In my training, my writing, and my speaking, I promote and advocate a very comprehensive level of questioning of your customers. One pushback I always get is – “Come on, Troy, my customers are far too busy for that! They can only give me ten minutes – they’d never sit still for all of these questions.”
I have a simple answer. YOUR CUSTOMERS SPEND THEIR TIME WHERE IT IS VALUABLE. If your customers choose not to spend it with you, it’s because they don’t see, and you aren’t showing, them value. Want to spend 30 minutes talking with them about football? You’re done in ten minutes. Want to spend 30 minutes asking them great questions that uncover business issues, not only for your benefit, but for theirs? That’s time you can get. That’s value for time. The choice is yours. But, how do you create that value?
1. No fake rapport. One of the weakest of the old sales tactics is what I call “Fish on the Wall” selling. That’s where you walk into the customer’s office, look around at what they have on their walls, and attempt to establish a connection based on something you see. Let’s say they have a mounted fish, or a picture of themselves fishing. “Hey, do you fish? I fish too,” and then you hope that you become buddies talking about fishing. Or football. Or baseball. Or whatever. Sometimes it does work – but more often it annoys a busy customer and guarantees that you’ll be spotted as a time waster.
2. Ask GOOD questions. In fact, the more pressed for time your customer appears to be, the better your questions need to be. Ask questions about their goals, their business, how they are rewarded and how they reward their people, and stay away from the “me too” questions that everyone in your industry asks. Your duty is to make good use of whatever time you have; if you think you have ten minutes, forget the “Brochure barf” and instead use that time to ask three absolutely killer questions and get good use from the answers.
3. Present specifically, to the point, and tied directly to their needs, as stated in the answers to their questions. For every major product and service group, you should have a short, powerful “modular presentation” with at least three very strong solution statements that can be delivered in a concise fashion but will be made impactful. And make sure you are PRESENTING rather than just telling; there is a difference and your customers can feel it.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for more time; if you make good use of ten minutes, you have earned the right to ask for a half-hour or an hour.
The point is that, in today’s world, it is incumbent upon the salesperson to earn their time with the customer. It’s not just granted by default. If you’re not getting the time you’d like to have, maybe instead of thinking that your customers won’t “give” you the time, you should figure out how to create value. No matter what your industry – I work with all sorts of industries all over the world – customers will give you time if you’re making it worth their while.
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