Asking questions is so invasive, claimed Mary, a sales manager whose company sells translation services. Our clients will find it intimidating and won’t do business with us. She seemed oblivious that a big chunk of her company’s target customer base was made up of lawyers, people who ask questions for a living.
Pain has become a common term in sales training over the past several decades. It is used to describe why people buy. The gurus have figured out that people spend money for one of two primary reasons. Most do it to fix a problem. Something is broken or no longer works for them and they want to make it right. We call that Pain. A minority want something better than what they have now. They want to upgrade. This we call Gain.
Probably 85% buy because of Pain. 15% or less buy because they want something better than they have now. People without some kind of compelling pain, or a desire for something better usually don’t buy. They’ll think it over, walk it around, sleep on it, but they won’t buy.
OK, you say, I’ll teach my salespeople to find pain, show them how to fix it with our products and services and everyone will buy from us. It sounds like a great theory but it’s a whole other ballgame in the real world. The problem is we’re dealing with human beings … unpredictable creatures who don’t always follow our scripts. Thanks in part to the less than professional salespeople that most of us have encountered at one time or another, people are suspicious. They have learned not to trust salespeople. It’s a shame because it makes selling tougher for the rest of us.
Not to worry. The best way to find pain is still by asking questions. Not just any old questions. You have to ask the right questions and you have to ask them the right way. Given that most people are a little skeptical, you have to become a skilled questioner and a skilled listener. Take a page from Stephen Covey’s book, seek first to understand and then to be understood. People react much better to someone who seems genuinely interested in them than someone rattling off a canned presentation.
The following pointers will make it easier to find pain:
- Nurture, nurture, nurture. Use softening statements before each question.
- Ask permission before you ask questions.
- Let the other person know that you’re listening by repeating part or all of their answer. So what you’re saying is …
- Let them know that you really understand the situation and that you’re sympathetic. That’s not unusual. I often run into clients who have the same problem.
Mary, the owner/sales manager refused to change the way her people sold. They continued to present features and benefits to anyone who could fog a mirror. They sent out proposals and brochures to purchased mailing lists. They were active on Facebook, etc. They attended multiple networking events. Unfortunately most of what they did was passive. Little or any effort was spent on real proactive sales activity. They are no longer in business.
Oliver Connolly coaches and mentors sales managers. To learn more please go to http://www.clevelstrategic.com