In a recent article published by SalesProCentral, Gretchen Gordon, founder of Braveheart Sales Performance writes, “The harder the questions, the easier the sale.”
As noted in past posts and newsletters, we have consistently observed that too many sales people talk too much and listen too little; and the key to better listening (and to talking less) is to ask better questions. In support of this view, Gordon cites an Objective Management Group study indicating that only 11% of salespeople ask the next, most important question when necessary.
Further she states, “The typical questions most salespeople ask are garden-variety ones; surface questions that are easily answered. Salespeople tend to accept too much at face value.”
While this syndrome may be the result of optimistic or positive thinking, sellers are much better off to ask the harder questions and to do so on a timely basis.
Consider that, in many cases, questions that are tough will only become tougher if we don’t ask them at them at the right time.
For example, asking a new prospect about their role in decision-making is a reasonable and acceptable practice when done at a first meeting. However, if we fail to do so, it becomes increasingly awkward to bring up the subject during subsequent conversations. Said another way, “if you’re on your third date and you ask someone their first name, you’re likely to have a problem!”
Gordon attributes a loss of emotional discipline (i.e., “Happy Ears”) or too much concern over being likable as root causes for shying away from asking the harder questions.
We agree with her assessment, and would add that a more systematized approach to qualification and assessment can help sellers to stay the course. In fact, when asked to help sales professionals diagnose what they perceive as a “closing problem,” we frequently discover that the root cause involves gaps in their assessment. It’s hard to close a sale if we don’t really understand a buyer’s needs and the associated implications…
So, we’re back to asking those better and “harder” questions referenced above.
Possibly Jack Falvey, founder of makingthenumbers.com summed it up best when he said, “Asking the best questions has always been more important than making the best presentation.”