It was an 8:30 sales call with a new prospect. I researched the company’s website to see if I can find out a little information about the customer that would give me something to connect with or talk about. In other words- common ground. Always a good place to start. But the thought that runs through my mind is how should I start? Small talk or get right done to business? Will the customer make the first move, or will he let me. We will soon find out.
Have you ever prepared for a sales call by asking yourself who am I meeting with and what can I expect? I think you would agree that in this day and age the internet does give us a huge advantage into finding out more about the person you’re meeting than ever before. You can visit the company’s website or go to LinkedIn and see much of their past work experience, the school they went to and the degree they earned if any.
So why would this information be helpful? The key to any meeting going well is communication. Meetings must start with conversation and if we can navigate a conversation that creates influence and trust we are off to a good start.
That’s what makes Dianna Booher’s latest book What More Can I Say- Why Communication Fails and What to Do About It a must read. The book breaks down nine key points that we must realize when communicating with others. I’d like to address what she addresses when it comes to The Law of Collaboration vs. Monologue.
From my sales experience I believe that the biggest problem sales professionals have is their eagerness and enthusiasm to “talk.” I must admit I love to talk about our products and services and what the benefits can be to the customer. But have you ever asked yourself why you always see those benefits so much more clearly than the customer? Why is that? I believe what Dianna address in this chapter hits the nail on the head.
Dianna says this: “Be known for the questions you ask – not for the answers you give. Questions serve four primary roles in collaboration and persuasion. Statements imply that you have all the answers and will control the interaction. Questions imply that the other person’s input has value and can alter the discussion so that you arrive at a mutually agreeable decision or action.”
The customer has to be influenced to agree with your assertions. In order to accomplish this the customer has to be involved in the dialogue to come to their own conclusions about your products and services. The navigation of the conversation must be mutual and not totally directed or even forced by the sales person. That will never accomplish the goal of positive influence.
Dianna mentions: “As a first step, questions bring to the surface all kinds of information you will need to know in order to change someone’s thinking or behavior: Where do they stand on an issue? What’s important to them? What are their goals? Timelines? Limits? Who’s important to them?”
The second reason to ask questions as Dianna addresses is to discover roadblock and resistance to change. Change can be very disruptive for some customers.
The third reason for questions is that they lead to the conclusion, insight or action you want from the customer. Sales professionals need to understand what the next steps are in the sales process. The only way to move forward is by asking the questions that uncover the action needed to move forward.
Finally the fourth reason to ask questions is to soften commands. “When you push for agreement, the other person typically pushes back. But phrase your suggestion as a question, and the more palatable form is easier to swallow.” Instead of saying “I suggest you sign the agreement today so we can get the system scheduled for shipment”, pose the question “If you are looking to implement this project in March, when are you planning to finalize your evaluation to move forward?”
I highly recommend Dianna’s new book What More Can I Say!