Three Questions that Capture Your Customer’s Attention

By Stu Stu SchlackmanSchlackman

You may be asking yourself, “Why didn’t I get the follow-up meeting with that recent prospect?” You asked all the right questions and got the answers you needed to qualify them. You had their budget, knew their goals and needs, and their timeframe to make the decision. You knew who the decision maker was, were keenly aware of your competitors that were in play, and felt that you had the perfect solution to meet their needs.

So why didn’t it work out?

Unfortunately this happens to many sales professionals, yet only one will earn the customer’s business. While you may be asking good questions, you may not be asking the right questions. You want to ask the type of questions that make the customer take notice of who you are and what you have to offer. What makes them pay attention to you? What are the questions that get the customer to say “Tell me more”?

Customers get bored when you ask the basic surface questions. These are the questions that you need to have answered to better understand the customer’s situation and so that your solution can be positioned to meet the customer’s needs. Customers already know their situation. They want to know what makes you different from the pack, and how you can help them in a way that provides value that no one else can deliver.

And remember, the last thing your prospects want on a first appointment is a presentation! This meeting is not about you and what you offer. It should be all about your customer and how you can help them meet and exceed their needs and achieve their goals and objectives. Customers want the conversation to be all about them. In other words let them talk—you should be listening!

So what are the questions you should ask? Think about it this way: customers engage best when they are asked specific and targeted questions that pique their interest and highlight the consequences of unsolved issues. There are three critical types of questions you need to ask to build momentum and ensure that you get the next meeting.

1) What are the Issues? To build the critical trusting relationship, you need to understand what’s really going on. Ask them, “What issues are you facing that most need to be resolved?” Do not start by asking what type of solution they are looking for or how much they will spend; instead, aim to learn where they are experiencing pain? How bad is the pain, and how long has it been going on? The best sales people dig deep when it comes to understanding customer issues. You can further understand the pain by asking “why” questions. When you ask “why,” you’re bringing the customer into the past, which allows them to elaborate on what happened in the first place.

2) What is the Cause? Ask them, “How long have you been having this issue? Is it getting better or worse? Do you have any thoughts on why?” These probing questions will demonstrate that you are truly interested in understanding their situation to the fullest extent. It means that you are building credibility with the customer and showing them that you care. This approach takes the conversation to a better level of understanding and often they will even discover something they hadn’t seen before. Helping your customers understand the cause of their issue helps you understand which solutions to offer—when appropriate— and helps them to think through the situation.

3) What is the Impact? Impact questions help to create a sense of urgency about the issue. Now that you more fully understand the problem and how it was caused, it’s time to talk about the possible impact on the business. Ask them, “How do you think this issue is having an impact on productivity, customer service, revenues or operating expenses?” When you can help them understand the impact, they are one step closer to taking action in your direction.

When the customer sees the impact of their issues in multiple areas, we can start to create a viable solution. You can start to help them see the future in a positive light by asking “what” questions. “What” questions focus on the possibilities. Now you can work with customer as a partner since you have a solid understanding of their issues, how they came about and how their affecting the business.

Good selling is all about going below the surface by asking thoughtful, probing questions that help to uncover the key issues, the root causes, and finally the impact that their most painful issues can have on their business. As the saying goes, “If you ask better questions, you’ll get better answers.” The best sales professionals have great skill in asking the more significant thought-provoking questions that make a difference in the customer dialogue.

Prepare to ask questions that your customers will pay attention to and you will be much closer to building the kind of relationships that will lead to more closed sales.

Good selling!

Stu Schlackman is a sales expert, accomplished speaker and the author of Four People You Should Know and Don’t Just Stand There, Sell Something. With over twenty-five years of success in the sales landscape, Stu provides his clients and audiences with the wisdom, techniques, and practical advice to compete and win in business and in life. For more information about Stu, please visit www.stuschlackman.com.

8 Tips to Make Your Sales Message Memorable

By Patricia Fripp

Patricia FrippSome salespeople are silly enough to think that if they talk longer, they add more value or get their point across more effectively. Actually, any prospect or potential buyer you ask is eager for your pitch to be presented as efficiently and memorably as possible.

Here are eight tips to make your message memorable.

1. Build Rapport: In order to build rapport with your prospect, you need to connect emotionally and intellectually. Think of it this way: Logic makes you think; emotion makes you act. You connect intellectually with your logical argument through specifics and statistics, perhaps with charts and diagrams. You connect emotionally through eye contact, stories, content that creates a visual in the buyer’s mind, and with you-focused rather than I-focused language. This is incredibly important if you want to sell your ideas, a product, or a service.

2. Make Your Message Sound Valuable: How valuable does your message sound? Here’s another way to look at it. Rehearse your sales presentation, and time it. Or, if it is very important, consider transcribing it. Just for fun, consider the financial impact of your proposal or the investment of your prospect, and divide by the length of your presentation. This gives you a dollar value for your words.

3. Remove Fluff and Fillers: Naturally you want to remove all the unnecessary fluff and fillers. For example, avoid clichés like “Each and every one of you in the room.” How often have you heard a salesperson say those nine unnecessary words? When your message is clear and concise, divide the number of words by the amount of time needed to deliver your presentation. You will notice how much more valuable each word has become. Make every word count!

Here is a real-life example: Barbara was a sales manager at a convention hotel in a major metropolitan city. A professional association was debating whether to bring their convention to the city. Barbara was a great salesperson one-on-one, but she was facing a group sales presentation. “I’m very nervous,” she confessed to herself, “How do I sell to so many people?”

Thinking through the eight tips she’d read, her internal conversation went something like this:

4. “How Much Time Do You Have?” “Eight minutes.”

5. “Who Is In Your Audience?” “A convention committee from the association. About ten people.”

6. “What Is Your Key Idea?” “What are you actually selling?”

“Well,” realized Barbara, “It isn’t my hotel, because if they come to this city they’ll definitely use our hotel. I guess I’m selling the city, because they are seriously considering a nearby town, too.”

Then she asked herself a question that rarely is asked: “How much is it worth to my hotel if I get their business?”

“Half a million dollars,” she knew.

So, she grabbed her calculator. “Let’s see. Half a million dollars divided by eight minutes. That’s $1,041.66 a second, even when you pause.”

Thinking back on her old opening, Barbara took a deep breath and began, “Well, ladies and gentlemen, I hope you’re enjoying our hospitality.

I know . . . ,” and she was off on a stream of platitudes.

7. Don’t Be Polite; Get to the Point: “That’s polite,” she thought when she finished, “and that’s not a bad habit, but I don’t have much time. They know who I am because I’ve been entertaining them. They know where they are. Make it about them.”

So, Barbara revamped her opening to this: “Welcome, and thank you for the opportunity to host you. In the next eight minutes, you are going to discover why the best decision you can make for your members and your association is to bring your convention to this city and this hotel.”

That is you or yours seven times and one hotel.

Then she said, “The other city is a magnificent destination, and you should definitely go there in the future. However, this year you should come to this city because . . . “Then she listed the specific reasons.

This is an emotional opening because it’s youfocused. And since you never knock your competition, it’s smart to acknowledge that the other city is fabulous. You’ve connected emotionally with your audience, and the logical specifics connect you intellectually.

You may argue that those polite opening comments are necessary because the audience is still settling down and not focused on you. This may be true, but don’t let it be an excuse. Go to the front of the room, and wait until you have their attention, maintaining a strong, cheerful gaze and willing them to be silent. If needed, state the opening phrase of your comments, and then pause until all eyes are focused on you, awaiting the rest of the sentence.

8. Logic Cells, but Close on Emotion: Continue your presentation with logical incentives, but end with emotion. Remember that last words linger, and your goal is to be memorable.

Barbara closed with this, “Imagine years from now when your attendees are sitting around a convention lobby reminiscing about the best conventions they’ve ever attended, and they talk about their experiences in this city at this hotel. And you’ll know you were part of that experience because you were on the planning committee.”

You now have eight tips that add value to your words and make your message memorable. Use Barbara’s model of how to connect emotionally in the beginning and end of a presentation and connect intellectually in between. Plus, you will be making your words sound more valuable.

Good luck! Persuasive presentations give you a competitive edge.

When your sales must be successful Patricia Fripp can help. She is a Hall of Fame keynote speaker, executive speech coach, sales presentation skills, and on-line training expert. Patricia is also a subject matter expert for Continuing Education at XTRACredits. For more information www.frippvt.com.

Is Procrastination Good for Sales People?

By Stu Schlackman

Stu SchlackmanRemember those good ole days back in college when you knew you had finals lurking just a couple of weeks away and you committed to study a little bit each night? You promised to be disciplined and not wait to cram everything in at the last minute. And what happened? Sure enough, finals week was staring you right in the face. The proverbial all-nighter is inevitable. You are now cramming for exams and scrambling to finish your projects.

Panic sets in and you wonder how you let this happen swearing that you would be disciplined as the semester was ending.

Why do so many people wait to the last minute? Why don’t they spread their workload out over a realistic timeframe? The bottom line? We procrastinate!

Many can relate to this. Procrastination is part of human nature. We live in such a fast-paced society that forces you to juggle multiple balls on a daily basis that getting to your priorities seems to always have delay.

But while procrastination may lead to a last minute, stress-filled scramble, it also has its advantages.

Procrastination as a Positive: So what is the advantage of procrastination? The more you wait on accomplishing a project, task or creative endeavor, the more time you have for your ideas to simmer and develop. Ideas can mature in your subconscious without you realizing it. As you procrastinate you give yourself more time for ideas to mature. It serves as an incubator for your ideas.

As we amass multiple ideas in our mind, we start connecting the multiple ideas to formulate new ones. Procrastination helps this process develop.

When team members have brainstorming sessions, multiple ideas are put on the board. As we look at the ideas, we start to combine them to form new ideas. This is how creativity happens. It’s connecting the dots of multiple ideas that brings about new ones.

In other words, it leads to great achievements and innovation.

So procrastinating might not be so bad after all.

For many of you who work 50 to 60 hours a week juggling multiple accounts and opportunities, preparing a new presentation for a prospect might come down to the last minute. We kick ourselves for not being more organized in advance, but we often perform better under pressure. Also, we can expect our past experiences to kick in when we perform. Great sales people are known for thinking on their feet.

Quantity Over Quality: Sometimes quantity is better than quality. The quantity of ideas you have can lead to new ideas that are unique and creative and just might fit the customer’s need.

This makes total sense to most sales professionals. We multi-task, having many different tasks to perform for numerous accounts and that can help us be more original and creative. It’s like when your kids were playing football or any other sport; their grades were better than when they were not playing sports. You are more productive when you are busy. The more output you have the more chances for originality.

So the bottom line when preparing for a major customer presentation or developing a large proposal is to gather your team members and generate as many ideas as possible as to why you’re the right fit. Ask, “What can we communicate about our company, our value, or competitive advantage?” The more quantity of ideas, the better your chances of the quality ideas that are more original than those of the past.

As a sales professional, you are the quarterback on the team for your clients. You are responsible for touching or leading every aspect of the opportunity. You must be involved in creating the proposal, making the presentation, understanding the customer’s needs, and even understanding their credit situation. You are the go-to person for the client.

You need to leverage all your experiences to become more original. It’s been said many times that you learn more from the sales you lose than the sales you win. That’s where you gain experience. You learn from your mistakes and for the next opportunity you have more experience and insight as to what can work versus what might not work. You learn how to read customer situations as you relate them to those in the past that were similar. In other words what’s worked versus not worked.

When the pressure mounts at the last minute to get a presentation or a proposal ready for a customer, realize that all the experience you’ve acquired over the years gives you a mental advantage in preparing that you just might not realize. You never learn from mistakes you’ve never made.

The next time you’re down to the last minute in preparing for a customer, realize there might be a positive aspect in those final moments of preparation. Be open to the fact that a great idea for the customer might be just minutes away.

Good selling.

Stu Schlackman is a sales expert, accomplished speaker and the author of Four People You Should Know and Don’t Just Stand There, Sell Something. With over 25 years of success in the sales landscape, Stu provides his clients and audiences with the wisdom, techniques, and practical advice to compete and win in business and in life. For more information about Stu, please visit www.stuschlackman.com.

A Game Plan for Closing the Deal

By Joe Curcillo

Joe CurcilloYou walk out the door thanking the potential client for their time, and tell them that you will stop back in later in the year to review their needs. You leave upbeat and happy, but you did not get the deal.

You poured your heart and soul into the close, but you were rejected. Well, you know you weren’t actually rejected, so you remind yourself: tomorrow is another day.

The biggest fear that people experience is the fear of rejection. Many times, that is what stands in the way of your ability to ask for the sale or close the deal. Unfortunately, the sales pitch is the combined fear of losing a deal and a fear of public speaking wrapped into one intimidating experience. In order to overcome the fear, there are three things you must remember.

  1. Be mentally prepared for the closing.
  2. Remain adaptable during the close.
  3. Be sure the timing is under your control.

Mental preparation begins when you realize that you cannot close every deal. It is a numbers game. The old adage, “you win some you lose some” is very true in the sales arena. As you go forth and try to acquire new clients, you are going to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince or princess. The only option you have is to prepare for these momentary defeats as you progress.

If you start with a firm foundation, it will build your confidence and it will lead to a higher closing rate. Your foundation is all of the information that you acquire and organize as you begin the entire sales pitch. Closing the deal is not something you can do unless all of your ducks are in a row. You have to know your product or service inside out, and you have to know all of the weaknesses that need to be addressed during the entire sales pitch. Not everyone is going to be as excited about doing business with you as you are with them. Knowing that, it is important that you understand the necessity of creating the excitement as you go through your presentation.

  • Have you given them enough evidence to support a conclusion that they cannot live without your service or product?
  • Have you addressed all the potential challenges so that your widget stands alone as a necessary component in the client’s arsenal?
  • Have you completed all of the prior necessary steps in your selling process?

Ultimately, when you stand up to close the deal, you must know that you have given them sufficient information that they can reach a conclusion in your favor before you ask them to do so. Therefore, your closing pitch or argument must be outlined to encompass all of the highlights of your presentation. The highlights are the reminders and triggers that will allow them to make a conclusion on their own. No one wants to be forced into a decision, nor does anyone want to feel that a decision was made for them. It should be your goal to feed your prospect enough information through the presentation itself so that when you highlight the information in the closing, the path is clear. When you’re making your final pitch—and you watch heads shake in acquiescence—it’s comforting to know that you’ve done your job. As a result, ever so often they will say yes even before you ask; and that is when you know you have done well. Just do not expect it every time or you will be disappointed.

Be Adaptable in your presentation. Adaptability is your ability to relate to the prospect or prospects. Being able to communicate and be understood while keeping both your integrity and objectives intact. The last thing you want to do is sound like a con man. A con man is always ready for what’s in it for them. They will talk circles and bring it back to their own needs and wants. A good closer knows how to keep the focus on the prospect and answer their wants and needs. You have to be able to identify with the prospect, and they must be able to identify with you.

  • Maintain consistency in your actions and speech so that the true you will shine through.
  • Address all of the highlights of your product or service to remind them of your effort to answer their questions.
  • Anticipate their challenges and address them truthfully and honestly with the agility of a prizefighter in the boxing ring.

Timing is everything: Make sure your prospect is ready to close before you ask. It is essential that you paid attention to the reaction of those in the room throughout your presentation. Whether it is one person or several, you must be sure that they’re comfortable with what you are selling. You must make sure they’re comfortable with you. Your ability to anticipate and address their questions will give you a feel for their comfort level and their readiness to give you a yes.

Sometimes, a trial close is the best option. For instance, you may turn the question or question or mission on them to see if they understand the importance of your product. Or, you may ask them if they see how their business will be advanced with the use of your service. Whether they hesitate or acquiesce will let you know whether you’re ready to move forward with an ask, or if it is necessary for you to provide more information before doing so.

Consider whether you have addressed all of the areas of objection in your closing.

  • Have you established trust?
  • Have you financially qualified your prospect to be sure they can afford your service?
  • Have you provided them all of the positive information they need?
  • Have you provided them a comfort level so that they’re ready to make a positive change to their business?

Get the Yes! In the end, you can only win if they win. You want to create a win-win situation. Most prospects don’t truly care whether or not you win.

As long as they trust you and believe in your product or service, they will be in a better position to determine whether or not their business can be enhanced by your request for the sale. Have you convinced them that you have their best interest at heart, that your interest is sincere,, and that you understand enough about their business that when you tell them they need you, they can’t help but say “yes?”

Lastly, are you as confident in hearing “yes” as you are in hearing a “no?” If you’re ready to walk out the door happy with either answer, you have the confidence to make the sale. Likewise, that confidence will shine through and go a long way to getting you the “yes” that you desire.

Joe Curcillo, The Mindshark, is a speaker, entertainer, lawyer and communications expert. As an Adjunct Professor at Widener University School of Law, Mr. Curcillo developed a hands-on course, based on the use of storytelling as a persuasive weapon. He has been a professional entertainer helping corporations and associations improve their communication techniques since 1979. For more information on bringing Joe Curcillo in for your next event, please visit www.themindshark.com.

The Color Wheel of Relationship Selling

By Stu Schlackman

Stu SchlackmanGreg graduated sales school at the top of his class and was eager to start his new career in Tennessee. His strength was his ability to connect with people, and much was expected from his sales manager.

He met with a prospect in Birmingham, Alabama that wanted a presentation on why his computers were superior to the competition. Fresh out of sales school, the answer was an easy one for Greg. He decided to focus on what was considered his company’s unique differentiator—technology. Even though Greg is a relationship person, he decided to answer with the facts since he thought that was what the prospect wanted. The common question the prospect had: “Why should I do business with you?”

Greg’s response: “Our products can move from a PC to a mainframe and never change operating systems; saving you hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

But Greg misread the situation.

That’s not what the customer wanted. Instead he wanted to get to know Greg to build trust. He wanted to know Greg was there for him whenever he needed information, advice, or just someone who would go to bat for him.

Unfortunately, sales professionals don’t get a second chance at a first impression, so Greg was not able to establish the relationship the prospect was looking for. This opportunity sailed into the sunset never to be seen again.

What should Greg have done? What does it take to establish a relationship with others? The first key to effectively building relationships is to identify the personality style of your prospect.

Most personality models have four styles. This one is based on colors, as it’s easy to remember a face with a name and with a color. It’s also easier to remember the characteristics of a color than an acronym or a name. Blue (the people person), Gold (the planning person), Green (the perfection person) and Orange (the performance person).

Values of Colors: One of the differentiators between the four personality styles is in what they value. As a sales professional you must adjust how you present the value of your offering based on which personality style you believe they are.

  • Blues will not make a commitment until they know you and trust you. For the Blue personality, relationships come first. Because trust is paramount, you must never pressure the Blue. They might view this as selfish on your part.
  • Golds value commitment and follow through. They expect detailed information on your company and its record of accomplishment. Golds value timeliness and a tight process, and believe that you say what you’re going to do and do what say.
  • Greens value details and facts. They will take their time to analyze every aspect of your company’s offerings and how the value equates to their future vision. Expect many questions from Greens since they are skeptical by nature.
  • Oranges value winning and performing. They look for the immediate results and want to look good inside of their organization. They also value relationships, but it’s based on convenience and easy access to the sales person.

Remember the key is to connect with their style, not yours.

Color Communication: Communication is the next key to connecting with prospects and customers. And, as you can guess by now, each style has a different preference.

  • Blues ask questions about you so they can build trust. Small talk is very important and can focus on the personal side. Family, friends, and acquaintances are important to the Blue personality. Blues are also indirect in the communication, which means they will elaborate on what they say. Don’t rush the communication with Blues.
  • Golds are more methodical and direct in the approach. Golds are excellent listeners and will balance the communication. They are structured and prefer an agenda and a reason to have a discussion and are more formal in their approach.
  • Since Greens are the analytical type, they will ask questions on the details of your products and services. Getting personal is not a priority for the Green. Understanding your offerings and how they might solve issues is their top priority. They are succinct in their approach but can be indirect as they expand on what they are looking for. You must have facts to prove your point of view to the Green.
  • Oranges communicate by wanting to get the bottom line. They are big picture oriented and like to be the center of attention. Therefore, let the Orange do most of the talking. Oranges are also direct in their approach. They will tell you exactly what they are looking for.

Communication is about balancing the conversation. Blues and Greens tend to ask questions, while Golds and Oranges tend to tell or prefer to lead the conversation. So as you converse with different styles you need to be aware of what they prefer so you can adapt to their style.

Selling Across the Spectrum: Every sale requires a decision, so understanding when to ask for commitment is crucial and must consider the style of the prospect. So as we looking at selling across the spectrum here is an approach to take.

  • Blues and Greens tend to be slower in finalizing their decision. Give them space to make the decision and when you feel it’s time to help them ask: “What would you like to do for next steps? What else can I provide you in moving forward?” Being too aggressive with these two will lose the sale. They need their space.
  • Golds and Oranges are more decisive. It’s fine to ask these colors for a decision. Ask the Gold when they plan to make their decision, and with the Orange, tell them you can get started today since they look for immediate benefits.

People tend to sell from their point of view. The best thing you can ever do is ask yourself, “Who am I with?” Pay attention to their words and actions; keeping the focus on them will help you understand the approach you should take. Using their style will build trust, gain you credibility and will move you closer to the sale. Remember this: it’s not what customer’s buy, but why. Knowing their color will help you understand what they value, how they prefer to communicate make decisions.

Good Selling!

Stu Schlackman is a sales expert, accomplished speaker and the author of Four People You Should Know and Don’t Just Stand There, Sell Something. With over twenty-five years of success in the sales landscape, Stu provides his clients and audiences with the wisdom, techniques, and practical advice to compete and win in business and in life. For more information about Stu, please visit www.stuschlackman.com.

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