It was an interesting situation posed by our prospective client - as proof of Delta Point’s abilities, would we be willing to spend some time with a struggling sales representative to see if enhancing their selling skills would change their performance? The answer was an unequivocal yes. In hindsight we should have probably better defined “struggling” as we soon discovered that the sales representative was deep into a Performance Improvement Program (PIP) and quite possibly heading towards termination for a lack of sales performance. Nevertheless, an agreement is an agreement and we love a challenge.
What makes you feel “enlightened”? In his recent blog posting 7 Ways to Inspire Enlightenment with Curiosity, Dan Rockwell makes the point that while good questions inform, great questions enlighten. Great questions get people to think differently—and that is our real goal in selling. The simple fact is that asking great questions is hard. It’s one of the reasons why we need to be reminded from time to time about how to create great questions. Here are some gems Rockwell mentioned that I think are worth repeating:
Selling excellence requires the ability to ask well-designed questions. And that’s what we tend to focus on when developing this skill. But aren’t we missing out on sales opportunities if we don’t also focus on better ways to respond to the questions our customers ask?
Asking effective questions can be challenging. It’s a skill that professional talk show hosts and news interviewers spend years honing and refining. So how can we make it easier on ourselves to ask great questions? After I read Dan Rockwell’s blog, “How To Develop Feelings Of Curiosity”, I thought one solution might be to leverage our innate curiosity.
As sales people, our job is not to disseminate information; it’s to get our customers to think. Because only by thinking will they change their behavior—which is the goal of each sales interaction. In other words, every time you meet with a customer, you are making the case that they need to change what they are currently doing or using. You can’t get them to even consider making a change unless you can get them to think. And I know of no better way to do that than by asking great questions.
There’s an old African saying: “No one is without knowledge except him who asks no questions.” In my mind, this is a no brainer. I think we’d be hard pressed to find someone who was great at selling who didn’t know how to ask great questions. Great questions lead to great answers—which leads to gaining insight about what our customers are thinking, what their values are, what they are passionate about, what issues and challenges they are struggling with, how they feel about our product, etc. You get the idea.
“Quarterback Peyton Manning threw a football so that it stopped in mid-air, reversed its course and returned to him. How did he do it?” That was the question my friend asked a group of us to answer. Our first response was to ask him to repeat the question. It sounded quite implausible. Then we started guessing, “He threw an interception and it got sent back to him.” “He didn’t throw a football; it was a boomerang.” “He didn’t actually do it; it was an instant replay trick.”
Change is a constant in today’s business environment. That’s why I value those rules/laws/insights that stand the test of time. In the recent Harvard Business Review blog The Best Leaders Are Insatiable Learners, author Bill Taylor refers to the speech John W. Gardner delivered in 1990 to McKinsey & Co. which has been described as one of the most influential business speeches of all time.