Should You Answer a Question with a Question?

“Answer a question with a question” is a Sandler Selling System rule that is sometimes controversial. Sales teams I’ve worked with often express the concern that using this approach could lead to them appearing evasive or “too salesy”.  But as with all “rules” you have to apply them with skill and understand the objective.

Why ask so many questions?

‘Question asking’ is how we salespeople gain a true understanding of our prospect’s needs. The objective is not to avoid answering questions but to avoid shutting down the valuable conversation that leads to a deeper understanding of the prospect and their specific situation.  Without this understanding, we may not really know whether our solution is a good fit for their problem and we may misunderstand the value that our solution holds for this prospect.

I think that we should think of ourselves as diagnosticians when we have a sales meeting.  Consider this: If you go to a doctor with a headache, she will ask questions to identify the cause. Sometimes the cause is not obvious. If the doctor just treats the symptom, it is possible that the symptom might not go away, or it could disappear in the short term, but return because the underlying cause wasn’t addressed.  Likewise, we have found that what is first expressed by some prospects as the reason they might need your solution, may only be the visible expression of a deeper issue. Solving this deeper issue is where our value lies.

So the message in this rule is that ‘question asking’ is integral to the sales process and we ought to focus on asking questions and having a conversation rather than showing that we have all the answers.  It’s good for the prospect to know that we have the expertise, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of learning as much as we can about our prospects.

Apply this rule with skill

Always use your good judgment to assess whether you have learned enough about your prospect. Take your cues from the information that you’re receiving and from how your prospect is responding to you. Open-ended questions are key to uncovering hidden problems and key motivators that may be important to your ability to successfully close the sale. For example:

  • Why is this important to you?
  • Can you tell me more about this?
  • What else happens when this problem crops up?
  • Why do you think this is happening?

If we focus on the conversation first and foremost, we will learn enough to know when it is the right time to ask our favorite question, “What would you like to have happen next?”

At One of a Kind Sales, we love selling and we are experts at cold calling, in particular. If you would like to discuss how we can help you and your team please contact us at 908-879-2911.

What to Do When They are “Thinking About It”

I was recently at a meeting about sales efficiency where a debate broke out about what salespeople should do when a prospect says, “I’ll think about it.” Participants were divided. Some felt that this meant that the selling process was not complete and they should continue to engage the prospect. Others strongly believed that once a prospect tells you “I’ll think about it,” they should move to the next prospect. I firmly believe you should move on.

As a professional salesperson, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with prospects over the years. Because I’m focused on my sales objective and the need to be efficient with my time, it’s critical to know when to move on. We all know that we should not rush to close a prospect. We all know that we should be looking for signs to disqualify a prospect throughout the discussion. When these signs appear early, perhaps it’s easier to recognize that the prospect is not a fit for our solution and end the discussion. But when the signs show up later, they can be more difficult to recognize, perhaps because we are more emotionally invested. But that verbal message, “I’ll think about it” is a clear red flag to me. To confirm whether it’s really time to move on, I might ask, “Is there anything else I can tell you?”, and if the prospect says “yes,” I will address the question. But if the answer is “no,” then it’s clearly time for me to move on.

Why move on? Continuing to sell to a person who is telling you that they need to think about it after you’ve had robust discussions delays you from moving to a prospect that you might be able to more readily convert. Frankly, “I’ll think about it” is really the kiss of death.  Experience tells me that this prospect is not likely to make a positive decision and I would be wasting time continuing the conversation.

You may be thinking, ‘well I’ve spent all of this time getting to know this prospect and I hate to let it drop.’   But that is not what you should do.  You should move the prospect into a nurturing program with a plan to revisit them at some point to see if conditions have changed.

It might be very attractive to continue discussions with someone with whom you’ve already developed a relationship in the hope that they will convert. But you really are fooling yourself. We need to be clear-eyed about what’s going on in a sales engagement. Ideally, we never ask for the sale until the time is right.  At that point, if they say they still need to “think about it,” it’s time to gracefully move on.

At One of a Kind Sales, we love selling and we are experts at sales and cold calling, in particular. If you would like to discuss how we can help you and your team please contact us at 908-879-2911.

What Leads to a Successful Sale?

A quiz for you:

Communicating your expertise and product knowledge to your prospect leads to a successful sale:

1/ True

2/ False

I came across this question in a session with a world-class expert in the Sandler selling method.   This is one that can spark a lot of debate.

I’m aware that many salespeople are trained to be product experts.  In fact, product or service training may be the lion’s share of the formal training that they receive from their company.  Often, salespeople are coached to share their knowledge in order to establish their expertise with a prospect. This might be because the business perceives that the offering is so differentiated that once a prospect fully understands it they will jump at the opportunity. So, an encyclopedic knowledge of the offering and the ability to communicate it is often perceived as a major sales success factor for a salesperson.

However, consider the problems that could arise with this approach.  What if we miss something critical because we are so busy “communicating” about our offering?  When we first meet with a prospect, I believe it’s important to let the prospect communicate with us.  What are their current issues? Why are they even talking to us about our offering? What problems are they trying to solve?  If we move into “presentation mode” without knowing the answers to these questions, we risk losing the prospect’s attention by not addressing their core concerns.   In order to get at these concerns, we need to take the time to ask the right questions and then engage in active listening so that the prospect can communicate with us and so that we can internalize what they are saying.  We need a two-way conversation and, particularly early in the discussion, it’s ideal if the prospect does most of the talking.  This is where we learn what we need to know in order to confirm if they are a good fit for our solution and then close the sale.

So what’s my answer to this question?

False: I’ve concluded that product knowledge and expertise aren’t enough to close the sale.

My recommendations:

  1. Avoid getting into the “nuts and bolts” of a product presentation immediately with a prospect.
  2. Slow down and take the time to get to know prospects in order to learn what motivates them.

When you truly understand their situation, you can then start to use your understanding of your offering to highlight how your solution will make a real difference for them.  In my experience, taking this approach will improve the likelihood of a successful outcome.

At One of a Kind Sales, we love to sell and are lifelong learners when it comes to selling. Cold calling is our specialty. If your business needs help with getting appointments with qualified prospects, give us a call at 908-879-2911.

Why I Attended Outbound 2022

A couple of weeks ago, I attended Outbound 2022 in Atlanta.  Outbound is self-described as “the biggest, baddest conference in the Sales Profession.” Outbound is unique because it’s the only conference focused exclusively on “sales prospecting, pipeline, and productivity.”  I always make it a point to attend.

Continuing Education

Some people are amazed that I would take time away from my business to go to a conference with other salespeople. But in my view, I’m not taking time away from my business, I’m investing time in my business because, as the owner of a business whose primary focus is outbound cold calling, attending Outbound is continuing education for me.

A conference like Outbound gives me the opportunity to be surrounded by and interact with individuals who believe in outbound activities.  These are people who strive to be the best professional salespeople every day. While there, I’m able to explore new ideas and develop relationships that have led to growth for my own business. My experience at Outbound allows me to be a better leader of my own organization and inspire my team to do their best job.

I also invest in my own people. We have weekly Sandler training attended not only by my sales specialists but my admin team as well. As a result, my admin team has a deeper understanding of our business and they have become better communicators as a result. This investment pays off with greater efficiency and productivity for my business.

My Love of Learning

If you’ve followed my blog and my social posts for any length of time, you’ll know that I have a strong thirst for learning. Attending Outbound helps satisfy that need.  But another way that I address this is through my Conversational Selling podcast. A recent conversation with my colleague Liz Wendling, President of Liz Wendling Business Consulting and Sales Coaching left me considering her wise words: “Selling is the only way to stay in business.” Given the truth of this statement, the need for good sales skills is inexhaustible. One of a Kind Sales will continue to hone these skills to meet the needs of our clients.

At One of a Kind Sales, we love to sell and cold calling is our specialty. If your business needs help with this, give us a call at 908-879-2911.

What Drives Sales Leadership Success?

Recently, I had a discussion with a sales leader who told me that she believes her success – and that of her team – is primarily determined by the sales compensation plan.  While this may play a strong role, in my experience, sales leaders need to engage in three critical activities beyond compensation and incentives to be effective. These include: having good goals and metrics; hiring and retaining the right sales team members; and providing ongoing coaching, training, and mentoring to the team.

Goals and Metrics

Understanding how your team is performing relative to expectations is critical to identifying where the focus needs to be placed. We’re all familiar with the acronym “SMART” when it comes to defining your goals. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound.  As an example of a SMART goal, at One of a Kind Sales, we require each sales team member to make 20 calls per hour.

In addition, a good CRM is critical to tracking performance goals versus metrics. While a CRM may be an investment for your organization, being able to easily track performance gives you the opportunity to assess and make adjustments as needed.

The Right Team

Working with team members who have a passion for their work is important.  As a sales leader, you need to be able to assess whether an individual demonstrates that passion and is a good fit for your team.  For example, at One of a Kind Sales, we value sales training and coaching.  Our team members need to love learning and have a desire to continuously improve their sales skills. We also value sharing key learnings based on experiences with prospects as well as sharing success stories.  We look for that willingness to share in our candidates.

Sales Training

Once you have the right team, keeping the team ‘on point’ with strong sales skills is critical. By investing in ongoing sales training, you strengthen the capabilities of your sales team and improve their ability to reach and potentially exceed sales goals. If individuals are identified as underperformers, sales training and coaching may help them correct their course. If not, it’s important to determine whether or not they should be in that role. In addition, when your team sees that you are investing in their skills, it demonstrates that you are interested in their personal development and increases their commitment to the job.

At One of a Kind Sales, we love selling and we are experts at cold calling, in particular. If you would like to discuss how we can help you and your team please contact us at 908-879-2911.

What to Expect from a Professional Appointment Setting Campaign

When seeking more qualified appointments for their sales team, many businesses outsource to an appointment setting service.  These services focus on the “pre-sales” process, which includes implementing professional telemarketing campaigns designed to prospect from a list to set up appointments. One of a Kind Sales provides this service to a variety of industries and has made thousands of calls on behalf of its clients.  We’ve found that there is one common misperception that some of our prospective clients come to us with.  This is the belief that a professional outbound prospecting and appointment setting campaign will work “like magic,” and that appointments will appear almost instantaneously.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Just as a new sales representative needs time to gain momentum, so do outbound telemarketing campaigns.  Depending on the source, a new salesperson can take between 6 to 9 months to become fully effective. Similarly, an outbound telemarketing campaign also needs ramp-up time to optimize.

We believe it is important for our clients to have the right expectations about our services.  We are not a “magic bullet”, but our services are key to a robust strategy to drive sales conversions for any organization. Outsourcing the “pre-sales” process allows for an organization’s sales team to focus on the best opportunities for conversion and can result in more growth for the business.

What you need to know

It’s important to understand that when you’re working with a professional outbound sales team, the objective is to get well-qualified appointments. This means that the appointments that we arrange are with prospects who have an expressed need for the solution you offer.  This increases the likelihood that your team will be able to close the sale.

Engaging a professional outbound sales team is not a short-term commitment. You should commit to working with a professional service like ours for at least a minimum of 6 months.  All campaigns take time to optimize and show results.

With an average telemarketing conversion rate of 2-4% from a purchased list (source: businessdatalist.com), we make hundreds of calls a week on behalf of our clients. We take pride in the fact that our year-to-date conversion rate is 7% – significantly better than the industry average. In fact, we are consistently better than average on a monthly basis, ranging between 6% and 9%.

Our professional outbound sales team is particularly skilled at quickly establishing good relationships with prospects right from the start.  If there is no immediate need for your solution, we make sure that we “earn the right” to re-contact that prospect at the end of 90 days to inquire again.

At One of a Kind Sales, we love cold calling!  If you would like to learn more about our services or if you are considering outsourcing the pre-sales process to support your sales team, reach out to us at 908-879-2911.