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High performance at key moments for sales success

Posted by Simon Thiessen on 08-Jan-2014 17:31:00

The overlooked skill that guarantees sales success

In my previous sales post, I wrote about the four critical moments that define sales success - and these key moments apply not only to each sale and customer but, more importantly, to your overall sales career. A sales person who is unwilling to push beyond the norm in these critical moments is doomed to a mediocre and possibly short lived sales career. These are the people I often meet who say, ‘I used to be in sales but my companies product was no good’ or ‘I was really good but the market was just too competitive – no one was making money’.

As a brief re-cap, the four key sales moments are prospecting for new business, probing for the deeper customer need, managing objections and closing – but I really encourage you to take a look at the full post. Now I want to give you an extra strategy to make these four critical moments work for you.


Understanding customer needs doesnt need any magicA warning: if you are looking for magic buy a ticket!

So often, sales people who want to get better results are looking for some mystical amazing answer – something no-one has ever said or heard before. Sometimes it seems they want an answer that will do the work for them. Well, I have good news and bad news – let’s start with the bad!

The bad news: there is no magic answer. To change your results you will have to change your approach. You can’t keep taking the same action and expect to get a different reaction

The good news: there is no magic answer. Yes, that is the good news as well. The strategy that will give you the greatest success at these key moments is one you have heard before – probably countless times. It is something everyone knows and few people execute as well as they could. At The Real Learning Experience we often talk about our Real-isms which are the beliefs, attitudes and sayings we try to live by. One of our favourite Real-isms is that you are defined by what you do and not by what you know or by what you say. The strategy to succeed in these four key moments is a great example of  this Real-ism. So, if it is so commonly known, why isn’t everyone doing it? Being commonly known is not the same thing as being comfortable – many sales people don’t do this because it takes them out of their comfort zone 

So what is this strategy?

Questions. That’s right – plain old questions. As if you haven’t had enough sales trainers, sales managers, sales colleagues, etc banging on about questions! But, I am not just talking about all of those questions that anyone can and will ask - the safe, garden variety questions that your prospect gets from every sales person they meet and that they answer without thinking about them. The same safe standard pre-packaged questions that the prospect gives safe standard pre-packaged answers to. I am talking about those questions that take the sales person out of their comfort zone and that provoke the prospect to think more deeply, provide a more considered response and reveal their real needs.

Every time you ask one of these deeper questions, you run the risk of revealing an objection (not creating one) that was lurking there waiting to trip you up, you run the risk of getting some resistance from your prospect but you also create the opportunity to understand the customer in a way that your competitor doesn’t.

Let’s take an example using one of the four key moments – managing an objection. When most sales people hear an objection, they start talking. Maybe they believe they can persuade the customer to give up on their objection, maybe they love their product so much they can't understand why anyone wouldn’t want it and maybe they just don’t have a better strategy.

objections exist even if we shut our eyes and hope they go awayIf you close your eyes, it is still there!

The sales person hoping they can make an objection go away by just talking reminds me of my young daughter’s approach to snorkelling. If she is seeing fish she likes, she swims happily along. If she sees one that she doesn’t like (usually a big one) she pulls her face out of the water and, just like magic, the fish doesn’t exist anymore! A sales person who hears an objection they don’t like and just starts talking seems to believe that, as long as they stop the customer talking about it, the objection doesn’t exist anymore. I’ll bet they find it does – and often at the worst possible moment such as another of the four critical moments such as closing

What's the alternative?

Here’s a different approach. Instead of talking, what if the sales person asked some follow up questions with a genuine interest in understanding what is happening in the mind of the customer? What are the possible outcomes here? Absolutely, they may discover that there is an issue that can’t be resolved – but that issue existed anyway. It’s better to find out now rather than go through the whole sales process in the deluded belief that it doesn’t exist or that it will go away (remember my daughter and those fish?)

In my next sales post I will talk more about a specific strategy to ask these sorts of questions – for now, you could focus on following up your questions with a couple more. This will help you dig beneath the superficial answers and find the real ones that lie beneath.

You could also download this free calculator which will help you work out how much prospecting you need to do in order to meet your new business targets.

Download free calculator: work out how much customer prospectingyou should be doing with 7 simple questions

photo credit (magician): Christophe Verdier via photopin cc photo credit (fish): Omar Eduardo via photopin cc

Topics: Sales