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Bad sales numbers? Don’t take it personally; your questions sucked

18 Comments
By Jason de Luca

We’ve all been there, Friday night, 6:08 p.m., before a 3-day weekend, shiny new pen in one hand, empty tin cup in the other. Deal gone, and with it, three weeks of hard work and the prospect of three more hitting the bricks, hoping to get something going before the quarter, and your meal ticket, ends.

Strong numbers and steady growth are like trying to nail Jello to the wall.

Don’t take it personally, don’t blame the economy, your client’s procurement process, their APAC Director, illuminati, the CIA, bad genes or your boss. Your questions sucked, and if you practiced & used better questions, you would have saved time, and a round-trip up the wrong tree. (Been there myself, I feel your pain).

Proper study of questions, role-playing, and research will help you to:

  1. Stop “acting” like you are selling something, so you can be yourself and confident.

  2. Keep quiet and have the CLIENT talk most of the time.

  3. Qualify the buyer, build rapport, and close more deals.

  4. Speed up the process (whichever way it ends up going) by being brave and breaking any silent pauses.

Here are some questions that you can use as is, or use for role-playing when preparing to meet clients, that I have found to be useful.

  1. Find the economic buyer: The person with the “the trigger” and correct finger. If the person you are talking to has to ask “Daddy,” they are not the economic buyer.

-- Who has initiated this request for service/product purchase/new hire? -- Whose budget will pay for this project/service/product? -- Do we need anyone else’s approval? -- Who can immediately approve this project/budget/expenditure? -- If you and I were to agree on deliverables/delivery date/start date, could we/he/she begin tomorrow?

  1. Find the budget range: No, we won’t be “crossing that bridge when we get there” because “we” can’t swim that far. These questions will help you to get closer to what number the economic buyer actually has.

-- In the interest of your time, is there a fixed range to work within? -- What are the expected results of this investment? -- How much are you prepared to invest to gain these (outline) results?

  1. One way or the other, CLOSE IT: Signing the deal and moving forward, or dropping it, and getting on with other deals.

-- Once you have the right proposal, how soon can we start? -- Is there anything preventing us to work together? -- Can we start the project this week/deliver this month Friday? -- Can I start preliminary meetings with managers onsite this afternoon?

There is a reason why a question has a hook in it; it’s to get the “point.” Questions will give you confidence and help you to speed up the sales process, saving both your clients and you time.

The writer is managing director of Smart Partners KK, a company that offers sales training, consulting, business strategy and financial planning advice.

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18 Comments
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Another insightful article - this de Luca guy is right on the money with his advice.

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Shame, question 1 and 2 preclude us doing business together.

I think rather than formulaic structures, sales people would be well reminded first and foremost to 'know your customers, and know how they do buiness'. Not all are the same and what works for one will put off another.

Question 1 would preclude a number of firms because invariably technical control of a project (fit for purpose) does not sit together with financial control. The two need to be approached as one, else the dis-enfranchised area will block the proposal or make life generally difficult.

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ultradude, thank you for reading. Almost half-way through 2009, lets keep punching!

For some great sales reading buy anything Gitomer writes.

http://www.gitomer.com/

The little red book of sales changed my life :-)

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Thanks for reading some of my article.

The point was to give sales people various questions, at various stages, for practice, possible use and roleplaying.

That was made very clear if you read it.

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There's a gaggle of witless spinsters I know who could do with reading this article. Ooops, I mean a diligent and hard-working sales team...

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Don’t take it personally; your questions sucked

There's also the possibility your product sucks too.

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Altria, thank you for writing that, I couldn't! Cheers mate :-)

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"we've all been there.." Hah! no we havent....

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I am clueless about this article.

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I am clueless about your comment :-)

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Well this post might not be bringing a "valuable cultural insight or pearl of wisdom" yet it deals with a category of job that most foreigners are doing in Japan mostly due to their lack of language ability or their incapacity - mostly due to the lack of proper network - to integrate a company to follow a long term career that fits with their university graduates (for those who have one), and this job is "recruiter". Therefore, Jason de Lucas post may have a strong meaning of encouragment for a great majority of english speakers. So wheres the harm in that ?

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Sound advice, and Altria very funny and very true but good salespeople can sell bad products. Point number 1 is the point I think many salespeople fail on. You need to qualify that you're talking to the person who has the power to sign the deal otherwise you're just wasting your time.

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Good coaching advice. But let's face reality. No degree of great questions or denial of economic reality will make sales in a market where so few are buying.

I work with a lot of guys who could have Guru next to their names for sales over the past decade. These are the real deal. Not your training room sales guys, but guys who can sell sand to people living in the Sahara.

Yet over the past few months they are looking pretty ragged and run down. Hairs are turning a lot more grey and talk of this summer's great vacation have been supplanted with talk of when will this downturn turn up again.

So what we really need to see here is some advice on how to rebuild confidence in the market and in the economy as a whole. Because face it, no degree of sales training is going to overcome a market that is hoarding cash and fearful of making ends meet tomorrow. If you don't change how people think about the future of the economy, you can ask whatever questions you want but the numbers will continue to reflect the very real and undeniable reality of the global economy. You simply cannot tag line your way out of it.

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tkoind2- Thanks for reading great comment. Questions will keep you from wasting time with clients that are not going to spend money. Questions will help you to find which clients have money and how they will allocate it for your projects. You are very right, when noone is buying anything, no amount of training will help, but the idea is you use the right tools to find out who is buying and help them with your service. Point well taken thank you.

Souryeki- Thanks for reading. I am not sure why you think this article is for a "category" of people, these questions are for any industry. It applies to people selling services, products or getting people jobs. What is more dangerous than lack of prepared/practiced questions, is pre-judgement.

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Yes it does apply to any other salesman of services such as IT consulting for example, I was just saying that, particularly for people of the category I mentioned, they may find in it a great deal of encouragement.

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good article. It is always good to hear how someone else does it. One thing I'd add in there is the most important point. Don't be afraid to ask for money/commitment. Say sign the contract today and we can start moving forward. Or say put 500,000 down as a retainer and we can move on to sorting out the fine details. You have to get them to commit.

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We’ve all been there, Friday night, 6:08 p.m., before a 3-day weekend, shiny new pen in one hand, empty tin cup in the other. Deal gone, and with it, three weeks of hard work and the prospect of three more hitting the bricks, hoping to get something going before the quarter, and your meal ticket, ends.

I havent been there but I did watch Glengarry Glenross. selling stuff sucks

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We’ve all been there, Friday night, 6:08 p.m., before a 3-day weekend, shiny new pen in one hand, empty tin cup in the other. Deal gone, and with it, three weeks of hard work and the prospect of three more hitting the bricks, hoping to get something going before the quarter, and your meal ticket, ends.

No, never been there, but I appreciate knowing the kind of position salespeople are put it. It will be helpful when we find ourselves dealing with them.

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