If you are lucky enough to have a three-year-old in your life, then you'll definitely know what I'm talking about. If you don't, you should borrow one, under the guise of babysitting for a family member or friend - and then work to have some conversations. Yes, I'm half-kidding, but also know that if you have NOT been around little kids for a while, you are really missing out on the basics of people skills as well as sales fundamentals.
Have a conversation with a three-year-old and you're bound to get some of this:
There is an innate, honest curiosity three-year-olds have that turns somewhere around age 4 or 5. Three-year-olds are excited about sounds, and when something changes - like rain into snow. If you put a hat on, sometimes they'll ask you why you did that.
Imagine just for a moment if you had such curiosity for your prospective buyers.
Why did they go to that page on your website?
Why is your first contact in Operations rather than Sales?
How does the reporting structure work at that company?
Why is your sales opportunity stalled if you thought you talked to everyone involved and there was perceived need for your services?
Why do they open your emails but stopped replying?
You can apply the principles of "why", "how", "when", "what", "where", and "who" throughout your conversations with buyers.
Maximize Curiosity These Ways:
- Don't make it sound like an interrogation. Learn the difference between curiosity and rapid-fire questions
- Be thoughtful about your questions. Decide on one or two most important ones rather than a list of them
- Be conscious of your tone, energy level, and pace. Since you're talking by phone, listen for nuances
- One or two questions can be sent via email - especially if there was one thing you forgot to ask when you talked
- The best way to learn about a buyer is to get them to talk. When they give you a short answer, say, "Tell me more about that...."
But I'm Not Good at Asking Questions
So start simply by thinking of three main questions you'd like answered or discussed in the next call you have with your prospect.
You can always email a couple more, or call them back with the additional question.
Bounce back what they said - not like a parrot, but like you really heard it.
When they say, "We really have had more trouble with turnover in 2013 than we've had in the past 5 years"
Answer back, "So lots of trouble with turnover this past year -- would you say that's been your BIGGEST problem?"
Note that I'm not just repeating everything they say - that is parroting - and it can sound patronizing - so mix it up.
Where to Start
Look through some of the sales opportunities you are working on. Do you know everything there is to know about your prospects? Start with what you don't know yet, but what would be helpful to know to move this opportunity forward
A Great Question When Some Time has Elapsed Since You Last Talked to your Prospective Customer
Once you have greeted your contact on the phone, I like to ask this right away -
"Has anything changed since we last talked?"
This gives you a starting point for your conversation. Often a deal can be stalled because something did change. See what has. If you are not satisfied that you know enough, ask more questions.
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Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2013" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management for 2013". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute" newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips in selling. Increase Opportunities. Expand Your Pipeline. Close More Deals.