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 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.

Three Tips to Handle Objections

For many inexperienced salespeople, the first thing they think about when it comes to selling a product or service is the fact that they will hear objections.  They dread the word “no” and try to avoid objections even when they can clearly see that they exist. They view objections as a minefield which must be avoided.  They plow ahead with their pitch hoping they’ll say some magic words that will make them evaporate. Unfortunately, they most often experience the unaddressed concerns rising up at some point and ‘tanking’ the sale.

Our One of a Kind sales team has completed thousands of cold calls.  And there is no doubt that salespeople will hear the word “no” many times.  But in our experience, we find it best to acknowledge a prospect’s objections and quickly determine whether they can be overcome. When you can overcome them, you can proceed with a greater likelihood of success. If you can’t, you then move on to another prospect quickly.

Disrupt the Pattern

Cold calls have a typical flow.  The way this happens may vary but at the end of a preliminary introduction, our team members may say something like, “how does that sound to you?” It is at this point when the prospect might say, “I’m fine – I don’t need anything.” That is a “no.”  The prospect’s expectation is that the salesperson will say “thanks for your time” and end the call.  This is the normal “pattern” of a sales call.  But our professional selling team is prepared with rebuttals that disrupt the typical pattern.

Prepare “Rebuttals”

A disruptive response to a “no” might be, “Wow, how did you manage to avoid this problem?”  What this approach does is keep the conversation going. Follow up questions could be: “Can you tell me how you did that?” or “How long did that take?” Followed by “I guess you must be hitting your revenue target then.” Moving further with “Would you like to improve that performance?”

You’ve read before that we believe in using scripts because they help us internalize our messaging.  Because we prepare in advance, we have an arsenal of rebuttals at the ready.  So, when the “no” happens, while it may be disconcerting, we don’t have to “figure out” what to say next.

Three Times is Enough

We adopt approach of using three rebuttals to a “no.” The rebuttals are statements we’ve prepared in advance (incorporated into our script) based on the objections we anticipate. Once we’ve had three unsuccessful attempts at this, we know it’s time to move on. We conclude the interaction, and we actually ask for a referral. For example, we’ll say, “it’s clear we can’t help you today, but perhaps we can in the future. Is there anyone else in your sphere of influence who might be able to benefit from our services?” You’d be surprised – we do get referrals in this way!

At One of a Kind Sales, we are sales experts, and we love cold calling!  If you need help taking your sales team to the next level, give us a call at 908-879-2911 to learn how we can help.

Six Steps to Improve Your Cold Calling Results

One of the most challenging parts of selling is cold calling.  Like all of us, salespeople dislike rejection and don’t want to hear the word “no.” And many have never been trained how to do cold calling.  As a result, many salespeople find cold calling intimidating. Aside from the fear of rejection, there is a concern that they are “interrupting” someone to make a pitch.  But as professional salespeople, they need to keep in mind that the person on the other end of the call may have a need for the potential solution they offer. If the prospect sees that value in having their problem solved, it is well worth the interruption.

In a recent Zoom Info article, cold calling was deemed “very to extremely effective” by almost 30% of professional salespeople.  Also, it was reported that almost 70% of buyers accept cold calls.   Given these statistics, it’s clear that cold calling presents a real opportunity to prospect for new business. In our experience as professional cold callers, once our callers reach their targeted prospects, most of them get the opportunity to make their initial case without the call terminating before that point.

What goes into making cold calling more effective?  I believe preparation is critical to success.  Below are just some of the steps we take to make our cold calling as efficient as it can be.

  1. The call list should be targeted to the segment you are pursuing. This ensures that your offering is relevant to the prospects you are pursuing.
  2. Develop a script that lays out what you want to communicate. Don’t repeat the script word for word. Use it to internalize your message. This prepares you to be able to say exactly what you want to say the moment you get the opportunity to connect.  You’ll only have seconds to make an impression.
  3. Check your mindset. Think of yourself as an equal to the prospect you want to connect with.  Remember they have a problem, and you have a solution.
  4. Make sure the purpose of your call is clear to the prospect, so they understand how what you are calling about is relevant to their business.
  5. Remember this is a dialogue. Let the prospect speak. This is when you’ll learn whether there is an opportunity for your solution now.
  6. Every time you speak to the prospect remember you are establishing a relationship – one that will earn you the right to speak to them again, whether for a follow up appointment if there is a current opportunity, or for a check-in several months from now if there isn’t a current need.

If your team can incorporate this approach, it can help take cold calling outreach to the next level and bring in new opportunities for growth.

At One of a Kind Sales, we love cold calling!  If you need help implementing cold calling within your sales team, give us a call at 908-879-2911 to learn how we can help.

Making Closing Easier

Closing new business is the main objective of professional salespeople.  Everyone knows sales is a challenging career.  To outsiders who know little about sales, closing new business seems to be the hardest part- a mysterious technique that is often unsuccessful.  But believe it or not, we’ve seen that closing can be easy if you’ve paved the way with your prospect by taking the right steps.  Closing should be a natural outcome of a discussion between you and your prospect. By the time you get to the close, your prospect has reached the unavoidable conclusion that your solution is just what their business needs.  The “hard work” of sales lies in taking the right steps throughout the process that result in an easy close.

What Makes Closing Easier?

First, be sure you are addressing the real decision maker. There is nothing more frustrating than discovering that you’ve walked through an entire sales process only to find that the person you’ve developed a relationship with needs to bring in another party who will ultimately make the decision.

Confirm that your prospect’s problem can be addressed by your solution. Take time to fully understand how the problem has impacted their business, what stress it has caused, what resources it has consumed, and what they’ve already done to address it. This allows you to adjust your script to speak directly to their challenges and their experiences.

Make sure that you are getting mini ‘buy-ins’ as you are progressing through the sales process.  Do this by ensuring that this is a two-way conversation. Check for agreement at key points in the discussion.  You’ll be able to assess your prospect’s level of engagement, confirm their level of interest, and address potential objections.

Above all, throughout the engagement, never forget that “people buy from other people”. Make sure that your prospect feels good about connecting with you and is looking forward to working with you.

If you’ve taken these steps, once you are ready to close, you can simply ask: “What would you like to happen next?”

At One of a Kind Sales, we are sales experts.  We provide services that help qualify leads, improve sales performance, and close more business.  Want to learn more?  Give us a call at 908-879-2911.