The number one fear of most salespeople is of being too pushy. This leads many salespeople to bend over backwards reducing their “sales calls” (if I could find bigger quotation marks, I’d use them) to a presentation of product while waiting for their potential customers to grant them something, whether it be an answer to a question, a returned phone call or maybe just maybe an order.
This demeanor of timidness and self-loathing invites and receives poor treatment. This “I’m sorry to bother, but” approach sends the message to the customer that they have all the power. These salespeople make themselves second-class citizens there to serve while the Master Seller’s approach is of equal partnership where we give great service of course, but we also provide value and therefore are treated as a partner, not a servant. This subservient approach is laced through the entire sales process.
Example: When prospecting, there are certain things we need to find out about our potential customers so we can better help them. We need to know which items they buy, which species, which lengths, the grades they buy and the nuances of all these and how much volume they use. Most potential customers will give up this information with little problem until we come to the volume question. They don’t lie, but they obfuscate or give vague answers.
“Oh we use a fair amount,” “It varies,” “I really couldn’t tell you, it changes all the time” are a few examples of the kind of answers we will get when we ask volume questions. This is a side-step to our question and most sellers will let it go (because of the “pushy” fear factor). The sellers that let this go send the message that it is OK to dodge their questions—and it is not OK—but now that customers know there will be no push back on “non-answer answers” they will continue to dodge questions right up to the moment of closing—because these sellers have trained them to do it.
A successful student of mine says, “When they dodge your first question, put a smile on your face and ask it in a different way.” She kills it.
The 8 Questions of Full Disclosure
There may be some nuance depending on your segment of the market but the questions we need to know the answers to so we have a partnership relationship with our customers are the following:
- 1. Where are we in our buy cycle?
- 2. How much do we have on order?
- 3. How much do we have on the ground/in the plant?
- 4. Of those two, how much is already spoken for?
- 5. What’s our monthly usage? (We should already know this if we prospected them correctly).
- 6. What’s our buy-back point? How low do we let it go before we have to buy?
- 7. What’s our average cost?
- 8. What are we paying out of distribution?
Most sellers are too intimidated to ask these questions, so the information flow is a one-way street. These sellers are throwing darts in the dark and hope they stick. The Master Seller will ask these questions in a curious and caring way and if dodged will ask again.
“I’ll let you know” is how most sales calls finish up—mostly because sellers aren’t asking clearly and directly for the business. I can’t tell you how many students over the years have said, “So you want me to push right here.” I say, “No. There is no push at all.” Not in tone or attitude. The Master Seller asks for the order in a relaxed, positively assumptive tone (because they’ve convinced themselves the customer will say yes before they make the call). Master Sellers aren’t afraid of no. They embrace it. The only way to Yesville is through Noville. A Master Seller gets more no’s in a month than the struggling seller gets in four because they ask for the order.
“The sales call doesn’t start till the customer says no” is an old piece of wisdom. Master Sellers anticipate objections and try to overcome them. They’re in the “yes/no” vs. the “I’ll let you know” business.