You’ve heard the phrase: there’s no such thing as a stupid question. In sales there is. The questions you don’t ask because you’re chicken.
Don’t get me wrong - I have clucked my way through so many sales meetings it’s surprising I didn’t end up as a peri-peri chicken at Nando’s. King size portion at that.
But every so often (when the year was nearly over and I had achieved less than 1% of the target) I ‘plucked up’ the courage to ask the questions that sales people ‘in the know’ call:
THE FEARFUL FOUR
I’m not going to insult your intelligence by putting anything about product/service fit – as that is a given and not difficult to talk about. I have spent many a sales meeting focused on presentations, personalization and proposals, only to return to the office and become chicken feed when my manager asked ‘Do they have money to spend?’ Cluck, cluck, cluck.
I hear you shouting ‘But sometimes it’s a chicken and egg situation! If the product doesn’t fit their requirements, what’s the use of asking anything else?’ Very true. Prospects won’t (quite rightly) provide information if they don’t see value first. However, once the value of your product or service is established, having these questions answered is an essential. A way for both prospect and salesperson to come out of their shell and find out if the deal is likely to hatch.
Early in my career I was lucky enough to shadow one of the best sales people I have ever met. It was early June and he had already smashed the year’s target and was sandbagging other deals because he was maxed out on commission. Sales people sandbagging? Never! Please delete that last phrase!
I’ll call him Mark, (because that’s his name), a soft-spoken guy with glasses who looked more like a biology teacher than a corporate sales guy. At the end of every sales meeting, he would look at his notes and say, ‘I just want to see if we have all the information I need’. And would proceed to read the FEARFUL FOUR and wait for the respective answers (or lack of).
‘If you don’t have the information, it’s time to ask. If they don’t want to provide it, that’s also information you need to use’.
As in investigate why they are resisting to answer, who is the gate keeper, why are they blocking the procedure, are you talking to the right person?
I talked to Mark a couple of weeks ago and he reminded me of that great quote from the ultimate business/sales person Henry Ford:
‘Business is never as healthy as when, like a chicken, it must do a certain amount of scratching for what it gets.’
Mark took early retirement (at 45!) and lives in in Menorca. Guess sandbagging worked just fine.
Stop clucking – start asking.