Better Questions = Faster Selling

Hi readers,

This blog is a natural fit after my blog on

After you have suitably warmed a suspect to a prospect, what sort of smart questions do you need to ask such that your sales cycle is reduced and you are able to close a deal at the earliest, at the same time, creating client delight.

I figured that an appropriate example would be just the right thing to explain a suitable line of action that could get you your desired result.

Questions serve three functions in a sales conversation. First, they elicit more information about the prospect, thereby allowing you to learn more about how (and if) you can help. Second, they move the conversation forward, so that you can continue to ask more questions, and learn even more. Third, they help build rapport with the prospect so that you can more easily move the entire sale forward.

With that in mind, the absolute worst kind of questions to ask are those that have a one word , monosyllabic answer. Example:

Sales Rep: What CRM vendor are you currently using?

Prospect: Oracle.

While the above question does elicit information, it does not move the conversation forward. Making the question open-ended does both. Example:

Sales Rep: What was your decision-making process when you selected a CRM vendor?

Prospect: We put together a cross-functional team which looked at different vendors. We decided that Oracle would be the best choice for us.

Sales Rep: What were the most important criteria for the decision-making?

While the above question both elicits information and keeps the conversation moving forward, it would be even more effective if it also helped build rapport with the prospect. The easiest way to do this is to assume that the prospect has something uniquely interesting to say. Example:

Sales Rep: The economy is tough but I’ve read that your company plans to use sales technology to help weather the tough times. How did your team come up with that plan?

Prospect: Well, we’ve been through some similar situations in the past and, when we got early warning that sales might drop…

In the above question, the prospect has essentially been given the permission to brag about his firm and his participation in helping his firm be successful. Since people like talking about themselves and their achievements, the prospect will probably warm to the subject, and the entire conversation will be more productive. And that, in turn, will make the sales cycle faster.

Personally , an eclectic mix of open ended and close ended questions worked best for me during my roles as a solutions sales specialist.

Based on the vertical that you are engaged in and the product or service that you sell, ideally a set of 10 , a mix of open ended as well as close ended questions work best to help you close your sale with your client, and leaving the client feeling that in you he has a friend and consultant for life!!

Happy selling!!

The other 5 reasons that sales hates marketing!

Hi readers,

This is the second part of my blog posted some minutes back…. (Top 5 Reasons Sales hates Marketing)

As promised, this blog covers the other 5 reasons why sales teams hate their marketing counterparts!!

REASON #5: Marketeers pose as “strategists.”

  • Description: Marketeers think they’re “brand managers” who should be directing all activities throughout the company.
  • Why It Rankles: Brand is a reflection of product and service.  If good, the brand is good; if not, the brand is bad.
  • What’s The Cure: Only reward marketeers for behavior that directly results in a measurable increase in revenue and profit.

REASON #4: Marketeers waste resources.

  • Description: Marketeers expend money on fancy brochures, advertisements, and trade show junkets.
  • Why It Rankles: The more money that’s spent on Marketing’s boondoggles, the less money there is to pay commissions.
  • What’s The Cure: Give the sales team veto power over all marketing activities that exceed a fairly small amount of money.

REASON #3: Marketeers pretend they’re engineers.

  • Description: Marketeers try to set the technical direction of the firm’s products and services.
  • Why It Rankles: In most cases, the Marketeers have never even spoken to a customer, so they’re clueless about what they want.
  • What’s The Cure: Let the engineers design the next generation based upon customer input.  Keep marketing out of the picture.

REASON #2: Marketeers force technology on Sales.

  • Description: Marketeers pressure the sales team to enter reams of customer data into the CRM system.
  • Why It Rankles: The sales team knows full well that most of that data isn’t going to help generate more sales.
  • What’s The Cure: Set up your sales tech so that it always increases the amount of time that sales reps can spend selling.

REASON #1: Marketeers pass along lousy leads.

  • Description: Marketeers provide lists of leads that are either unqualified, or unqualifiable.
  • Why It Rankles: When Sales complains, the marketeers make it personal, accusing the sales team of being unable to sell.
  • What’s The Cure: Fire any marketeer who can’t consistently provide leads that the sales team – with its current skill set – can’t sell to.

Well what do you think folks!!

Love to have your views on this and my other posts!!


Top 5 Reasons Sales Hates Marketing

Hi Readers,

This blog covers what often simmers in sales teams of the best organizations….

Sales feels “neglected” when marketing takes all the kudos for the results, and feel singed when they take the heat for results NOT delivered!!

reasons are numerous and in this blog I will take just 5 that I feel are important right now to start this discussion..

REASON #1: Marketeers act superior.

  • Description: Marketeers often have business degrees, so they think they’re better than sales reps who don’t need a degree to sell.
  • Why It Rankles: Business degrees are generally useless when it comes to sales and marketing, since what’s taught is a mix of accounting and biz-blab.
  • What’s The Cure: Require MBAs to spend at least six months in Sales before being allowed to work in Marketing.

REASON #2: Marketeers want to eliminate Sales.

  • Description: Marketeers are taught in business school that good marketing makes a sales force unnecessary.
  • Why It Rankles: Unless a product is a plug-and-play commodity, a sales rep is always a necessity.  Especially in B2B.
  • What’s The Cure: Make it clear in the charter of the marketing team that they are there to support the sales team, not to replace it.

REASON #3: Marketeers believe selling is easy.

  • Description: Marketeers think that they can create so much demand that selling will consist purely of taking orders.
  • Why It Rankles: Most demand creation activities don’t create demand, especially in B2B, where customers generally ignore ads and collateral.
  • What’s The Cure: Have the marketeers make sales calls – or field inside sales calls – so they can see how hard it is.

REASON #4: Marketeers are goaled on deliverables.

  • Description: Marketeers get paid when they produce leads, brochures and ads, even if none of that activity results in a single sale.
  • Why It Rankles: If sales pros don’t make sales, they don’t get paid and, if it goes on long, they get fired.
  • What’s The Cure: Goal and compensate Marketing on the ability of the Sales team to generate revenue and profit from Marketing’s leads.

REASON #5: Marketeers think they’re “driving Sales.”

  • Description: Marketeers see selling as only one tactic in a grandiose strategic campaign.
  • Why It Rankles: Sales reps know that marketing is only a service function to the sales team, which makes the uppity behavior annoying.
  • What’s The Cure: Make it clear that Marketing is subservient to Sales by placing the CMO under the CSO.

Please do post your views on this blog…AND i would love to have comments from both SALES and MARKETING!!

5 MORE reasons to follow …so keep watching this space!!

Do you think that before taking a marketing assignment, the manager needs to spend time in sales?

Hi guys,

This poll is being posted for assessment of 2 topics that I have touched upon in my blogs recently- these topics are

  1. What Every Manager Should Learn From Sales
  2. Top 10 Reasons Sales Hates Marketing

Your inputs will help me develop a much more balanced view point on this subject and to then translate this balance into harmony between sales and marketing functions in silo organization structures.

AND please do post your comments on this as well as other blogs that I have written on this subject- some of these may have been controversial, but its always good to have diverse points of view.

Actually with the diversity of all your view points, I gain much much more and get to learn a new thing every day.

This is part of my promise to my self that I will learn something every new day!!

Are You a Closer? ….some key questions for introspection

Hi readers,

I was often asked by my sales team members – when did you know that you were adept at closing?

I pondered on this question that often stumped me and left me sort of tongue tied for the right words….and then after applying some analysis (that key skill that I apply when targeting a client) I came up with the following

  • #1: How would I rate myself as a closer?  In fact, you probably know, in your gut, whether you’re good a closing business.  A little self-honesty goes a long way when it comes to self-assessment.
  • #2: Am I cultivating the right attitude to close business on a daily basis?  Closing business is about laying the groundwork from the get-go.  If you’re not getting ready to close, you’re not a closer.
  • #3: Am I dependent upon high pressure sales techniques?  If you’re using trick closes and high pressure to try to get business, you’re not a closer, you’re a peddler.  Different thing entirely.
  • # 4: Have I ever delayed closing because I wanted to enjoy the fantasy of getting the business?  This is probably the most common debilitating behavior in sales.  If you’re doing it, stop.  Right now.
  • #5: What would it be worth to me if I could easily and simply close more business?  If you can still  visualize making more money and creating more success, you’re probably not at your peak.  Not yet.

7 Strategies to Build “Negotiating Power”

Hi readers,

Over the last 18 years I have successfully negotiated with a plethora of customers and clients, across verticals and domains, across B2C and B2B businesses, with bosses, with team members, with suppliers and unions and realized that a strategic approach to the business of negotiation serves you best if you wish to “close” the sales engagement.

When negotiating the final terms of any deal, complex or not, many sales pros find themselves in situations where the clients apparently hold all the cards! Now that is not a happy situation to be in at that critical juncture of the sales closure process…

Since you have invested so much to reach this position, chances are that you will have a lot more to lose than your client, if you wish to walk away…and worse….the client knows that…

This is a recipe for a WIN -LOSE outcome , with you on the losing side.

In order to counter this, you may be better served to create a “counter balance”  by developing your “negotiating power” throughout the sales cycle – some strategic initiatives may help you in developing your negotiating power

  • Strategy #1: Eliminate or thwart competitive threats.
    Convince the customer that your product or service is the only one that can adequately fulfill the customer’s needs.
  • Strategy #2. Develop at least three contacts inside the customer firm. Provide perspective to your solution-building process and information about the motivations and politics inside the customer’s firm.
  • Strategy #3. Show the customer your ability to see beyond the obvious.
    The customer can’t know everything about the firm, much less the market, so being an “outsider” gives you the ability to see situations more objectively.
  • Strategy #4. Create the legitimacy that comes from consistency.
    Remain aware of the strengths and limitations of your offerings, adhere to your firm’s policies and procedures, and be willing to explain why they make sense.
  • Strategy #5. Position all interactions in terms of mutual success.
    A productive relationship is based upon mutual respect and understanding, and a sense of working together to achieve mutual goals.
  • Strategy #6.  Generate a solution that matches the customer’s needs.
    Your value to the customer skyrockets when you help the customer to crystallize needs and visualize the right solution.
  • Strategy #7: Differentiate yourself from other sales reps.
    Communicate clearly how you, as an individual, are a unique resource to the customer and use your own unique personality to your advantage.

7 Rules for Great Sales Questions


During my tenure in Africa, I had the opportunity to build a great sales team for a CPG business from scratch. It was incumbent on me to transfer my skill sets in sales to my team and that meant accompanying them on sales calls , especially in the early days of their induction into the team and the function.

They observed and they learnt from me- and now I am sharing this with you all.

7 golden rules …7 rules for asking the right questions that deliver results…with some quick examples

  • Rule #1: They flatter the prospect’s ego without seeming smarmy.
    “Where you did you buy that elegant suit?” 
    “How did you learn so much about this industry so quickly?”
  • Rule #2: They show respect for the prospect’s unique knowledge.
    “What’s the reporting structure of your department?” 
    “What was the thinking behind your organizational structure?”
  • Rule #3: They don’t sound like a question from a job interview.
    “Where did you work before you came here?” 
    “How have you been able to use your experience here?”
  • Rule #4: They provide an opportunity for the prospect to expound.
    “Do you have a budget?” 
    “What’s the process for securing a budget for this type of product?”
  • Rule #5: They provide a change of pace from the prospect’s day-to-day routine.
    “What are your responsibilities in the organization.” 
    “What do you enjoy most about working here?”
  • Rule #6: They provide a smooth launch pad into the next topic.
    “Are my competitors calling on you?”
    “Can you step me through your decision-making process?”
  • Rule #7: They build on something the contact just said.
    “Not to change the subject, but are you interested?” 
    “Based on what you’ve said, how can we best work together?”


3 Qualities a Sales Rep MUST Have


With 18 years of sales management experience under my belt, from India to Africa, across Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Togo, Cameroon etc, I was often asked by young members of my sales team…” what are the 3 top qualities of a sales rep”…and the following I believe are universally relevant, even today. (I dont profess to know the future, and going by the way business eco-systems are evolving , I dare say that this list will undergo a change in some months and I will be happy to see additions or changes to this list!)

  • Empathy: You need to understand customer emotional and financial needs, both as people and as professionals. ( Develop to “see” the business from the other side of the table)


  • Persuasiveness: You need to be able to bring prospects to the realization that buying is in their best interests. (This often calls for developing your technical/analytical skills)


  • Resilience: Being in sales means that you’ll sometimes face rejection, so you need to be able to shrug off such experiences and move on. (Learn from your mistakes and consciously endeavor to not repeat them , and hunt for other leads)