When Did Sales Become a Four Letter Word?

In the first part of this blog we talked about how sales professionals role has been changing in the new economy. In this second blog we will discuss how to become better at selling and building relationships with clients.

I heard a story a long time ago from the insurance industry. When their new salespeople started out, their sales were generally pretty high, but the longer they were in the job, sales started to drop off. The home office was curious about this because they expected salespeople to increase their sales as they got better, not lose them. So they sent out a consultant to find out why sales were dropped with experience, rather than going up. The consultant went on a number of calls with both new and experienced salespeople. The conclusion he reached as that a new salesperson didn’t really know anything about how people bought insurance, so they asked prospects a lot of questions. The more experienced the salespeople became, the fewer questions they asked and the more they told prospects what they needed in terms of insurance.

This story illustrates a key point; people don’t like to be told anything. When someone starts to tell you why you need a particular product or service, most of us have a tendency to tune them out. I know I start to think, “He doesn’t know my circumstances. How can he presume to tell me what I need?” I’m in the best position to understand what I want and need. So how do you communicate with prospects to sell your products or services?

Because we know our products and services so well, we have a tendency to talk about them, a lot. If your prospect is thinking you don’t really know what she wants or needs, she’s right. Each person you call on has a unique set of experiences, circumstances, and challenges. How can you find out what those are and lead the prospect to the logical conclusion that they need your product or service to solve their particular problems? The key to outstanding salesmanship is to ask good questions. You have to ask questions to get to the root of their problems.

Asking questions is the hardest thing to do. It requires you to really listen to what the prospect is saying then follow up with another question. I’ve been told on countless occasions that I’m really good at asking the right questions, but even I have a difficult time of it. To remind myself, I have a big sign in front of my desk that says, “Shut up and Ask!” So to improve your sales, you first need to improve your skill in asking questions. Practice with co-workers, at home, whenever you get the chance. It can make all the difference.

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