A problem exists in the world of sales training, where the sheer volume of “fluff” and outdated content far exceeds the amount of substance that is truly valuable in today’s selling environment.
Tom Freese’s latest book, SalesForce 2020, has taken the Question Based Selling methodology to new heights, as he compares and contrasts the difference between outdated sales methods with what sellers can do to give themselves and ‘unfair’ advantage moving forward.
Have you ever wondered why some salespeople in your company or industry are “killing it,” while others are struggling to survive, even though they are all following the same basic sales process? It’s because the sales process is no longer a differentiator. All of competitors have a sales process in place already, and their process is probably very similar (if not identical) to yours.
These days, success in the sales profession is all about execution. Those sellers who are able to execute more effectively, whether it be using advanced strategy and technique to penetrate new accounts, qualify the opportunity, understand the customer’s needs, navigate to the right people, or secure commitments, those sellers will have a distinct advantage over their struggling counterparts who are commoditizing their value by relying on outdate sales tactics that have plagues the selling profession for the last 40 years.
While hindsight may indeed be 20/20, many of the old school sales tactics that have been touted for decades no longer make sense as we rapidly approach the year 2020.
Might it be time for an upgrade?
“The best thing about Tom Freese’s work in Question Based Selling is that the techniques he outlines actually stick, making it easier for our sales team to integrate into their daily routine. QBS has truly improved our sales effectiveness across the board.”
—Mitzi Rettinger, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Cerilliant
I just returned from the other side of the globe, having trained one of our multi-national Life Sciences clients on Question Based Selling. With an audience of salespeople and managers on hand representing most Asia-Pac regions, it turns out that there are more cultural similarities in the sales profession than differences.
For example, in what cultures do you suppose it’s important to gain credibility, convey value, or differentiate your value proposition? That’s right, those are important in all cultures. Thus, I took the opportunity to point out that just having a sales process in place no longer gives sales teams any advantage, because all of your competitors have a sales process in place too, and theirs is probably very similar to yours.
That’s where things got interesting, talking about “how” best to position the various products and services within the different companies and cultures. All around the world, someone who understands “how” to execute more effectively than the competition, and “how” to help the customer accomplish their objectives, will prevail over anyone whose sole focus is just trying to make a sale.
Congratulations to Singapore for their 50 year celebration of independence since 1965!
“If you want to challenge the customer’s thinking about a product or service, you might first want to challenge your own on how it’s being positioned.” T. Freese
My first book was originally published in May of 1999, fourteen years ago this month—so this is a milestone anniversary of sorts. I have since published three additional sales books and a parenting book,along with countless articles,all of which have evolved into the Question Based Selling Methodology. Literally thousands of salespeople and hundreds of sales teams have been trained on the QBS Methodology, which continues to evolve and grow.
During this time, my first book (Secrets of Question Based Selling) has done exceedingly well, and become my publisher’s number one bestselling business book with multiple runs over the years. It also has the distinction of having outsold itself every six months for the past thirteen and a half years…and counting.
You never know until a book is actually released whether it’s going to hit the nail on the head, but my intentions with this first book were clear from the beginning. I wanted to publish a timeless work where issues like the salesperson’s need to gain credibility, pique the customer’s interest, and convey value were strategic concepts that would never go out of vogue. So, it’s no surprise to me that these concepts are just as important to the success of a salesperson now as they were when the ink was fresh in 1999.
That said, I am happy to report that I have spent the last ten months updating this book for re-release in the fall of 2013, entitled Secrets of Question Based Selling: Gold Edition. Essentially, I have taken the proven strategies of QBS and adapted the material to the current competitive environment. I have also added a new layer of anecdotes, examples and content to with that I believe pulls the QBS Methodology together into a tighter and even easier to implement package.
With a target release date of November 2013, we are hopefully on track to extend the relevance and longevity of ‘QBS’ for another 14 years. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement on this truly unique journey.More information about the book will be forthcoming as the release date nears.
If you want to ramp up your sales numbers for this quarter or the entire year, you might try focusing on being more effective, rather than simply focusing on the process.
It’s ironic but true that most of the training that has been delivered over the past 30 years has focused on defining the sales process rather than how to execute more effectively. While I agree than having a standard sales process in place can be a good thing, if you look around virtually any sales team in any company you will find that some salespeople are killing it while others continue to struggle, using the same exact sales process. Why does this phenomenon occur? Bottom line: It’s because the sales process in and of itself is not the differentiator.
Can we agree that most of your competitors have a sales process in place, too, and it’s probably one that is very similar to yours’? Hence, just defining the steps of the process doesn’t give your sales team any advantage. For example, everyone knows that Step #1 in the process is to identify new opportunities. The challenge salespeople now face on a daily basis is “How” to execute more effectively, given that a plethora of other salespeople are calling the same accounts, with the same objective of penetrating new business.
What’s Step #2 in the process—to qualify or uncover needs? Have you noticed that prospective customers are reticent to give out information to salespeople they don’t yet know or trust? How is a salesperson supposed to execute effectively when customers aren’t open to sharing information with a salesperson they don’t yet know or trust?
Follow the process! What process? Just identifying the steps of a formalized sales process doesn’t ensure your success. Perhaps this is why when I first come into a client account some salespeople are struggling, while others are knocking it out of the park; calling the same types of accounts, and the same types of people.
Execution has more to do with skills development than simply beating your head against the wall following some old-school sales process. Today, one of the major differences is dealing with customer skepticism. Let’s not pretend it doesn’t exist. Customers are more standoffish toward salespeople than ever before. Therefore, the ability to cause prospective customers to “want to” share information with a salesperson they don’t know or trust has become quite a challenge.
While most process models are built on the premise that customers already want to share, Question Based Selling takes the opposite view—that you must first pique the prospect’s interest and earn credibility in order to get prospects to open up. How exactly do you do that? That’s where the odyssey begins—toward you becoming a student of the question-based sale.
By popular demand, we have partnered with an Internet content provider called CD Baby to make the 12-track QBS CD set downloadable to your favorite MP3 player. Whether you like to listen while exercising or driving your car between appointments, the downloadable version of Question Based Selling is available at:
Click to Order Here: http://cdbaby.com/cd/thomasafreese
Furthering the QBS experience has always been our goal.
Ranked #20 on NY Times Best Selling Audios as of June 24th, check out TF’s new book on tape: Sell Yourself First. Narrated by the author himself, Tom’s fifth and latest work further expands the Question Based Selling, as a direct commentary on the fact that the perception customers form about you is often more important than the product you’re selling or the company you represent.
Just look around any company and you will notice that some salespeople are more effective than others, even though they are all selling the same types of products. If you could somehow put your finger on what makes them consistently more effective, that insight alone would give you an unfair advantage over the competition.
For more information about ordering the audio version of Sell Yourself First, simply click here.
Chapter 2 in my new book, Sell Yourself First, is appropriately entitled, “Your Next Job Interview.” I know for a fact after teaching this material for the last 8 months that it has already helped countless people who are in the job market, but that’s not really the purpose of the chapter.
Can we agree that a job interview is a sales situation, where qualified candidates will ultimately be trying to sell themselves to prospective employers? Well, it turns out that every sales call is also a job interview, where the prospect or customer is not only evaluating your products and services, they’re also evaluating you. You are indeed selling yourself…all the time!
That said, what if we discovered that how most people sell naturally is upside down and backward from how most customers make purchase decisions? That’s right! The natural tendency during a job interview (or on a sales call) is to try and put your best foot forward, right?
Well, at some point in the job interview scenario, the hiring manager is going to say, “Tell me about yourself.” During a sales call, the customer may say, “Tell me about your product.” Basically, it’s the same request, because even if you are selling a product or service, you are also selling yourself…FIRST!
Thus, the job interview scenario becomes the perfect metaphor for selling (anything) because it’s the pure sale. In essence, a qualified candidate is solely responsible for selling themselves, and they are also the product that’s being offered. At that point, your success is completely up to you.
Most people respond to this initial request to, “Tell me about yourself,” by basically throwing up on the customer. Unfortunately, the natural tendency is to rattle off and/or reiterate many of the key points already listed on the resume in the hopes of saying something that will connect with the decision maker.
What employers really want to know about you, however, is all of the things that are not actually listed on your resume. For example, are you a competent, confident, creative, easy to work with, respectful, experienced, thought leader in your chosen field?
That’s the trick—these qualities cannot be claimed by you without sounding arrogant. Instead, they have to be demonstrated, which is a function of simply implementing the techniques outlined in Sell Yourself First.
Truth be known, you’re probably not the only candidate (or vendor) who’s competing for the opportunity to sell yourself to the interviewer (i.e. customer). It’s more likely that you are competing against a handful of equally qualified candidates who will also be quick to highlight all their accomplishments as well.
That’s why the tradition approach to interviewing (or selling a product) actually put you at a competitive disadvantage. If you sound the same as everyone else, you forfeit your competitive edge.
Now that you’ve invested four years and thousands of dollars to earn a college degree, are you willing to spend less than the cost of a half tank of gasoline, and invest a couple hours of study and comprehension to give yourself an ‘unfair’ competitive advantage and transform the entire rest of your professional career?
Think about it this way: The employer is going to hire someone, it might as well me you. Your resume’ (or product information) just gets you in the door. Your ability to more effectively position yourself than the competition is ultimately how you will win the opportunity! At that point, it all comes down to superior technique and a sound positioning strategy. This book will change the way you communicate with others, and more importantly, it will change the way others perceive and deal with you!
This month’s issues of Go Magazine, Air Tran’s in-flight publication, features a two page spread of yours truly. After training the sales tea of the magazine’s publisher in London back in October, one thing led to another and now I get to watch other passengers read about me on my flight tomorrow to DC. Very cool, and hopefully informative. Check it out for yourself HERE.
Check out the Jan issue of Go Magazine, Air Tran’s in-flight publication. After training In Publishing’s sales team (the magazine’s publisher) in London back in October, one thing led to another and I am now being featured on a two page spread in the January issue on pages 90 – 91.
Tomorrow, I get to watch other passengers read about me on my flight to DC. Very cool, and hopefully informative. Check it out for yourself HERE.
When I first started out in sales, I always felt like an underdog. I was scratching and clawing to make ends meet, and each sales opportunity seemed like a battle. Honestly, it was overwhelming on many occasions to feel like an under-achiever.
It turns out that people respond to pressure in different ways. Some people, when they start to feel overwhelmed, fade into the background, not wanting to bring attention to the fact that they are struggling. As for me, increased pressure tends to make me more indignant. If I am going to fail at something, I would rather go down in flames.
Thus, on January 1, 1988, I made a career-changing New Year’s resolution. I had just finished yet another mediocre sales year, and damn it, it wasn’t going to happen again. So, I headed to the office on New Years Day. While everyone else nursed their post New Year’s Eve party hangovers, and watched college football, I cleaned out my office. I worked the entire day and got seriously organized.
It was no surprise that my SUV was the only car in the parking lot since it was a holiday. But by the time I left the office, I felt a very clear sense of satisfaction and preparedness. I was ready for the New Year.
Have you ever noticed how good it feels to be ahead of the game? That first week of January, everyone else was trying to catch up, while I was moving forward and feeling productive. In fact, it felt so good that it motivated me to want to stay ahead. Consequently, I often stayed at the office late into the evening and came in frequently on weekends, each time noticing that mine was the only car in the parking lot.
My strategy was simple. I was determined to outwork everyone else on the sales team. That way, if I did fail, I wouldn’t have any excuses. Besides putting in the time, I also made it a goal to work harder than everyone else. I made more cold calls than anyone else and scheduled more appointments. I also asked more questions in order to uncover more needs. I even made it a point to take the most notes at every meeting.
After a very short period of time, I had become more knowledgeable about our product offerings and target industry, which in turn, made me a much more credible resource to my prospects and customers. As the year progressed, I began to feel less overwhelmed and more in control.
It didn’t take long before I became the “go to” guy in the office. When someone had a question, they came to me for help. Lo and behold, the sales manager started sending opportunities my way, knowing they would be handled with a greater sense of urgency. By year-end, I had become the top producing salesperson in our office. Essentially, I had earned the right to outperform everyone else whose car wasn’t parked in the lot back on New Year’s Day.
*Excerpted my second book, It Only Takes 1% to have a Competitive Edge in Sales.
2009 was a difficult business year for many. If you were fortunate enough to not among the masses who saw declining opportunities as the result of a recent back-flip in the economy, I’m sure you have customers, friends, colleagues, employees, or coworkers who have felt the impact in a very personal way.
Perhaps the economic gods with wave a wand and return everything to normalcy. Me, I’m not sure what normal is at the moment, nor have I ever been one to bet my lot on magic.
I have said before, “The best way out of any recession is to sell your way out.” The difference this time is the game of selling has changed—I call it a Darwinian-style recalibration, where the salesperson will play a more important role in their own success than ever before.
With that, I hope you enjoyed a nice holiday break with your friends and family. But, please realize that the new sales year begins tomorrow. Me, I might dedicate some time to get a jump on the competition because who knows, they might be reading this as well!