SalesVantage.com >> Article Archives >> Sales Coaching >> Are you keeping your customers up at night?

Sales Coaching
   
Are you keeping your customers up at night?
By Kendra Lee, President, KLA Group

Consultative Selling means asking the tough questions.

Effective consultative salespeople know how to keep their customers up at night. By that I mean they know "how to get in their customers' heads" by asking questions that will force them to think about the issues that are important to their business.  It's up to you to become their business conscience.

True, not everyone wants to be reminded of the difficult challenges that may be confronting them, but by filling this role, a consultative seller will further enhance their credibility and value to their customers.  You'll be the person who attracts their attention and keeps their interest because of your ability to get them to focus on the important issues at hand that can't be overlooked.

For example, one of my client executives was concerned about the fact that only 19% of his sales force was making their quota.  At the same time, he saw an opportunity to greatly improve their revenue position based on the fact that 76% of the remaining sales force was regularly within 20% of their quotas.  Last November he told me that he wanted to make it a priority to find a way to get the sales people, who were within easy reach of their quotas, to achieve their sales goals.

Viewing myself as his sales consultant even though he had not yet purchased anything, I stayed in touch and prodded him - always to hear this was still a priority but that no action had been taken. His many business priorities had gotten in the way. I then posed one very well thought out question.

"Why was he avoiding taking action when he had already quantified the lost revenue this situation was causing?"

Based on my question - one that certainly got his attention and made, by his own admission, for some sleepless nights - he and I have established a plan that he's now following through on. Without the prodding and attention I displayed, the opportunity to find a way to increase revenue may have been lost while he continued spending money and time, and losing revenue, on the wrong sales strategy.

In my situation, the questions to ask were fairly obvious, but it's not always easy to know what the most effective and strategic questions to ask are.  With this in mind, there are three thought-provoking questions any consultative salesperson can use that will cause their customers to hesitate and give a situation serious consideration:
  1. What are the strategies you're not focusing on?  -- This question will cause your customer to think about what they may be overlooking or not giving enough time and attention to.  People frequently lose sight of even the most basic strategies for success, and you can help them become grounded again.
  2. What is the return on investment you're not getting, but should?  -- This question will help your customer to consider if they're achieving the results they expected, and if not, why.  It's an excellent way to address any problems or issues before they become unmanageable.
  3. What is causing the biggest issue; your people, processes or budget?  -- This question will help your customer pinpoint where their biggest challenges exist and begin to develop a plan to resolve the situation.
Once these questions are presented, it's critical for you to continue to follow-up on what's been asked. You may make suggestions and recommendations, but until you see your customer take action, don't let them off the hook.  And, don't let them try to provide easy answers, otherwise nothing will be accomplished. Your interest and attentiveness to what's being done might cause some discomfort for your customer, but by following-through, they will realize the benefits of the exercise and having you on their team.


Kendra Lee is author of

More articles by Kendra Lee
More articles on Sales Coaching