If buyers could get by without salespeople, do you think they would? I think most would say yes simply because when buyers/prospects think about “a salesperson” they don’t typically think about someone who brings real value to their organization. Why? Because most salespeople have done a poor job of really helping the prospect. Salespeople are much more concerned with showing our “value” to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible rather than diagnosing each prospects issues and trying to solve them.
Most salespeople bring to their prospects lots of information. Interestingly, information is something any buyer can gather from other sources. At the end of the day, you as a salesperson must ask yourself, “Am I really bringing value to the prospect or just information?” If you are bringing information, then you’re wasting your time, your company’s time, and your prospects time. You might as well just email your buyer the information and then go play on Facebook.
As a salesperson, if you can’t honestly and fully understand the issues you’ll need to help your customers overcome, then you really have to begin questioning the role you play. With the advent of technology and communication, the role of the salesperson has changed. If you as a salesperson have not recognized and embraced this change, then you are nothing more than a walking brochure.
Prospects and clients alike don’t want more information. They want solutions. Unfortunately, because prospects are often far too invested in their own issues, they don’t even know what their specific issues are that you may be able to solve. This is the role the salesperson needs to play — the role of helping identify the problems, whether obvious or obscure, and turning them into opportunities you can solve.
So how do you go about identifying problems? You as the salesperson must become an investigator – someone who is determined to find out what really is happening in an organization, industry and global marketplace. Asking questions is the key. “But Greta, if I show them our solutions and how we have solved them for others, they will see how we can help”. Really? How’s that working for you?
Start this process by shifting your focus. Instead of just delivering information to your customer, begin to ask more questions. When I ask clients to do this exercise, they almost always come up with these leading questions. For example; “if I could show you how to save up to 20% on your ____, is that something you would be interested in?” Seriously? When you develop a question, make sure it passes the “duh” factor. If the answer of the question could be “duh, of course”, don’t ask it.
A few things to keep in mind when developing good, thought-provoking questions are;
- Research their organization in advance. Find out all that you can about them and the decision makers too. It’s so easy today to gather information so don’t skip this step. They will have much less respect for you if you don’t.
- Use open ended questions. I know you’ve heard this before but it is imperative to keep this is mind. Help the prospect to think by asking questions that get them to think about the answer. Questions that begin with; “What are your thoughts on…”, ‘share with me…”, “What would happen if…” are good examples. Anything that helps them engage in a discussion with you is the basic foundation of a good question the more they are talking the more they are beginning to sell themselves. Success comes from them self-realizing they need what you have, not by you telling them.
- Once you feel you have gathered enough information to tell them why they should use your solution, don’t. You are still not ready. Begin by summarizing what you have heard and what solutions they would need to solve the issue. Not a summary of what you can do but what they need. It must be summarized from their words and a solution they have expressed they are looking for. For example; “So what it sounds like is that you not only need a faster widget but fast enough to keep up at the accelerated pace that you are expecting to continue. Is that right?”
When you can clearly identify ways you’ve helped your buyer achieve either of these outcomes, then you will know you’re no longer the type of salesperson that buyers love to hate. Plus, you’ll be growing your bottom line at the same time. And that’s a lot better than simply doling out information!
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