A Powerful Tactic For Rapidly Determining a Prospect’s Needs

A Powerful Tactic For Rapidly Determining a Prospect's Needs

Let me ask you a question: How do you avoid making a presentation that is too quick? In the past ten days, I was asked three times by clients for my assistance with the following dilemma. It may resonate with you and your sales team.

Let’s suppose you finally get an appointment. Finally, you finally make it to the prospect that you have been searching for months. After some friendly chat and relationship building, it’s now time to get down and business. You move into “questioning mode” to find out how you can help them with their products and services. As you try to get to the bottom of the needs assessment, the prospect suddenly takes control and says: “Well, I just wanted to learn about you and your guys and what you might be able to help us.”

What does the majority of salespeople do when they are faced with such a request? They fall for the trap and start to do their “dog-and-pony” routine. Talk, talk, talk! As my mentor and teacher Tom Hopkins once said, “If your talking, you’re only learning what is already known and not what you need to sell.”

As a salesperson, you ask the prospect a question and then hit the ball in their court. The prospect may answer the question, but sometimes they will ask us questions or request information. We ask them questions to understand their needs. In this example, the prospect tells us that she just wants to know more about you, what you do, and what you can offer us. You now have the ball, and they are returning it to you. How do you get the ball safely and efficiently over the net? This is an effective strategy to get the ball back safely and effectively over the net while keeping it in play step by step.

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Step 1.

First, grab a piece of paper and list in bullet points the top five problems your company solves for customers. These are the top 5 reasons customers choose your organization.

Here are the top five reasons customers choose to work for a Sales Performance coach:

Clients with:

* Strategies to retain and grow existing customers revenues

* Strategies to acquire new customers

* Improving forecast accuracy

* Ensuring that more members of the sales team achieve their sales goals

* Creating more qualified leads

These are the problems that a sales coach can solve. Now, take a moment to think about the top five problems your product/service solves. This will help you to see the impact of your tactic.

Which are your top five problems that customers have?

Step 2.

When you ask your prospect a needs discovery question, they will only return with two questions or requests for information. They will have one of two options. One, they may ask a specific question about your products or services. This is most likely to be a question related to one or more reasons why customers choose your company. They may ask a general question such as “Can you tell us about your company and what you can offer us?” You will now be able to start your “sales pitch!” This second request is usually made by the customer.

Step 3.

If a prospect asks you a question about your products or services, the job is for the salesperson to answer them with a bounceback question. This question might be something like, “Tell us more about that” (or “Why is that important to you?”). “What’s working and what’s not for you right now in this situation?”

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This is the easiest option. It allows you to quickly peel back the layers and see the impact. Unfortunately, this is only a minority of the time. The most common scenario is when the customer asks the general question, “Tell me about your organization and what do you guys do?” This is what causes the most difficulty.

Instead of answering the prospect’s questions with “dog and pony,” a direct question should be used. Let’s assume the prospect asks, “Can you tell me more about your organization and what you guys do? And maybe what you can offer us?”

I will respond to the powerful tactic above by saying: “Joan! Let me start by saying that customers choose us because we can solve one or more of these problems for them. Our customers choose us because we can help them develop strategies that will increase their loyalty to their customers and grow their revenues. Our clients have also been able to improve their forecast accuracy. Customers choose us because they can rely on our expertise to help them acquire new customers. Joan, our fourth reason for being called in is to assist more of our customer’s sales teams in achieving their sales goals. Finally, we are there to help our customers get more qualified leads.

Here’s the power question: Joan, which of these five reasons is most important to you?

Step 4.

After the prospect has identified one or more reasons, the salesperson’s job is to quickly get the ball over the line with a bounce question asking, “Tell us more about that” or “Why is that an issue?” “What’s working and what’s not for you right now?”

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This powerful tactic will allow your salespeople to continue probing the customer for issues and impacts. It will also stop them from jumping into an “elevator pitch” prematurely without being able to relate to any specific needs the prospect might have. Use the directed questioning approach described above to get rid of generic questions about your products or services.

Ian Segal is a leading authority and coach in Australia in sales management. He has been involved with the training, coaching, and development of sales managers for more than two decades.

Ian has 25 years of experience in sales and sales management. He also leads an HR and training department. This gives him a strong sense of fiscal reality as well as practicality.

Ian works directly with business owners, novice and experienced, in a variety of industries, selling disciplines. His goal is to improve sales management practices and transform sales results.

Ian is the author of “Bulletproof Your Sales Team: The 5 Keys to Turbo Boosting Your Sales Team’s Results,” as well as a variety of articles and white papers, including “The fish stinks at the head!” “Why Sales Training Doesn’t Work.”

Ian has an insatiable appetite for learning about selling and people management. He has tirelessly sought answers to the question, “How can some people sell while most people don’t?”