Ask to understand. What’s the difference? It’s huge I’d say. If you ask just to ask you might risk coming out as in the example I wrote about the other day.
So how can you get on top of this? One good and simple way is to ask a question of a different nature. I choose to call them ‘Control questions’ and has nothing to do with controlling the customer. The control is all you. How? It’s to make sure the you have understood what the customer is telling you in the right way…
It’s no rocket science really. But I’ve found when I’ve coached sales people over the years that it’s often the simplest things that never gets done. We tend to forget over time. That’s why sales training shouldn’t be seen as a quick fix but a constant need over time.
There are actually different ways to get even this ‘out there’. There’s a big difference how you say it and what comes across. Here’s an example:
-I don’t get you…
This is a way of putting blame. Saying that its not your fault that you don’t follow. It doesn’t really create a comfy atmosphere if you see what I mean. Furthermore this isn’t even a question, its more a statement. So how should you ask instead? Here’s one alternative:
-Have I understood you right if…
This way of asking a control question puts any possible guilt that could be in the air on you and creates a whole different atmosphere.
Here’s todays task for you:
- The next time you are in a conversation. Take time and ask yourself first of all if you think that you’ve understood the customer right. When you’ve done that go ahead and phrase your control question to the customer and see if you actually had…
Instead of guessing – there are simple ways to actually know. This is one of them. But again – you’ve got to put your heart to it.
The saying is that ”Curiosity killed the cat”. A less frequently-seen rejoinder is ”but satisfaction brought it back”. A synonym for ‘curious’ is ‘eager to learn’. And there isn’t any better way to learn than to ask questions!
The first obstacle you have to overcome is to actually start asking questions – at all. After that you have pace, and as long as you reflect over what you do and how you do it you can always correct your direction on your own – or with a little help from your friends.
So we’ve identified that asking questions is fundamental for sales. Let’s focus on what kind of questions you should ask. This is where curiosity is a help. What you want to do is to ask questions that give you as much information as possible. The best way to get there is to use ‘open questions’ in opposite to closed questions.
”We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
– Walt Disney
You’ll find more about how to ask here. But if you are truly curious you need to be prepared to ask supplementary questions. So when you’ve received the first answer you can follow up with another question. Here are some examples:
– In what way does this affect you?
– How do you mean?
– What impact does this have?
So I’d say it helps to be curious, you see? If you ask questions this way you will like the quote from Walt Disney says ”..keep moving forward and open new doors..”.
Here’s todays tasks for you:
- Write down at least three open questions that you memorise so that you can use them in you coming sales meetings.
If you actually do this task and decide for yourself that you are going to use the questions consequently I’m sure you’ll find the little investment well worth. But you have to put your heart to it.
I think you’ve heard the question so many times. It’s the typical ‘Closed question’. What’s a closed question? It’s a question that you can answer with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. But it’s not a question that give you much to work with. It just doesn’t lead anywhere. And it’s the worst question to open up with. Why? Well, if you ask someone: ‘Can I help you?’ and they reply with a simple ‘No’ – what are you going to do? The conversation dies. Your opening is not really an opening because it doesn’t open up to anything…
“The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions.”
― Claude Levi-Strauss
Sure, a closed question can absolutely be useful but only when you know what you want. There is a hierarchy amongst different types of questions in the sales process but I’ll come back to this later. Usually the closed question is used when you are looking to do just that – close a sale.
There are many different types of sales methodologies and one that do use closed questions deliberately is one that relies on the fact that the more times you say ‘Yes’, the harder it will be to say ‘No’. Therefore you ask questions that can only be answered with a ‘Yes’. Let me give an example:
– Do you at times find your home to be messy?
– Would you like to clean your home less frequently?
– Would you like to get a more efficient result when you clean your home?
– If I could solve this for you, would that be interesting?
You see how it goes? The questions are only there for one reason, for you to say ‘Yes’. and the more yes you say the more your brain will want to continue to say yes… This might be good sales in terms of dollars but not in terms of actually listening to the customers needs.
Here’s today task for you:
- Think about your way of working with closed questions. How does that align with your sales process? Or even more so, how does your way of selling align with whom you as a company say you are or want to be?
To sell from the heart is to make everything work together. To make sure that the customer see you as ‘One’ company. Your values will always show – sooner or later.
So you want to sell? Or you want to sell more? Well I guess it’s no secret. How you succeed will very much depend on how you ask questions. Depending on how you ask them you will get very different information. The key lies in how the customer can choose to answer to your question. Unfortunately the most used questions in the sales situation many times gives little information.
The best sell relates to the need. Therefore you have to find that. And the best way to do so is to ask questions. But don’t wear the customer out with questions that don’t lead anywhere.
“Knowledge is power.”
– Francis Bacon
If you want to get the most out of your questions you should learn to always start your questions with i.e. ‘How’, ‘Why’ or ‘Where’. If you do so the customer can’t answer with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and you will get lots of information to work with. This is called using open questions in opposite to closed. Also by asking questions this way you will make sure not to end up a crocodile but rather an elephant. An example of a closed question would be: ‘Can I help you?’. While an example of an open question would be ‘How can I help you?’ or ‘What can I help you with?’
Here’s todays task for you:
- Try to during a week actively (at least) think about how you ask questions and the reflect over the difference when you ask questions that can be answered with a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ compare to a question that can’t.
Questions give us a lot of information if asked in the right way. The difference can be to sell or not to sell. In the beginning you might find it hard but hang in there. You have to make it a reflex. And the only way to do so is to practice. And practice again. So you have to put your heart to it. And by doing so you will actually get closer to the customers heart too. And that – is ‘Heartful sales’.
…it’s rather about what you do consistently over time that will actually improve your sales skills and eventually your result. So many times I’ve heard people that live of inspiration. Problem with that is that inspiration will fluctuate over time. And as a sales person or even more so if you have some sort of leadership role in sales that’s not what you are looking for.
Today is the day when Vasaloppet runs. Vasaloppet is the world’s oldest, longest and biggest cross-country ski race. It has a rich history and tradition; hundreds of thousands of skiers have tackled the 90 km stretch from Sälen to Mora since the start in 1922. Rigorous training and careful preparation is needed to complete this 90 km challenge.
The people that compete in Vasaloppet has prepared rigorously (hopefully), at least those that hope to achieve a top placement or improve their previous result. It’s not a sprint race. Sure, the sprint is there too but it’s a true long race. A marathon I guess you could say. So is most of the sales jobs too. You have to drive yourself over time to achieve the expected result. And in order for you to have a positive improvement over time, you need to commit to goals, make a plan how to get there, work hard and be open to feedback from customers, colleagues and so on.
I don’t know if you’ve ever asked yourself what your aim is with what you do. What do you want to achieve? How are you going to get there? The longest I myself has waited to close a deal is seven years. And it sure was worth it. No one put that goal on me. It was solely mine. And those are the best. The ones you set for yourself. Because if you set the goals you will be more likely to be committed to achieve them as well.
Here’s todays task for you:
- Think about one thing you want to get better at. It can be anything really but preferably something that has do to with sales. And don’t grasp for something too big. We’ll get there eventually. Ask yourself if you are really committed to achieve an improvement within that area. If you are, you’ve got the perfect conditions to actually achieve it. Now brake your goal down into actions that need to happen in order for you to achieve it. the rest is up to you.
To often when it comes to getting better in sales we grasp for too much. To climb Mount Everest you need to take one step at a time. That’s how you do it. Otherwise the risk is we’ll fall and hurt ourselves. And if we’ve hurt ourselves it’s going to be harder to get back up to where you were. Sure, inspiration can be useful but if you want to achieve an actual improvement – you’ve got to put your heart to it.
The other day I wrote a post about what animal is used to describe a bad sales person. You’ll find it here if you’re interested. Today let’s focus on the opposite. What animal is used to describe a good sales person and why?
It’s the elephant. I think you can figure out why. It has nothing to do with the trunk if that’s what you’re thinking about. It’s the ears. The big ears. A good attribute to have if you’re going to succeed in sales is to be a good listener.
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
If you don’t listen to the customer you’ll never quite understand what he or she is buying. You probably think you know what you are selling but that’s not necessary the same thing as the customer is buying…
Let me point out a few things about listening. First, you can “listen” with many different senses but today I’ll just focus on what you can actually hear. Second – too often we listen to respond and not to understand. Third – in order to make sure you’ve actually understood your customer you should ask control question to secure that you’re on the same page. Otherwise you might risk talking about things that for many different reasons are irrelevant to your customer. And believe me – you don’t want to go there… 😉
Here’s todays task for you:
- The next time you’ve carried out a sales visit or had a sales talk, ask yourself who spoke the most? If the answer is the customer then you’re on the right track. Just keep going. But don’t forget to calibrate every once in a while. If the answer is that you are the one that spoke the most then you’ve spotted some potential for improvement. In that case carry the picture with you over a period of a month and keep asking yourself the same question on a daily basis.
Many times we think that it’s the people that talk the most that are the best sales people. But I’d say that the sales people that will last, evolve and become real stars is the one that listen more than they speak. That’s selling with your heart.
When you are working with sales you have a very clear goal. To sell. It’s as simple as that. Almost brutal. Not all jobs has that immediate feedback that you are doing what you are supposed to. It’s like sports. To win a game can be a fantastic feeling. You’re “on top of the world”. To loose is the direct opposite. If you’ve worked with sales for a while you’ve probably heard the saying “Second place first looser”.
We all have the same amount of time. The clock ticks just as fast for all of us. It’s not about how much time we have rather than what we do with our time. You know what they say “Time is money…”. In sales this is very true. How you spend your time will have direct effect on your sales. So in that sense time actually is money. So the big question is: Are you using your time in the best way to accomplish what you need?
I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie “Alice in wonderland”. In the movie Alice meets a rabbit and asks the rabbit which way she’s supposed to take. The rabbit asks Alice where she’s going and she replies that she doesn’t know whereupon the rabbit responds:
“If you don’t know where you are going it doesn’t matter which way you go…”
In sales we usually know what we are supposed to do and what is expected of us. If you don’t know this this is where you need to start. But all you others that do know, the question you should ask yourself is if your daily activity supports that goal?
Here’s todays task for you:
- Log your time for the coming week. Se how much actual time you spend calling, doing actual sales meetings, networking etc. Once you’ve done that you will most likely be able to spot your own potential for growth and by focusing on just that increase your sales result.
Sure, it’s not what we do, it’s how we do it. True that but fact is that you can’t get around that if you want to sell more you have to have a high activity. I’m not saying this is in contrast to quality. Of course you need both. but you can’t have one without the other. You simply have to put your heart to it… 😉
If you think about those times you’ve had a good experience of someone selling you something I think you’ll find that they’ve shown great interest in who you are and what your challenges are. For me that’s the core of what sales really is about. Or even more so what good sales really is. It has very little to do with you (the sales person) and all to do with whom you’re meeting. To make good sales – over time – you have to actually care about the person and his or hers challenges, needs and problems. Why? Because when you address just that, that’s when you are adding actual true value. And that is what you, or anyone else too for that matter will remember. So the next time that person needs help or gets the question to recommend someone it will be you. All that just because you care.
“You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird.4 J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1960
Sales is about solving problems. Taking on actual challenges. And addressing real needs. So when people ask me why I love working with sales that is the answer. That I love to solve problems. Real problems.
Here’s todays task for you:
- If you’re going to help people solving their problems in different ways, you have to know what it’s like to be in that position for yourself. So now think about something you actually need help with. That you for some reason can’t solve by your self. And once you’ve done that – ask someone to help you.
It’s humbling. I know. I’ve done it. And I still do. And i still find it very hard sometimes. So therefore I keep doing it. If you want to give help, you have to be willing to receive help. To understand that fundamental rule is heartful sales.
This is the first out of a total of 100 blog posts about sales. During the coming days you’ll find posts with ideas and tips, reflections and so on. My aim is to give you something everyday to think about that relates to sales. I don’t claim to have everything right, I just claim my right to be generous with my thoughts and experiences.
There are a lot of emotions that gets stirred when sales is on the agenda. I’ve met so many people saying: “I’m a marketeer but sales is definitely not my thing”. Why is that? I think it has to do somewhat with prejudice. It’s all those pictures that comes up in our heads of sales people we’ve met and don’t want to be like. But for me, that has very little to do with sales. Hopefully after #blogg100 is over I’ve gotten a chance to prove that to you – if you just hang in there.
Here’s todays task for you:
- So you obviously know what sales isn’t. Try to reflect on what sales really is instead. So often we tell others what we don’t want instead of the opposite. Put down your reflections in your notebook and in 100 days go back and read it again. You might be surprised.
First step is to think positively about sales. At first you might find it hard but it’s all about what you get yourself used to. If your first thought about sales is a negative one – you have to start where your heart is.
PS. Please feel free to comment my posts and/or ask questions. I just might happen to address just the question you’re thinking about during my 100 days. And again – these are my views, opinions, reflections and take aways.