WHY are you asking that question?

In The What? Edition of A Chip off the Block, I started by talking about intention…

The purpose and “why” behind even bothering to ask questions is something we don’t talk about often in sales.

Today I’m asking you to live with intention and begin to examine the questions you’re asking prospects and customers:

Who Will Benefit?

One of my biggest pet peeves is the self serving sales questions. You know, the ones we ask and the prospect can’t answer…. “how will answering this question help ME

I am not saying a salesperson isn’t asking questions to help move through the sales process – let’s face it, that is the real reason we’re even TALKING to the prospect in the first place!

What I am saying is that we MUST have a dual intention:

  • what I want to know
  • how telling me will help them

Need an example?

  • what I want to know = the criteria used to pick the vendor
  • how telling me will help them = my proposal will include all the info they need to make a decision the 1st time

Now every good salesperson has a quick list of questions they ask. Take a moment and write all of yours down (ok so not all, that would take forever – how about your Fav 5).

Play along, you’ve got the question, now answer my dual intention inquiry about all five of your questions:

First from your point of view (let’s face it that is what we REALLY care about right?)

  • what I want to know

Now turn around and figure out

  • how telling me will help them

Could you do it? Was it easy? Or when you started to think about what the question sounds like from their perspective, was it difficult.

Why Does It Matter?

Come on Lynn, it’s JUST a question! 

Being masterful at sales is all about conversations made up of questions and listening, so everything we do & all our success is ALL about a series of questions.

Plus, it matters because as I said in the newsletter…

If you don’t think that the person on the receiving end of the question can “hear” your intent, I beg to differ! 

If I ask you for a time in the past week where someone in your life asked you a question – but what they asked and what you heard were different- can you think of one?

the boss said “I need this on my desk 1st thing in the morning.”
you heard “You’d better stay and get this done before you leave!”

your significant other comments “Honey when is the last time we cleaned out the garage?”
you heard “Honey you’d better clean out the garage NOW.”

a child in your life wondered “What would happen if a dog ate crayons?”
you heard “I just fed your dog a whole box of crayons.”

Weird isn’t it, what do you think is going on in your prospects mind?

the salesperson asks “When will you be making that decision?”
the prospect heard “I want to know when I’ll get my order.”

Again, I challenge you to think about WHY you are asking that question and figuring out how it will help the prospect before you open your mouth.

The Key Is In The Questions!

A few months ago on the Inside Sales Experts discussion group, hosted by LinkedIn, Michael Pedone from SalesBuzz.com asked

What is your favorite sales question to ask?


You have to admit that is a VERY open ended question in itself. If we think about it, the first thing would be to ask a clarifying question if we were in a conversation vs. a discussion group.

Which started me thinking (be afraid, be very afraid) – instead of talking about favorite questions, let’s look at the intention we start with and result we’re looking for.

Check out A Chip off the Block, Issue 19: The What? Edition for more on intention and results of questioning.

Are Your Prospects Suffering from Frazzled Customer Syndrome?

By Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies

Many of the people you’re calling on today suffer from a severe case of Frazzled Customer Syndrome. This debilitating condition is brought on by excessive workloads, 24/7 availability, information overload, lack of sleep, and job-related stress.

You likely encounter these individuals on a daily basis. They’re good people who are doing their best to survive in a crazy-busy workplace.

Their calendars are overflowing and they’re constantly falling behind, but they feel powerless to stop the unrelenting, escalating demands on their time.

Their frantic pace is both exhausting and exhilarating. They can barely focus on important tasks because their days are filled with interruptions, distractions, and constantly changing activities.

One minute they’re working on a document. The next, they’re checking e-mail, text-messaging, responding to a customer, or doing research online. This frenetic multitasking fools them into thinking they’re accomplishing a lot, but in reality they’re doing very little.

The result? More work, unmet obligations, unfinished projects, and chronic feelings of underachievement.

To make matters worse, they don’t see an end in sight. Instead, they deal with constant downsizings and reorganizations and rapidly move from job to job, never really mastering their current one—all the while wondering if they’re next on the chopping block.

Their personal life is just as frenetic, as they juggle work commitments, family, and personal time until they crash in front of the TV every evening. It’s no wonder they don’t have time for you.

Recognizing the Symptoms

How do you know when you’re dealing with customers who suffer from Frazzled Customer Syndrome? Typically they:

  • Have a “net it out” mentality. These impatient, time-starved people want you to get to the bottom line right away. If you don’t, they’re immediately dismissive.
  • Get easily distracted. Even when they’re interested in what you have to say, their attention spans are short. They feel compelled to multitask whenever humanly possible.
  • Forget quickly. Because of their excessive flitting from task to task, much of what they commit to never makes it into their long-term memory.
  • Demand a lot. They expect you to jump through hoops to fulfill their requests, yet when it’s time for them to take action, they move like molasses.
  • Suffer from “analysis paralysis.” Faced with lots of change, multiple acceptable options, and the lack of time for thorough research, they appear overwhelmed, and nothing makes sense to them.
  • Withdraw from contact. When they’re buried under other priorities, they don’t have any news to report or they have bad news—or go silent altogether.

Frazzled Customer Syndrome makes your job so much harder. Dealing with overwhelmed people is completely different from working with calm, rational people who have time to analyze their situation and study multiple options before moving ahead. But those people are no longer the norm.

To make matters worse, using traditional sales strategies actually creates insurmountable obstacles that can derail your sales efforts.

Your hot prospects fizzle or flame out. They politely (or sometimes not so politely) tell you that their priorities have changed, the budget has dried up or they have too much on their plate right now.

In most cases, your attempts to get them back on track are futile. They tell you to call back next month, but before long that becomes “next quarter,” and then, “next year.”

They just want to get rid of you. It’s not personal. They just can’t handle even one more item on their to-do list.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. By mastering the SNAP Rules, you can change how your prospects react to you.

Remember to: (1) Keep it Simple; (2) Be iNvaluable; (3) Always Align and (4) Raise Priorities. When you do that, frazzled prospects will want to work with you. And, they’ll rely on your guidance and advice when they make decisions.

Want to learn more about these fresh strategies for selling to crazy-busy prospects? To get four FREE sales-accelerating tools and download two chapters of SNAP Selling, visit www.SnapSelling.com or email jill@snapselling.com

*Excerpted from SNAP Selling by Jill Konrath (Portfolio 2010)

Honesty is NEVER inconvenient

I was more than a little sad and excited to find the 1st google link when I typed in “sales honesty” was a Boston Business Journal from 2006 – seriously, does that mean no one is talking about this?

Actually it doesn’t – last year Colleen Francis, one of my women sales training colleagues to the north co-wrote a book with Steven Gaffney called Honesty Sells check it out, especially if you want to read some horrifyingly funny stories of sales lies!

In A Chip Off the Block’s Pirate Edition I defined convenient honesty as using the truth when it is in your own best interest.

Today I want to express with 100% conviction that there is NEVER inconvenient honesty.

Direct Questions – are the easiest place to start. There is no gray area here, no wiggle room – if a prospect or customer asks you a direct question:

it is ok to ask clarifying questions 1st 

Answer Their Question

Misdirection – I’m here to tell you that sales is not a magic show. Slight of hand, misdirection, and illusion have no place in sales! You are NOT more clever than the prospect.

Not to mention the downsides of being caught by savvy buyers with *gasp* the ability to research on the internet.

Context… or out of it – choosing fact that are true, and appear to answer the question or address the customer’s issue BUT actually don’t if the whole story is told.

I’m not saying you have to share every single thing YOU know with someone else. Rather this is about choosing specific information on the basis that it is TRUE but not ACCURATE (to quote my friend Jerry M).

Statistics the old adage “figures lie & liars figure”  is about the use of numbers to create a false impression.It is important to understand how a number will come across based on the audience you’re presenting to.

Scientists and salespeople have different ideas about numbers and what they mean – be sure you use them the way your audience expects.

Be Honest – with yourself, choose to use the truth to sell, it sure does make it easier for someone to become a repeat customer! Now for some reason I am compelled to end with the Thompson Twins Lies Lies Lies

and some you can’t disguise
twisted truth and half the news
can’t hide it in your eyes

Alternatives – it’s not only about “options”

The Merriam Webster’s online dictionary says Alternative is “a proposition or situation offering a choice between two or more things only one of which may be chosen”

Jill Konrath’s book SNAP Selling talks about how frazzled people have difficulty making decision.

You can even check out Mind Tools for a Decision Making section!

The Key when you are looking for ways to become the chosen resource for your products/services  =

~ offer choices that make business sense to the prospect ~

How do you figure out what makes business sense to them? By asking questions (more on that in the next issue of A Chip Off the Block) – first we’re going to get ready with making sure we have the answer!

step 1 – what do YOU (not your company, product, or service) do for customers?

I’m not talking about “responsiveness” or “customer service”- blah blah blah generic…. I’m talking about SPECIFICS.

Here are three about me to get you started:

  • freakishly organized = make my customers life easy by keeping track of all the details they find annoying.
  • ask tough questions = you will uncover new ideas and concepts to move forward as I ask the questions you either don’t know or are afraid to ask yourself.
  • YOU create action = support your efforts, because I have a “just because it’s simple, doesn’t make it easy” philosophy and know how easy it is to get stuck in existing habits.

step 2 – now write what your company does; the features or facts. “what it is”

step 3 – translate the features into “why that is good”

Most salespeople stop here and call these their benefits *blech* how I hate that…. you are asking the prospect to follow a trail of breadcrumbs through the woods – instead move on to step 4!

step 4 – the tough one is now turning that into “why I care” from the prospect/customer’s perspective

Need another example (this is only a single example….. there are lots & lots)?

  • step 2 = sales training
  • step 3 = increase variety of skill sets
  • step 4 = decrease time from initial contact to sale OR disqualification

step 5 -what does it sound like when someone needs what YOU and YOUR product/service will do for them?

I’m only going to give you a few for my step 4 example

  • salesperson “how long do YOU keep calling a prospect before you give up?
  • manager “we’re looking to decrease the time it takes new hires to ramp up…
  • salesperson “I want to get to the next level.”

ding, ding, ding – those are the opportunity signals I long to hear.

Hearing Opportunity AND Knowing What To DO

If you are playing along and  have followed all 5 steps, you are ready when you hear opportunity signals to have a conversation about alternatives & option. When the time is right!

If you are still looking for more. Here is a bonus step  – how is your “why I care” different from your competitions?