Would you agree that in sales, first impressions are important? It turns out that second impressions are important, too…as are third and fourth impressions, and so on. But, how can you be successful if the customer’s first impression of your product or service doesn’t reflect that actual value of your offering?
Suppose you work for a company like IBM. A small business owner could write you off by assuming they’re not big enough to deal with a tech giant like IBM. Or, in healthcare sales, a healthcare professional could easily assume a certain drug or medical device isn’t viable for their patients solely based on a comment made by one of his or her doctor buddies while playing golf.
In competitive industries, most prospects have already formed an impression about what your product or service does, and whether or not it might be valuable for them. In some cases, they’re intuitions are 100% correct. In other cases, they couldn’t be more off base. That’s why personal interaction with a salesperson, and more importantly—education, is the fulcrum that will make or break your success in developing new business opportunities moving forward.
To cite a specific example, let’s look at what I sell—QBS Methodology Training and consulting services. By the time I get on a conference call with a sales manager or exec, the majority of the time, they have already formed the impression that Question Based Selling is probably a class about asking questions, and that it’s only relevant for salespeople. Nope! Wrong! Hit the buzzer, #@$%&^*!!!
Obviously, telling decision makers they’re utterly and completely wrong is a dicey proposition. But at some point, if the customer’s impression of your value isn’t obvious, then it’s incumbent on you to change their perception by re-positioning and educating them on the true value of your offering.
On a QBS conference call, for example, I usually open by making the point that Question Based Selling is NOT about asking questions. And yes, I emphasize the word “not.” In most cases, this instantly shatters the decision maker’s perception of QBS and causes them to wonder, “If QBS is not about asking questions, then why is it called Question Based Selling?” Perfect! Causing potential clients to ask for a more in-depth explanation and perspective about my product or service is exactly what I want, and it’s what you should want as well.
While it’s true that there will be an opportunity for discovery in most sales calls, and what you ask and “how” you ask it, will indeed be important in terms of causing potential buyers to “want to” share information, needs development is just one small facet of successfully executing a much larger sales process. So, if we pull the curtains back a bit further, it turns out that the skills we teach in the QBS methodology are actually more about causing customers to form questions in their own mind about the value of your product or service. Hence, my desire to be ‘question-based.’
Think about it this way. When a potential customer starts to wonder, “How can you help us?” Or, “How is Question Based Selling different from traditional sales approaches?” Or, “How much does it cost?” Each and every one of these thoughts further increases the client’s curiosity—which is the mechanism that generates an even greater desire on their part to engage further. Bingo!
I then go on to suggest that instead of thinking of me as a sales trainer, it would be more accurate to think of me as an “un-trainer.” Again, the first thought that pops into a sales manager’s head is, “What do you mean by “un-trainer?” Bam! This is not some kind of trick. From there, I’m more than happy to explain that I spend much of my time “unwinding” flawed sales logic that may have been useful 30+ years ago, but no longer makes sense in today’s selling environment. And when I hit a few nerves and indict some of the mantras that have been chanted at sales meetings over the last several years, it then becomes easy to differentiate Question Based Selling as a methodology for engaging more customers in more productive conversation, as opposed to a class that only talks about how to ask a bunch of qualifying questions.
So, some of the more thought-inducing questions you might want to start asking yourself or your sales team include:
– What are you doing to leverage curiosity to get a 70 – 90% response rate when reaching out to customers via email or voice-mail?
– What are you doing to enhance your credibility besides just using the same buzzwords all your competitors use?
– What’s your strategy for causing potential customer’s to “want to” share information with a salesperson they don’t yet know or trust?
– Is your current messaging commoditizing your value or differentiating you from the rest of the ‘noise’ in the marketplace?
The answers to these and a host of other sales strategy questions will likely determine your success in terms of developing and closing new business opportunities in the future. Additionally, I also make the point that Question Based Selling is NOT just for salespeople. I wish I had a nickel for every time the hiring manager came up to me at the first break during a QBS training and said, “You know who should have been here—our marketing team, sales support, customer service reps, and our executive team.” Yep, that’s why I suggested it during our preparatory conference calls.
Causing prospective customers to alter and enhance their initial impressions of your value is oftentimes the difference between winning the business and coming in a close second.