Closing More Sales By Finding Out What The Customer Needs, The phone rang. I picked up. It was Sharon calling.
She sounded glum. There was no energy or life in her voice. She talked as if she had been having a rather hard time. Which she was.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She explained that business was slow. She wasn’t finding any opportunities. She wasn’t making any money.
To make matters worse, her boss had just informed her that if she didn’t start producing more business, he was going to have to let her go.
I like to dig into things, and do so by asking questions. I wanted to know what she meant by ‘business was slow.’
“What are you doing every day?” I asked. Sharon explained that she’s getting on the phone – calling both new and old prospects – but wasn’t getting anywhere.
“What are they saying to you?” I inquired.
She said that she would have very nice conversations with people – both on the phone, and in person – but when it came to move the discussion forward they would say things like:
“We don’t have any money in the budget at this time.”
“We’re not in the market today.”
“Business is slow, and we’re holding back on all of our additional expenditures.”
Sharon is in the executive recruiting business. She helps companies find great talent so they can grow, prosper, and become more successful. She’s been in the business for several years, and had done reasonably well… Until now.
I was very intrigued by the answers Sharon was getting, so I asked her “What questions are you asking your prospects, so that they are giving you these responses?”
There was a L-O-N-G pause as she thought about my question. She replied that she was asking the same questions she always asked:
“Do you need any employees, managers, or senior executives?”
“Would you like to hire my firm to help you find some Employees?
“We’re more experienced than [name(s) of competitors], why don’t you do business with us?”
When I heard Sharon’s questions, bells and whistles started going off in my head. I had found her problem.
If she was getting these answers, then she was asking her prospects the wrong questions. The issue wasn’t if they would hire Sharon and her company, the issue was:
- Did they need specific employees to perform specific duties?
- And if the company had these needs, what was the “cost” to them of not having those needs fulfilled?
Over the next few weeks we worked very closely together practicing the art of asking great questions.
Sharon stopped using her PowerPoint presentations, and brought along a big pad of paper instead. She stopped talking about herself, and got the client to begin talking about his and his company’s needs.
During each meeting she asked detailed and pointed questions about what the client was trying to accomplish. About their goals. About their strategic initiatives. She took detailed notes about everything the customer said.
Then she began asking questions about their needs for executive talent so they could achieve those goals. She asked questions about how the company could become more successful if they didn’t have the right people in the right places.
She asked questions about how the work was being done at the present time, and who was making the decisions that would be made by the person who was needed, but hadn’t been hired.
These questions made her customers think. They even made the customer squirm. By asking these questions Sharon showed her customers that she had a firm grasp of the business because she was showing them the “cost” of not having the right management team in place.
She even asked one customer this question: “On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you rate your need to have an executive in this position?” He replied “Eleven!” She got hired.
And the objections of “We don’t have any money in the budget.”
or “We’re not in the market today.” went away.
In the duration of a month, Sharon was hired to perform four executive searches, and has two or three more opportunities that she expects to close within the next few weeks.
Most sales people are only asking questions so they can get the person to say something. They then offer a statement or a comment – in rebuttal – about what was just said. Almost like an attorney cross-examining a witness. They don’t ask a second, third, or fourth question to dig deeper.
I liken sales to playing poker. If you and I were playing cards would you like me to know what you’ve got in your hand? Of course not. But would you like me to play my hand open, so you could see every card I was holding? Absolutely!
Unfortunately, we as sales people do it backwards. We spend all of our time telling the customer about our company, products, services, and ourselves, without ever finding out what it is that the customer wants or needs.
At the end of the interview, they know all about us – if they haven’t fallen asleep or tuned us out – and we know very little about them. By asking better questions – and being interested in the answers – you can discover what the customer’s problems/issues are and then offer them a solution.
I read a recent study that showed that in many large companies, 80 percent of the sales are generated by 20 percent of the sales people. Which shouldn’t be surprising. But this study went deeper. It broke down the results of the most successful salespeople. The top 5 percent – the superstars – generated 60 percent of the sales. Fifteen percent of the sales people generated 20 percent of the sales.
What’s the difference between the superstars and everybody else? The superstars found out what the CUSTOMER NEEDED. Everybody else was trying to find out what the customer “wanted.” There is a huge difference between needs and wants. Over the past few weeks, Sharon’s sales have been growing, because she’s taken the time to find out what the customer needs. Spend more time asking great questions, and your sales will grow also.
Our Consultants can help you develop the Art of asking better question and how to gain a better understanding of Clients Needs just as Our Mentor did for Sharon in this Article. See our service page or Contact us today.