The Sales Evangelist (Asking Questions)

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Syndication

You’ve likely heard the scenario before where an interviewer asks a seller to “Sell me this pen,” but how much value does this approach offer??

It’s bad enough that you’re already nervous about the interview, but if you’re thrown into a situation where the director of sales asks you to sell him a pen when you really have very little information to start from, you may find yourself fumbling for something to say. 

Features and benefits

Sellers who don’t know much about the product they are selling or the audience they are selling to usually revert to features and benefits. They sell the aspects of the product that they can see. 

“It’s comfortable.” “It has a good grip.” “It has a clicky thing and even a laser pointer. That’s great for folks who do presentations.”

“It writes smoothly and it isn’t too expensive. In fact, it’s cheaper than many of the pens on the market. And if you buy it today, I can throw in a notepad and a pocket protector.” 

Why would people even do this test in the first place?

Quick thinking

People often conduct this test to see how well you think on your feet and how you perform under pressure. And though I can understand those motivations, this test won’t truly work unless you’re selling something that might be a consumer sale. 

Typically, sellers aren’t selling simple products like pens. Rather they are selling something like a software solution that is much more expensive and has a much longer sales cycle. In those cases, it won’t matter as much how good you are with your words. You won’t be able to persuade someone within one minute to buy your expensive product. 

If you’re selling inexpensive trinkets on the side of the road, it might just work. But if you’re selling something with a significant price value, it won’t.  
Reviews 

This idea might have provided a good judge of a seller’s abilities in the 80s and 90s, but today’s buyers rely on reviews. They are researching and asking friends and family for insights and input.  Today’s buyers will prepare before they enter the arena. 

So as a sales leader, what if you stopped using this unrealistic test and offered a better one? What if you gave your sellers a scenario and ask them to prepare for it? 

Test your sellers to see whether they can find true problems or interesting facts, figures, or statistics that will help you win the deal. Determine whether the sellers will try to “wing it” instead of coming prepared. 

Sales scenario

You want a sales rep who is prepared, so use your interview opportunity to determine their ability to prepare. Ask your receptionist to send a scenario to the interviewees. Let them know they will be asked to role play a selling scenario like this. 

Present a scenario in which a particular business owner has a certain set of challenges. He is already working with a particular vendor. The sellers’ job is to show up prepared to understand the product and services and have a meaningful conversation selling this service to the business owner. 

If the sales rep shows up with information about the company in-hand and prepared to have a meaningful discussion, you’ve likely found a good seller. If the seller shows up with the intention to “wing it,” you’ll know what you’re up against. 

Selling pens

The secret to successful selling lies with asking appropriate questions, even in the case of selling a pen. If you do use the pen test, expect your sellers to begin by finding out whether the buyer even needs a pen.It doesn’t matter how much ink it will hold or how great the cap is if the seller doesn’t need it. 

Instead of spending the time pressuring the buyer to spend money on a pen, expect your sellers to begin by asking questions. 

Meaningful questions about the buyer’s situation will either qualify or disqualify the buyer. It will also communicate that the seller understands the buyer’s actual situation. The seller will demonstrate a desire to identify the pain point and solve the problem. 

Maybe the customer needs a computer more than a pen. Don’t waste your time pitching a product the customer doesn’t need. 

Consultants

Seek sellers who will serve as consultants rather than those who will try to trick the customers. Help the buyer feel like he is making a buying decision rather than being sold to. 

Jeffrey Gitomer said that people love to buy but they hate to be sold to. Help your customers understand the true pain that exists and then help them solve it. If you do this, they’ll evangelize about you and ultimately help you get more business. 

Empower your sales reps to sell on their own. Teach them to become consultants who ask meaningful questions to identify challenges that the buyers may not even realize they have. 

He’ll be successful and he’ll have great clients who love him. 

If you create a meaningful scenario for your interviews, you’ll have more meaningful discussions and dialogues and both parties will enjoy the process more. 

Besides, we probably already have enough pens.     

"Sell me this pen" episode resources

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Direct download: TSE_1112.mp3
Category:Asking Questions -- posted at: 12:47am EDT

Donald Kelly, Sales PodcastSometimes the logical approach doesn't make sense, just as in the story of David and Goliath it seemed impossible to believe that the shepherd boy could beat the giant.

In sales, we sometimes have to be a bit irrational. We must think outside the box.

Today we'll discuss how unorthodox thinking can help us take down some pretty significant giants. It can also help us win some pretty decent accounts.

Logical approach

When the giant Goliath demanded that the Israelites send out their best warrior, it didn't make sense for them to send David. He wasn't the fastest or the biggest.

He was a little farm guy tending sheep, and he wasn't the typical warrior type.

Too often in sales we default to the same logical approach that sales reps have been using for years. Instead of thinking outside the box, we choose the most rational solution to the problem.

Imagine you're selling TVs and you're meeting with a client that has a good idea of what they need and what they want. It's possible, though, that the client's perception of the problem may not even be the real issue. Worse yet, their solution to the problem may not be the best one.

In the case of David and Goliath, if the Israelites had sent the best warrior into battle to try to outperform the giant, the best warrior would likely have been killed.

Unorthodox approach

David used an approach that had never been used before. He used a sling and a stone to take down the giant, and the approach was unexpected.

In the situation with the client and the TV, he may assume that he needs a TV because it has always been the best solution in the past. Perhaps, though, the best solution is a projector, but the client doesn't realize it's even a possibility.

What if you forget about the TV for a minute and consider other possibilities: smartphones or tablets, or even podcasts. If the goal is for the client to find a form of entertainment, TV isn't the only option.

[Tweet "Instead of giving the client exactly what he says he wants, offer possibilities that he may not even be aware of. #SolveProblems"]

Sales reps who ask the right questions can differentiate themselves. They can challenge the status quo and help the buyer to see us in a different light.

Risky decisions

I was reading a book called Selling to the C-Suite and the author mentioned that executives will often make risky decisions if there's a clear plan for that decision. Most executives routinely get what they want.

In many cases, their team members fail to offer unique proposals because they are afraid of getting fired.

In this case, an educated seller may propose an option that's a little riskier than just selling the executive a television. The executive may be so busy running his business that he hasn't researched TVs or other options.

Your goal should be to inform yourself about the industry, the client, the type of business, and the problem. Come to the table as an expert and offer unique ways to solve the client's problem.

Memorable actions

David explained to Saul that because he had killed lions and bears in the past, he was equipped to take down a giant. If Saul was seeking a victory that would make the opponents his servants, wouldn't it be worthwhile to consider David's proposal?

David accomplished exactly what he said he would, and the result is a story that has survived for thousands of years.

Will your clients remember you and your heroic efforts or will you be just another sale rep? Will you be the one who offered them a cheaper price? Or will you be the one who offered a unique approach that turned the organization around?

Studying industries

Know your client's industry well. Study it. Understand the business left and right.

Instead of trying to sell to 10 million different industries, focus on the top three or five and master those industries. Become an expert in those niches. Then focus on those people.

That doesn't mean you won't sell to those other industries. It simply means that you won't focus on those industries. Invest your efforts into the industries that will give you the best bang for your buck.

Read industry magazines, and watch YouTube videos. Spend time on activities that will help you become more effective.

When you do, you'll stand out from the competitors. Because you'll bring different ideas, different strategies, and different tactics, you'll earn the respect of your prospects.

Bring resources, examples, and share your past experiences with your prospects. Explain to your clients why they must choose the option you're offering.

“David and Goliath” episode resources

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Direct download: TSE_1045.mp3
Category:Asking Questions -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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