During a recent conversation about selling, a small group of sales professionals debated which of the required skills was most important.
“Listening” was quickly identified as crucial. “You can’t solve a buyer’s problem if you haven’t listened to learn what it is,” a colleague said.
We agreed, but... went on to discuss the best ways of positioning one’s self to do just that. And the debate continued. "Closing," said one. "Trial closing," suggested another.
And it's likely that you have an opinion as well!
Before we reveal the skill unanimously chosen as “the secret to sales success,” this exchange has prompted us to first re-share a story about the late Fred Hermann (the story is also a hint!), who Earl Nightingale called “the greatest sales trainer who ever lived.”
Hermann was once a guest on the Tonight Show, and was asked, as a world authority on sales, to demonstrate his skills by selling the host a coffee mug that was on the desk.
“What are some of the things you could use this for," Hermann asked? The host came up with a few answers. Fred then asked, “What would you pay for something like this?” The host came up with a couple of different price points, and finally stated a figure. Fred said, “Okay, you can have it at that price — sold!”
Note that in this exchange, Hermann (the seller) never said anything about the product. Instead he made the sale by asking good questions and listening.
And the skill our group agreed upon as being "the secret to sales success" is asking the right questions at the right time!
If you decide to apply this approach, a good way to start is to set a “talk/listen” ratio in advance of all sales calls. In other words, pre-determine the percentage of time you would ideally like to “talk” versus the percentage of time you’d like to listen during each interaction.
The ratio can vary a bit depending on each situation and which sales process step is in play, but do your best to let the buyer talk at least half of the time. Once you try this, it is likely you'll quickly find that the best way to achieve your targeted ratio is to ask good open-ended questions (those that can't be answered with a one-word reply).
You might be surprised at how this simple habit will enable you to more easily close more sales and, even better, at how it impacts your customers and prospects!
Finally, if you're curious about Fred Hermann's perspective, he summed it up nicely as he often said, “Never tell them anything you can ask them.”
"Asking the best questions has always been more important than making the best presentation."
"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."
"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."
"You just can't beat the person who never gives up."
"I don't like that man. I must get to know him better."
How to Run the Best Remote Meetings!
Even the most accomplished sellers, presenters, managers, and facilitators must make strategic modifications to their communication style if they are to maximize the effectiveness of virtual forums such as remote meetings and virtual sales presentations.
This e-book provides straightforward best practices that will help you stand out, including:
- Strategic preparation
- Leading the best sessions
- Keeping people engaged
- Interaction strategy
- Ending on a high note!
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