distinguishing Characteristic: Obsessive concern for saving money no matter how much it costs to do so.
  • Why He’s Your Enemy: He views sales is an expense rather than the core of the business.
  • How He Screws You Up: He devises rules and regulations that make it nearly impossible to sell.  Example: cutting travel budgets for reps covering the entire Eastern seaboard.
  • How To Cope With Him: Calmly point out the revenue and profit impact of the “cost savings.”  Be sure to have a spreadsheet to prove your point.
  • Warning: If you get frustrated, you’ll only encourage him.  He feels that if he’s not making you miserable, he’s not doing his job.

Secret enemy number 1 of your success in sales..

Hi readers,

I shall be writing about 5 people who are secret enemies of your success as a sales pro.

This should be quite an interesting read and I would welcome inputs from you on other enemies who impair our work in the field!!

SECRET ENEMY NUMBER 1-

THE BRAINIAC

  • Typical Job Titles: Chief Technical Officer, Head Engineer, Chief Programmer, etc.
  • Distinguishing Characteristic: He’s so proud of his technical achievement that he can’t imagine that a customer might not be automatically impressed.
  • Why He’s Your Enemy: He thinks that products sell themselves and therefore sales pros are parasites.
  • How He Screws You Up: When he meets customers, he does a memory dump of the internal product workings, and then treats them like idiots if they don’t understand what he’s talking about.
  • How To Cope With Him: Keep him away from your customers!!  If you can’t avoid such contact, prep up your customers ahead of time so that they don’t take him too seriously.
  • Warning: Will badmouth you mercilessly if you dare to question his technical opinions.

How was this for a start!