Look for Unrecognized Problems & Unanticipated Solutions
One of the best sales questioning techniques I ever learned was from a former boss & mentor. He delivered a training session that taught us when a customer gave a key requirement statement we had to take a moment and ask ourselves “which means”? The key was to never assume you know what the customer actually meant; you had to pose further questions which would dig deeper to find the unrecognized problem. This would help the customer fully explain the reason for the need and the implication for their operation if they did not meet the requirement.
As an example if the customer said they wanted the fastest print speeds available, we would not explain how fast our machines were until we formed a series of questions to determine why speed was a key buying decision. If they said ink yields were a major issue we would further question this requirement to determine if there was something critical to their operation that created a need for high ink yields.
The result was amazing to say the least. My questioning techniques became better and two added benefits occurred. First I closed more sales and an even sweeter benefit was the average value of my sales increased dramatically.
The best success came a few weeks later when a customer contacted me to provide the preverbal third quote. You know that customer. They have decided on a competitive product and need your quote to justify they have done their due diligence on the purchasing decision.
During my phone conversation with the customer he provided the “technical requirements” and wanted a price on our machine which was similar to the “preferred vendors” product. By asking the buyer a few key “which means” questions we both quickly discovered he had been told to buy a specific model because that’s what the competitors sales rep recommended. The result was a face to face meeting with the buyer, followed by a tour of the facility to see their current operation.
When I questioned the production people I discovered the company was subcontracting part of the finish work to another firm which was adding delays to the schedule and caused former customers to defect to a competitor. The loss of revenue from one customer was far in excess of the cost of this new machine.
Once we had identified a series of unrecognized problems which were far more critical than the machines speed and ink yields I was able to build a custom solution that cost over five times as much as the competitors machine. The unanticipated solutions resulted in a payback for the investment of less than 8 months and also gave them a new competitive edge.
The best part was two months later when the sales rep for the competitor, who I knew quite well, discovered he didn’t get the sale. He phoned me to complain I had dropped my pricing so far just to spite him and “buy” the business. I got a good laugh when I told him to go a see what the client had purchased and he found out he was quoting a budget based solution and I sold them the fully loaded production model worth five times as much in price and commission.
Don’t focus on what the competition is selling or what the buyer thinks they want. Create a dialogue and look for unrecognized problems and the unanticipated solutions you can provide. Yes it all comes down to the value you can provide. By looking out for the customers interested not what you want to sell, you will build a more trusting relationship. Your company. your wallet and your client will all benefit.
As my business partner Susan A. Enns always says; “The better the fact find, the happier the customer the bigger the paycheque”.
Robert J. Weese
B2B Sales Connections