Question Need Benefit sequence Committal

The first part of the Question Need Benefit technique involves taking the problem you believe you have uncovered, rephrasing it and posing it back to the prospect as a question.

Tip on usage of Question Need Benefit technique

This method works well where:

  • There is some room for confusion
  • The problem is particularly complex or
  • You are really not certain in your own mind whether you have understood it correctly and need to clarify it

Question Need Benefit
Don’t use it when it’s blatantly obvious what the prospect means or you’ll end up sounding like a ‘Smart-Alec’ salesman.

So let’s take the same four examples we used to demonstrate tie downs and give them the Question Need Benefit treatment instead:

  1. “So if I’ve understood this correctly, the limited efficiency in… is currently having a knock on effect on your ability to… which is hitting your profit margins as a result, is that right?”
  2. “So the fact that your existing documentation system is struggling to keep pace with the increased business and workload means that… (crucial information is slow in reaching the departments involved/quotes don’t go out quickly enough/etc.), and that your company is potentially losing business as a result, right?”
  3. “I gather from what you’re saying that you either have to ensure that the IT system never goes down for more than an hour or, if it does, that you have an efficient back up support system that enables you to work around it, is that about it?”
  4. “From what you’ve said, rather than constantly engaging in price negotiations with your customers and prospects, you need to differentiate your company from the competition and come up with a value proposition that highlights the overall benefits of working with you instead of just looking at bottom line costs, is that it?”

One of two things will happen:

  • You will get agreement that your understanding is correct
  • The prospect will contradict you and tell you what he really means and needs

Either way, you have your committal.

The Question Need Benefit method tends to be well received by those with strong analytical, driver and, possibly, expressive traits in their behavioural styles, as it demonstrates a clear headed approach and desire for understanding aimed at achieving the required results.

So we have the Question that establishes the Need(s) and gains committal to it/them. Before we move on neatly to the next stage of the sale to see where the Benefit part fits in (your Presentation of Offer) in our next Post we will look at just one more way of securing that committal.

Taken from training material originally developed and delivered by Linda Mattacks


Tie Downs Committal

Tie Downs are nearly always essential to getting progression and committal in a sales situation.

Tie DownsYou may have seen Tie Downs before in previous Posts before. Here is an example where Tie Downs are applied to a sales conversation.

“Right. The way I see it we have three main issues here:

  • Your main source of new business – referrals and recommendations have dried up – possibly because they’ve been fully exploited
  • The other sales activities you’ve attempted haven’t been a resounding success to date
  • And you now have a predicament where you don’t have enough work to keep your people on systems implementation and support busy
  • Yes!

Is that about it?”

There are three potential outcomes at this stage:

  • You have indeed judged the situation correctly and you get committal to the problem(s)
  • You haven’t got it quite right and your prospect/ customer will correct you
  • It will emerge that there are no perceived pressing problems/pains (in which case you politely terminate the conversation leaving the door open for future communication)

If your outcome is either of the first two described above you can use the same Tie Downs technique to get committal to the need:-

“The way I see it, we need to

  • Explore whether your referral and recommendation channel really has dried up
  • Focus on how to identify the best potential prospects within your catchment area
  • Adapt your written communication with them to include some compelling sales messages
  • And get you comfortable selling your service over the ‘phone – or at least to introduce it and arrange meetings with prospective customers

Don’t you think?”

This is a classic we’re in this together, problem solving approach that most people respond favourably to.

This is also a good time to introduce some element of immediacy if it is not forthcoming from the prospect. Go back to the Buying signals mentioned earlier and see how, by picking up on them, you could start to identify them as needs and commit the prospect to them, such as:

  • “So the sooner we can cost effectively improve on… the sooner you’ll be able to… and the higher your profit margins will be, won’t they?”
  • “The sooner we get you a more efficient documentation system the better the…. and the quicker the…. will be, won’t they?”
  • “So we really need to ensure that if and when your system ever goes down that it is up and running again within an hour, don’t we?”
  • “So we need to establish the best way to concentrate on the overall benefits of dealing with a company such as yours and get your customers and prospects away from buying purely on cost as soon as possible, don’t we?”

You will find that this approach works well with those who have strong expressive, amiable, and/or driver traits in their behavioural styles, as it is people, ideas and results oriented.

Now you have applied tie Downs you are in a strong position

Having committed the prospect/customer to the need in principle you’ve sown the seeds and are in a good position to build your prospect’s desire for your solution to that need:

… “And if we can establish a product (/solution/support system/value proposition/internal sales training programme/etc.) that will enable us to successfully address this, I guess we’re in business, right?”

We are almost ready to move onto the next stage of the sale but before we do that there will be another Post on another way to gain committal to the problem(s) and need(s).

Taken from training material originally developed and delivered by Linda Mattacks


Buying signals – what are they?

Buying signalsBuying Signals can be anything from a small sign from the prospect or customer that a potential need exists, to a great big bell clanging figuratively in your head. They can occur at any time. In the following example the caller got one straight away when she asked:

“…Tell me, Mr Johnson, what was it that prompted you to contact us?”

and he replied:

“I run an IT systems management and support company and we need to get more customers. I saw the advert for the sales course and thought I might as well find out about it.”

She then starts probing how he’s done this in the past. Learn to pick up on Buying signals and to gently probe them, as they will help you to identify problems. They may be something like:

  1. “We need to improve on….”
  2. “Our documentation system isn’t what it should be…”
  3. “We’re in big trouble if our IT system is down for more than an hour…”
  4. “When it comes to the crunch, our customers keep returning to price and it’s a nightmare trying to maintain decent profit margins…”

How can you recognise Buying signals?

Investigate it and find out. Let’s do it with the above examples:

  1. “If you were able to improve on …, what repercussions would that have and how would they impact on…?
  2. “In what way is your documentation a drawback?”
  3. “What happens if your system is down for more than an hour?”
  4. “What differentiates your company from your competitors?”

Buying signals

  • List every comment or question you can think of that could indicate Buying signals from your prospects or customers
  • Now devise at least one specifically worded way to investigate each one in a conversational manner
  • Practice your investigative skills until you know your questions go straight to the nub of the matter, then stick with them
  • Each time you come across a new comment or question that could indicate Buying signals test it out with an appropriate question and add both to your ever growing list

The answer to your question will tell you whether you’ve judged the situation correctly and may even throw up other, more important issues:

“It would help with… but then we still….”

Continue probing until you have what you believe to be a clear picture of the problems/pains of this individual.

It’s only natural during this process that you’ll start to work out (in your own mind) how you could provide a solution to these problems and it can be really tempting to launch into your ideas straight away. But you’re not quite ready yet.

You need to gain committal to problems that you have identified and explored with your prospect or customer. You also have to get committal or agreement to his needs, so in following Posts you’re going to learn some techniques that will help you.

There are three main ways to achieve committal and you’ll see how much more easily it enables the sale to progress when you use one or other of them.

Taken from training material originally developed and delivered by Linda Mattacks


You are not selling you are problem solving

You are not selling you are problem solving:

  1. You are helping your prospect or customer identify and “flesh out” his problems/pains (open questions)
  2. Getting him to list them in order of their importance to him, thereby tacitly committing him to them (open question)
  3. Committing him to wanting to find a solution to them (closed question)
  4. Taking your understanding of those problems/pains, convert them to needs and getting his agreement or correction (closed question)

You are not selling you are problem solving

You are not selling you are problem solving

You haven’t mentioned one word about how marvellous you, your products or solutions are. The entire conversation thus far has been about your prospect or customer.

And he has willingly provided you with the information you need to to start to assess how you can help him.

That’s why we said right at the beginning of Create and Maintain Interest here is what will set you apart from 95% of people who try to sell.

I’m aware that, when you first start, this process is not necessarily as easy as it sounds, especially if you’ve already had some formal sales training. The tendency on uncovering a prospect’s or customer’s potential initial problem is to immediately assume it’s a fully fledged need and jump in with an “I can help” solution. In reality, the only time that’s likely to be anywhere near the case is if:

  1. It’s general knowledge in your industry that a certain company is dissatisfied with its current supplier/partner and is actively shopping around for a replacement
  2. You are responding to an approach from a prospect company with a clearly thought through and defined need

Even then it’s still worthwhile gently probing to establish that the prospect has gone through this process himself and you can only do that by asking intelligent questions. You are not selling you are problem solving!

Taken from training material originally developed and delivered by Linda Mattacks


Ways to ask questions

There are three basic ways to ask questions when you are in a sales situation:

  • Direct
  • Alternative
  • Assumptive

Ways to ask questionsYou will notice that ALL of the generic questions mentioned in Ask Questions to Create and Maintain Interest are formulated as Direct questions.

Ways to ask questions – Direct questions

That’s fine, as they are a great way to gather information and qualify the prospect. However, despite your use of linking phrases, continuous direct questioning can ultimately become irritating and set you up as an inquisitor.

There are two ways to help you avoid that:

The Information + short commercial opening, whilst still a direct question, comes across as softer as it’s posed in a negative way: The “I don’t suppose…” is fairly non threatening and you can reintroduce it further down the line in your qualifying questions. Let’s return to an example:

“Since these are issues that have probably been bugging you for some time I don’t suppose you’d believe we could be well on the way to fixing the smaller ones within days and the bigger ones within two months, do you?”

What’s happening here?

Maybe it’s a bit risky. He could say “No”, “I don’t know”, “Maybe we could” or “I think we could” or, even “Could we?” But I wouldn’t ask it unless I had identified problems/pains that I know he can fix. And he’s not daft – he’s beginning to realise that I wouldn’t ask that question if I didn’t believe he had the potential wherewithal and couldn’t prove to him that the answer is “yes”.

The second way is to intersperse your direct questions with alternative and assumptive ones as and when appropriate.

Ways to ask questions – Alternative questions

Alternative questions can be used for obtaining more details about information already gathered, for example:

“You mentioned that your company’s key requirements for (whatever product/service offering) would be (x…) and (y…). Which has the highest priority and is the most crucial in your point of view, (x…) or (y…)?”

“Which do you believe was the main advantage of (taking a particular approach/etc.), the (x…) or the (y…)?”

“Which do you believe was the main shortcoming of (taking a particular approach/etc.), the (x…) or the (y…)?”

“Do you currently have a support contract or just call your suppliers out on a ‘need only’ basis?”

“What’s the main thing that’s stopped you sorting this out so far, the time you believe it would take or the how much you reckon it would cost?”

Ways to ask questions – Assumptive questions

Assumptive questions (or statements) can be made to move the conversation along, demonstrate a degree of knowledge and understanding of the prospect’s situation and requirements and gain agreement (or, equally importantly, elicit contradiction if you’re wrong):

“I expect (x…) and (y…) would be your main considerations regarding…”

“So you need this to be up and running by…”

“So you’d probably want (x…) sorted out and agreed before proceeding to (y…)”

“So for peace of mind you’d probably want a full service contract…”

“We need to get these two items satisfactorily agreed and then we can start getting your IT (Marketing/Accounts/etc.) department involved…”

“So the first thing we need you to do is set realistic objectives and time lines …”

Go back to the generic questions

  • Take as many of the generic questions (Ask Questions to Create and Maintain Interest) as you can and compare them against the questions you are already using
  • Add any more that you can think of and adapt them all specifically to your business then try them out in your canvassing calls to your customers and prospects
  • Note the ones that work best for you, that are responded to well and give you the most useful information, and continuously refine them

Big Tip on ways to ask questions

As you are asking your questions remember to listen for buying signals, pick up on them and react to them there and then if appropriate or store them away to refer back to later in the conversation.

Taken from training material originally developed and delivered by Linda Mattacks


Ask Questions to Create and Maintain Interest

Ask QuestionsHow to Ask Questions is also about what questions to ask when trying to Create and Maintain Interest with your Prospect or Customer.

Ask questions to gather information

“What would you look for in (whatever product/service offering); for example what would your key requirements be?”

“How has (whatever) worked in the past/how does it work currently?”

“What are the main advantages and, by the same token, drawbacks, to your company in buying this service on a project by project basis as opposed to retaining a regular supplier?”

“What have been the main advantages of (whatever product/service/solution, operating in a particular way, etc.) and, by the same token, shortcomings?”

“What would you ideally expect from (whatever product/service/solution)?”

“What impact would this make on the business overall?”

“What would be your main considerations regarding…?”

“What made you decide to look into this?”

“Is there a specific process you go through for…, I mean what steps do you follow to determine your precise needs?”

“What problems or challenges could you see that causing/has that caused in the past?”

“How do you measure (cost effectiveness/value for money/etc.)?”

“What would tend to make you to choose one … provider over another?”

Ask questions to gather information following the short commercial opening

If you’ve successfully identified one or more pains you can be a lot more direct in your information gathering questions and progress the sales process much more rapidly:

“How long has this been giving you aggravation?”

“And what have you tried doing to rectify it?”

“What’s worked?”

“What else?”

“How much do you reckon this issue is costing you (in money/ time/ goodwill/ lost relationships)?”

“What keeps you awake at night?”

“Are you going to let things continue as they are or do you want to fix this issue?”

Ask questions to qualify

These apply however you have opened the conversation:

“What is your role in…?”

“Who else would be involved in this decision, and what would their role (/considerations, etc.) be?”

“What’s the planned timing for buying/implementing … (whatever product or service)?”

“When do you need this to be up and running by?”

“What are the budget considerations/how much has been allocated to…?”

“What’s the timing on your next move, do you think?”

“How do you feel about…?”

“How important is this to you?”

“What other issues could intervene that would mean this is no longer a priority?”

“That’s interesting; what makes you think that/say that?”

Notice that each of the questions is probing the prospect or customer for input on:

  • What is important to him
  • His business or area of the business that he controls
  • His considerations, feelings, problems, expectations, challenges and restraints

Big Tip on How to Ask Questions
Even if your prospect or customer appears to already have clearly defined needs and be actively looking around for a solution to them by the time you make contact, don’t be afraid to ask questions to gather information to probe the underlying problems that created that perceived need – you may be able to influence it in your favour!

In addition, ask questions to qualify and help you to ascertain:

  • How he feels about the issue as well as
  • Just how much authority this particular individual has
  • Who else would be involved in any buying decision, what role they would play and how much influence they would have

If you have heard of or come across the SPIN method of training (that’s asking Situation, Problem, Implication and Need-pay-off questions) you will notice that they have all been represented – we just don’t give them that name.

Should you get personal?

My advice is be guided by the prospect wherever possible.

Start by probing the needs of the business from his perspective and if, during the course of this, he offers information of a more personal nature such as:

  • His responsibilities being greater with the growth of the company
  • His staff problems
  • The fact that he is relatively new to this post
  • Etc.

then it’s perfectly natural and polite to follow up with appropriate, businesslike questions, such as:

“So how have you found the best way to prioritise your time, or do you find that you’re delegating more now?”

“So how have you gone about attracting and retaining good people in the past, or is this a relatively recent problem?”

“So are you new to the company or is it that you’re new to this position within the company?” (However he answers you could then ask him about the differences between his previous and current roles)

These too can help you to build rapport.

Sledgehammer, anyone? If you believe that you’re an ace communicator who always gets it right no matter the situation or whom you’re talking to, that’s fine.

But if you have any doubts about the onus being on you to adapt to your prospect’s dominant behavioural style(s) or the rewards of doing so, this is one place where it should start to become obvious that the ability to recognise and identify them quickly and accurately is a skill well worth practising and honing.

Common and potentially fatal mistakes made by (usually) inexperienced and over eager people in sales situations, like being too personal and chatty, using the prospect’s first name too soon and without having been invited to do so, can easily be avoided if you make the effort to ‘read’ your prospect’s character.

If you offer a service (legal, accountancy, career guidance, life coaching, whatever) to individuals it’s probably inevitable that you need to ask questions of a personal nature. In order for the hoped for association to get off the ground, let alone work well for both parties over a sustained period of time, establishing a potential personal ‘fit’ with the prospect early on will be a key factor.

In this case I would start by asking questions about their aims and goals followed by how they would see the service offered fitting in with and contributing to achieving those aims and goals.

A note of caution here:

Some people just love to talk whilst some others will quite deliberately lead you off the point, so you have to be prepared to gently but firmly steer the conversation back on track. You’ll find that easier to do if you ask questions with your pre-prepared questions to hand.

Taken from training material originally developed and delivered by Linda Mattacks


Questions are the answer

“A prudent question is one half of wisdom”
Sir Francis Bacon

People buy based on on one of two emotions:

  • To experience pleasure
  • To alleviate pain

They then come up with whatever logical reasons necessary to justify their decision. In business the emotion is generally pain based but, either way, you can’t even begin thinking about how to tailor your offer until you establish what is important to this individual. And the way to do that is by asking intelligent, relevant questions.

QuestionsWhilst asking your questions try to put yourself ‘in your prospect’s or customer’s shoes’ and understand how he sees things and you will gradually uncover his problems (pain) from his point of view. You can convert these to his needs.

This is important because when anyone buys anything they do it for their own reasons, not yours. That’s not to say you can’t shape your questions in a way that the answers help you to progress the sale.

If you’ve ever carried out any form of exploratory telephone fact finding, you will (hopefully) be aware that you should always first ask yourself:

  • Precisely what do I want to find out?
  • Why do I need to know that information?
  • What will I do with the information – how will I use it to increase business and profit once I have it?

You list your answers as bullet points.

Then you turn those bullet points into questions that, when answered by the prospect, would give you the information you need to help you achieve your goal.

Don’t forget that discipline when you come to prospecting, as it should help you to concentrate your mind on the content of the questions you need to ask.

It would probably also be helpful to apply a similar exploratory mental approach to the cold prospecting call (“Let’s find out if there’s a potential fit here” rather than “I’m going to sell you something”).

Apply this same approach to the face-to-face sales situation as for the telephone sales call.

Using a mixture of questioning techniques, mainly open-ended questions (those that are answered by more than a simple yes or no) and really listening to the answers are skills that are vital to learn and require practising. They encourage the prospect to become a participant in the discussion. In this early stage of the sale they enable you to:

  • Gather information
  • Qualify sales opportunities

This will in turn enable you to begin to establish a rapport, build trust and credibility and formulate how best to position the presentation of your offer.

So let’s look at these two areas in turn, and see what kind of questions we can prepare in advance to help you along. They are generic but you should be able to adapt most of these to suit your business for use not only on the Cold Call but also on all of your prospecting calls.

They work just as well in face-to-face situations too – just pick and mix them with the ones you’ve already prepared.


Tips on questions

  • Avoid the ‘inquisitor’ mode of rapid fired questions, one after the other
  • Use linking phrases where appropriate, such as

    “By the way…”, “Out of interest…”, “Just to make sure I’ve understood this…”

  • Make sure that your questions are straightforward so that the prospect can easily understand why you’re asking them – don’t try to be ‘clever’ – you’ll only annoy him
  • Take notes throughout the call – you’ll never remember everything the prospect says – this is perfectly acceptable whether the call is by telephone or in person
  • Don’t talk at the prospect or customer, involve him

Taken from training material originally developed and delivered by Linda Mattacks


Create and maintain interest scenarios

Create and Maintain Interest scenario 1

Create and maintain interest scenarioIn this Create and Maintain Interest scenario we’ll just take a few minutes to demonstrate how you can move from the Attention to the Interest part of the call – (see Pattern of the Sale).

Let’s say I’m telephoning companies to find those that will benefit from one of my sales courses.

Typically they will be towards the top end of micro professional service or solutions businesses with 6 to 9 people and where the Owner/MD is primarily responsible for growing the business and that’s the person I want to make contact with.

  • Occasionally some that are at the low end of small companies (with 10 to 49 people) will have snuck onto the list I’ve purchased. It’s normally these companies that have a dedicated Gatekeeper who’ll want to know what the call is about before transferring me to the MD or, occasionally a New Business Director. Out of interest, in my case, I’ve learnt from experience that it’s a waste of time talking to anyone not at Board level because:
  • The employee mentality generally manifests itself in their preference to deny any shortcomings (even if they know they exist) rather than admit them and embrace a solution to fixing them – Fear of failure: “What if I say this course would be a Good Thing then struggle with it? What if I don’t get better results having done it?”

Those who do appreciate the lifeline they’re being offered often then struggle to sell the idea upwards to The Boss – which then just leaves them more aware than ever of a problem but with no solution to it – double whammy!

So let’s stick with the micro companies for simplicity in this example. Once through to the Owner/ MD I introduce myself and ask him if he has a couple of minutes. Assuming he does, the Information + short commercial Opening is an approach that is appreciated by busy, time pressed people as it enables us to cut to the chase:

“Hello, Mr (prospect surname), I’m Linda Mattacks from CoZo Limited.

Do you have a few minutes or is there a better time for me to call?”

(The above isn’t the opening question, it’s just good manners and I’m not comfortable using “30 seconds”.) We’ll presume he says that now is okay.

“We help (MDs/Owners) of small, mainly (his type, e.g. IT, technical, engineering) companies who hate selling

They’re terrified of being rejected

Looking stupid

Or being thought pushy”

If this strikes a particular chord with the individual I’m talking to, I’m forced to stop after the opening statement and don’t get the chance to turn it into a question, as it tends to provoke an immediate and heartfelt reaction and interruption along the lines of:

“Tell me about it! I’d rather go to the dentist and have a root canal without an anaesthetic than make cold telephone calls”…

(Sometimes the prospect will even volunteer additional information about the company’s activities and the way it currently attracts business.) Okay, I now know he hates cold calling but is that an issue? I need to find that out next:

“Right…, so who’s responsible for sourcing and bringing in the business for your company?”

“It’s mainly me.”

“And how much do you think your understandable aversion to and fear of cold calling might be holding your company back from reaching its full growth potential?”

If he says something like:

“We’re pretty lucky, really. We’ve never had to advertise or go out looking for business, we’ve always got it by word of mouth and recommendation.”

He’s pretty comfortable. So I need to probe whether that comfort is warranted and realistic or whether there are times when it might get a bit hairy relying on word of mouth and recommendations alone:

“That’s great, as it’s something that every company is usually striving towards yet it’s rare, especially in a small, relatively young company for that to be relied on to be enough to plug the holes when, say,

A project you’ve geared up resources to work on progresses so far then gets indefinitely halted
A contract that you’ve had for several years suddenly isn’t renewed
A customer company moves away, merges or is taken over and goes to another supplier

There’s no pause here but the answer to the following question will more or less dictate how the conversation will proceed, if at all:

I don’t suppose you struggle with any of these issues in your business?”

If he says no, he’s really doing fine, that’s pretty well the end of the conversation. I don’t usually bother wit the the “If there was one thing you could do better, what would that be?” angle because experience has shown that he’ll come up with something that’s non-sales related. However, if we’ve got along particularly well I might try one more cheeky go:

That’s brilliant – and I’m envious. I don’t suppose you know of someone in a non competing company who is struggling with any of these issues in their business?”

Nothing ventured – nothing gained – it’s worth a shot! However, if, on reflection, one of the outlined scenarios hits home, he might be starting to feel a little less comfortable:

“That does happen occasionally – Why – What do you actually do?”

“We show companies how to plan and achieve sustainable, organic growth that enables them to ride out any unpredicted glitches. I’d like to spend 10 minutes exploring your situation with you without any interruptions – could we do that now or is there a better time?”

There’s absolutely no point in trying to take the conversation further unless he’s prepared to give it the time I know it will need. Let’s say he agrees now is fine, I next need to prime him that some of it might make him feel a bit uncomfortable:

“Is it okay if I ask you some questions that may be awkward for you to answer – And you can ask me any questions you’d like, too?”

Agreement to this means there’s just one more point to cover before we get on with our exploration:

“And you say “no” at any time you like, okay?”

The okay means we’re in business and the information gathering and qualification questions that will uncover and probe the nature and degrees of his problems/ pains can begin in earnest.

Create and Maintain Interest scenario 2

In this instance we start off the same way as before, picking up from:

“We help (MDs/Owners) of small, mainly (his type, e.g. IT, technical, engineering) companies who hate selling:

They’re terrified of being rejected
Looking stupid
Or being thought pushy

Yet are aware that referrals and recommendations, great though they are, can’t alone be relied on to plug unexpected business droughts

OTHERS don’t mind selling and are actually quite good but find it difficult to get in front of the right prospects and build a steady sales pipeline

They know they have to spend more time ‘out of the engine room and up on the bridge’ yet can’t seem to find or make enough time or
They can’t get the appointments

I don’t suppose you struggle with any of these issues in your business?”

A “yes” answer leads me straight on to:

“I’d like to spend (in this instance) 15 minutes exploring your situation with you without any interruptions – could we do that now or is there a better time?”

And so on, as before.

Taken from training material originally developed and delivered by Linda Mattacks


Create And Maintain Interest

The measure of your success in firstly converting prospects to customers and secondly growing your share of their custom will depend largely on your ability to ask relevant, sensible, intelligent questions to create and maintain interest.

Learn to do so and you will positively separate yourself from 95% of people who try to sell.

Look at the ‘Questions’ stage of Our Pattern of the Sale to discover the best way to do this:

Create and Maintain Interest - Questions

When you actively prospect for business, as opposed to just responding to enquiries, you will come across people who don’t think they have any problems that need to be sorted out and are actually quite happy with the status quo. If you try to bulldoze your way through this reception and talk about what you can do for the prospect you’re going to meet with resistance.

You don’t want to try to sell this prospect a product, service or solution that he does not perceive to be right for him, as doing so will only be an uphill struggle and cause both of you grief in the long run. But it may take quite a bit of gentle probing to discover whether there is a way you can help him.

Your approach here is what will set you apart from 95% of sales people so get it right!

There is a 4 step process you follow that enables you to do this, you:

  1. Help the prospect or customer identify and ‘flesh out’ his problems/pains
  2. Get him to list them in order of their importance to him, thereby tacitly committing him to them
  3. Commit him to wanting to find a solution to them
  4. Take your understanding of those problems/pains, convert them to needs and get his agreement or correction

This is an ideal scenario where you actively take part in shaping your prospect’s requirements before any of your competitors are even aware that they exist.


Opening the Sale

In earlier Posts on Opening the Sale, as well as introducing you to the different Openings available to you, I have deliberately somewhat heavy-handedly demonstrated that if you are happy to come across to your target prospect as a salesperson right from the first point of contact, go ahead and try any of the openings yourself on the Cold Call.

If, on the other hand, you remember that most people do not like being overtly sold to (okay, you’ll always find the odd ones who see it as some kind of a game) and you would rather come across as an intelligent, sensible business person, then the:

are the only ones that should be used to open a Cold Call.

The Cold Call in Opening the Sale is the hardest one to make – But you only have to make it to each person once! And even if you don’t manage to arrange a meeting, elicit interest in receiving more information or make a sale first time round, the door should always be open if:

  • That prospect is, or could be, in the market for what you have to offer
  • You learn from the lessons and examples here, practise the techniques shown and don’t alienate the prospect

Opening the Sale

Big Tip on Opening the Sale

It’s worth working on the Information + 30-second commercial Opening as it really does swiftly qualify prospects in or out

Most people are afraid to go for the “no” and will do anything to avoid it: If the answer is going to be “no”, why not find out sooner rather than later and move on to the next prospect?

By the way, we all tend to get a little lazy with our established prospects and customers over time and don’t put the same amount of time and effort into preparing our calls as we would for a new prospect.

Consequently we go back to them with the same old thing and wonder why we’re not making any progress.

Practising the appropriate use of different opening questions with new prospects, established prospects and regular customers will help your outbound canvassing calls get off to a good start and ensure that you get your target’s favourable attention, so:

Vary your opening questions

New Prospects:

  • Devise at least 3 different Information and Opinion Opening questions specifically aimed at your target audience
  • Come up with an Information Opening with 30-second commercial
  • Practice alternating those questions on new prospects until you can pinpoint which tend to work best for you, then stick with them
  • Don’t allow yourself to get stale – test out other versions of these questions as they occur to you and incorporate the successful ones in your prospecting activities

Customers and Established Prospects:

  • Take each of the remaining Opening Questions and see how you can adapt and apply them to use in canvassing calls to your customers or established prospects. Revisit their websites and look for changes. Resolve not to go back with the same old thing!

One more point regarding ‘regulars’:
You don’t have time to phone people for a chat, or if you do, don’t kid yourself that it’s a business call; each call you make should have a specific purpose.

And just because you now know each other doesn’t mean that you can neglect to say your company name and the reason for the call, as well as your name, right at the beginning, and ask if it’s a convenient time to talk.

Did I mention earlier on that we each have two ears and one mouth?

  • Bear in mind that once you’ve asked the opening question it’s time for your ears to go into overdrive:

You really need to listen to your prospect’s answer for guidance on how best to proceed. A mistake many sales people make is to concentrate so hard on the way they want the call to go and the next question they want to ask that they don’t listen properly to their prospect’s response. That’s a fundamental error that can result in sounding the death knell for the call.

Now what?
Having obtained your target’s attention and really listened to his initial response you need to engage him in conversation.

Taken from training material originally developed and delivered by Linda Mattacks