He slid effortlessly into the chair and before I knew it, he had popped open the oyster shell of his laptop and was pointing his screen menacingly in my direction. Uh oh! Slide after powerpoint slide bombarded me with detailed data, specs, diagrams and text information. After 20 minutes he stopped the torture. "Wow", I thought, "he hasn’t managed to ask me even one teensy question during this session of our first meeting". His business card announced he was the Sales Director – that seemed a definite worry if he was responsible for others.
The irony of this sales presentation was that I had requested it. I was in fact, a hot prospect. I had heard his President at a function talking about the new whizbang service their firm offered and I was intrigued. So intrigued, I approached the speaker and asked that he send one of his crew over to see me.
I should have suspected something was amiss though, by the reaction of the President when I made my "visit me" request. Did he become buoyant with anticipation of a sale and reassure me that this product was the best thing since sliced bread? Surprisingly aloof, I found him, in fact almost disinterested. Was this a Nordic thing, I wondered or just his personality? I will never know, but what I did think to myself was, how important it is in sales to be positive and upbeat about your product at all times.
So back at the meeting, after a death of a thousand powerpoints, I miraculously revived myself and questioned the Sales Director. Why? Well despite his incompetence, I still had a need. In the end though, sadly, I was not a buyer.
What could he have done with me? He could have asked me a few questions to ascertain what I was interested in. He could have holstered his weapon before drilling me with detail, dross and pap. Of the ten functionalities of the whizbang, there were only two or three that were of any match with what I needed. We could have dispensed with all the irrelevant detail and gone straight to the finish line with the "hotties". We could have spent the bulk of our time talking about the aspects which were most likely to lead to a sale.
Reading this little vignette, I hope you take immediate action and check whether your crew are any better at questioning than this guy? Don’t assume that they have a sales process in place. Are they spending the bulk of the client interface time, laser focused on where they have the greatest likelihood of success?
If they are a bunch of "tellers", then here is a simple questioning step formula that will help your crew get to the heart of the matter and uncover where they can be of the most assistance to the client. Start with either where the client is now or where they want to be – it doesn’t really matter which one you ask first. This is because we are trying to understand how big is the gap between "As Is" and "Should Be". By the way, unless the sense of immediacy about closing that gap is there, then there will probably be "no sale" today. Clients are never on the salesperson’s schedule and will take no action, unless they clearly understand there is a benefit to doing so.
Having plumbed the parameters of the current and ideal situation, next enquire about why they haven’t fixed the issue already. This is an excellent Barrier Question and depending on the answer, you might be the solution to fix what they cannot.
Finally, check on how this would help them personally – what is the Payoff? They may need this fix to keep their job, hit their targets, get a bonus, get a promotion, feel job satisfaction, rally the troops – there are a myriad of potential motivators.
Why would that particular question be important? When we come to explain the solution to the problem, being able to address their closely held personal win, helps to make the solution conversation more real and relevant.
If my sales slideshow maestro had applied some of these basics, he may have had a sale that day. He was in his forties, so one can expect that he has probably been repeating this same flawed performance for decades. Adding it all up, the total amount of lost sales over that period would be mind boggling. Such a shame really and so unnecessary. If you want to see revenues go up, get your people asking clients questions, before they mention anything else. Do this one simple thing and watch the difference.