Traits of Top Salespeople

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The Quintessential Salesperson: Navigating Trust, Value, and the Art of the Ask

The Quintessential Salesperson: Navigating Trust, Value, and the Art of the Ask

In the exciting world of sales, getting swept up in targets, quotas, and the rush of closing deals is easy. Yet, as a young salesperson just starting out in your career, it’s crucial to remember the essence of your role: You’re not just a seller; you’re a valuable addition to your customers’ lives and their companies. You offer a benefit that goes beyond the product you sell – you provide solutions, help achieve goals, and in doing so, create value that far outweighs the monetary cost of your product.

The Value Proposition: Solving Problems, Achieving Goals

In sales, the first step is always about understanding your product and its inherent value. Your product is not just a commodity – it’s a tool that solves a problem and facilitates the achievement of a goal. Your customers are not merely trading their money for your product; they are investing in a solution that is valuable to them and helps them conquer challenges and move closer to their aspirations.

Remember, if your product doesn’t solve a problem or help achieve a goal for your customer, they probably shouldn’t buy it. It’s your responsibility to ascertain whether the product you’re selling aligns with your prospect’s needs. Hence, the questions you ask before they become a customer are crucial. Those questions are designed to allow you to help them. The design of those questions enables you to discover if the prospect has a problem that your product can help with and if they have a goal that aligns with what your product offers.

In the memorable words of Jerry McGuire (a sales movie masquerading as a love story), discovery questions are simply asking the prospect to help you so that you can help them.

Trust: The Foundation of Sales Success

As a salesperson, trust is your currency. Your belief in the ability of your product to solve a problem worthy of solving is the foundation upon which you build your sales strategy. Your job is not just about making a sale but transferring that trust from you to your customer. And doing it quickly enough to matter to your timeline, be it this quarter, this month, or this year.

The trust you build with your customers also extends to understanding that your product might be a better fit for some companies. Discerning the right fit requires asking probing questions to determine if the prospect has a problem big enough and a goal valuably sufficient to warrant the investment of the company’s resources.

The Art of Asking: Confidence and Curiosity

As a salesperson, your strength lies in your product knowledge or persuasion skills and your ability to ask the right questions. This requires a blend of confidence and curiosity. Confidence stems from your belief in the product and the value it provides. Curiosity comes from your genuine interest in your prospect’s needs, challenges, and goals.

You’re not merely trying to sell a product; you’re attempting to do your prospect a favor by offering a solution that will make a difference in their lives or businesses. This perspective empowers you to ask difficult questions. It gives you the courage to delve deeper into your prospect’s needs and challenges to discover the true extent of the problem they’re trying to solve and the value of the goal they’re trying to achieve.

Remember, as a salesperson, you’re a problem solver, a goal facilitator, and a trusted advisor. You offer a benefit, provide a solution, and create value. Your job is not just about closing deals but about making a difference. And that, a young salesperson, is the essence of a successful sales career.

The Pride of Problem-Solving: A Salesperson’s Badge of Honor

In the grand tapestry of business, the role of a salesperson is often underestimated. The skills and tenacity it takes to close a deal are frequently overlooked, and the value a salesperson brings to the table can sometimes be undersold. But if you peel back the layers of what it truly means to be in sales, you’ll discover a role that’s integral, important, and worthy of great pride.

As a salesperson, you’re not merely a cog in the business machine but a problem-solver, a facilitator of goals, and a conduit of value. You’re the key that unlocks the door to solutions for your prospects, the bridge that carries them toward their goals. And that’s something to be incredibly proud of.

When you help a prospect solve a problem or achieve a goal, you do more than just sell a product. You’re making a tangible difference in their lives and businesses. You’re helping them overcome hurdles, reach new heights, and achieve success. The pride that stems from this role isn’t merely about the deals you close or the targets you hit but the real and meaningful impact you have on the people and companies you interact with.

So, as you step into the shoes of a salesperson, remember to carry with you not just your product knowledge and sales techniques but also a sense of pride in your role. Because you are more than just a salesperson – you’re a problem-solver, a goal-facilitator, a value-creator. You are a catalyst for change and a harbinger of success for your customers. Wear your salesperson badge with pride, for it is a testament to your ability to make a difference, one solution, one goal, and one sale at a time.

Header Photo by Mizuno K
Ask Better Questions To Close More Deals

Ask Better Questions To Close More Deals

Asking questions is one of the most effective conversation techniques for a sales call. It shows that you’re interested in the customer’s business and demonstrates your curiosity about their needs. Asking questions also gives you an opportunity to gather the information that can help you close the sale. However, it’s important to avoid asking too many questions or coming across as pushy. The key is to strike a balance between being interested and being intrusive. By using questions strategically, you can build rapport, gather information, and ultimately close the sale.

Asking questions is key to uncovering the initiatives and goals for the company during the Discovery phase of your sales process. The more that you discover with your questions, the more that you will be able to tailor your sales efforts to appeal to the various decision-makers within the prospect. You will also be able to decide if your product’s benefits are valuable enough to spend time selling to the prospect.

Not all questions are created equal. To be effective, questions should be carefully crafted to elicit specific information. They should also be asked in a way that shows genuine curiosity and concern. When used correctly, questions can help you to create a deeper connection with your prospective customer and increase your chances of making a successful sale.

In order to build rapport with a prospect and earn trust, you need to be an active listener as well as a skilled speaker. This means asking questions to get a better understanding of their business, their needs, and their goals. It also means showing genuine curiosity and interest in what they have to say. Only by taking the time to truly listen can you hope to build the foundation for a successful business relationship.

Of course, questions must be used wisely. You will come across as pushy or intrusive if you ask too many questions. But if you use them judiciously, questions can be a powerful tool for building relationships and closing deals.

Great basis for questions

You probably shouldn’t ask these specific questions but they will probably get you started in the right direction.

  • What is working?
  • What isn’t working?
  • When it works, what good things happen?
  • When it doesn’t work, what bad things happen?
  • Who is affected when it doesn’t work?
  • Who is affected when it does work?
  • How much does it cost when it doesn’t work?
  • What are their goals?
  • What challenges are they facing?
  • May I ask you some questions about your business?
  • Could you tell me about your business?
  • What happens in the world that causes you to lose money as a company?
  • You specialize in X. Why did you choose that niche?
  • What does your manager hope to accomplish in the next year?
  • How does your company evaluate new products or services before buying?
  • Why would you commit time and resources to something that’s low to medium priority?
  • Tell me about your average day. How would this solution impact your daily work?
  • What’s holding your team back from reaching your goals?
  • Was budget a barrier in solving this problem previously?
  • Why is this a priority for you now?
  • Why haven’t you tried to solve the problem before?
  • Who are you doing business with now? Why did you choose that vendor?
  • Is there anyone else you think I should speak with?
  • What is the business problem you’re trying to solve?
  • What are the priorities for your business/team this quarter?
  • What are your biggest pain points?
  • What events are you attending this year?
  • Where do you see the biggest opportunities for growth?
  • When is a good date to follow up?

Showing that you understand their needs will make it more likely that they’ll want to do business with you. By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your sales calls are more effective and enjoyable for everyone involved.

Many sales campaigns are effective because of the questions that the salesperson asks. Good questions display business acumen and curiosity, two qualities that customers respect. They also give the salesperson an opportunity to understand the customer’s needs and pain points. Asking questions also shows that the salesperson is engaged in the conversation and is truly interested in helping the customer. Consequently, questions should be a key part of any sales call.

Photo by Alex Green: https://www.pexels.com/photo/attentive-female-counselor-listening-to-male-patient-5699484/
Salespeople need to stop asking oxygen questions

Salespeople need to stop asking oxygen questions

In my position, I frequently have salespeople reach out to me to pitch their product or service. I try to listen to as many of these as possible. I believe there is a chance their product could help me achieve my goals or the goals of my company.

I firmly believe that there are better tools or capabilities in the market that can help my company achieve our goals. For this reason, I will happily listen to a salesperson that makes a persuasive pitch.

I get most frustrated in these opening pitches when the salesperson asks an “oxygen” question. Something like, “In all of my conversations, we have found that salespeople do best when they can breathe oxygen. Do you find that in your own business?”

Really? You just asked me a question that everyone in my position would reply with a “Yes” answer. What good came out of you asking that question. You are now starting in negative territory for having any credibility with me. I have immediately categorized you as wasting my time. Good luck trying to dig out of that hole.

I am not a chastened buyer. We have all seen the comic of the medieval king that is battling his foe with swords. The helpful salesperson is trying to get his attention to sell him a machine gun. 

But if that machine gun salesperson started his pitch with an oxygen question, maybe it is that is the reason that the king doesn’t want to listen. 

I am not suggesting that a successful salesperson shouldn’t make small talk to create camaraderie with the prospect. In fact, I wrote about creating small talk a short time ago

What are oxygen questions?

Oxygen questions are designed to get a positive response. A long time ago, salespeople that sold at the kitchen table (e.g., insurance, pots and pans, vacuums cleaners, Tupperware, etc.) used the philosophy of asking many questions that required a positive answer. The theory was to get the gullible prospect used to saying, “Yes” and eventually saying, “Yes” to the final price.

When you ask an oxygen question, you are suggesting that your prospect is gullible. Is that the impression that you want to give?

Examples of oxygen questions

All of these questions are no better than asking your prospect if his team needs oxygen to do their job. Of course, they need oxygen; everyone needs oxygen.

A lousy question to the VP of Sales: “In our experience, VPs of Sales for young companies are trying to grow. Are you trying to grow your company’s revenue of your venture-capital funded startup?”  This was the oxygen question that I received this morning and gave me the impetus for this post. Aren’t all VPs of Sales trying to grow revenue, especially those in VC funded companies? This question does nothing to advance the conversation.

A lousy question to the Head of Supply Chain: “In our experience, supply chain managers need to drive efficiency in the operations. Are you trying to make your supply chain operation more efficient?”  The sarcastic answer to that question is, “No, I want my company to be less efficient.”

A lousy question to the CFO: We have noticed that CFOs are worried about the accuracy of financial reports to their board and shareholders. Are you concerned about the accuracy of your financial statements? Are you kidding me? What CFO wants to go to jail for knowingly having inaccurate financial statements? How is the answer to that question going to give the salesperson any information?

Use better opening questions

Your opening questions should not be similar to, “Is oxygen important?” Instead, the wise salesperson or business development representative should spend a few minutes researching the company. It won’t take long. You should look at the company website and see what is essential to the prospect. Maybe read the CEO letter in the annual report. Figure out the industry and look at other companies in the industry.

The more a salesperson understands the business of his prospect, the more he can start to add value to the conversation. 

Even starting with a statement about what you do is better than asking an oxygen question. If you cannot take the time to understand the issues confronting that company, start with your value pitch: “My company helps young companies rapidly increase their revenue generation. Can I spend a few minutes explaining how we do that?”

That opening statement is not the best opening, but if you make that pitch to me, I will likely give you a few minutes to hear more. But to be honest, I am a sucker for a good sales pitch, and I hate bad pitches.