I’ve said for years that the most important skill in selling is the ability to ask great questions that get great answers. In fact, I’ve gone further and said that 80% of your chance to win or lose the sale is determined by the time you ask the last question.
I think I may have been wrong.
At this moment, those of you who have been trained by me are saying, “Wait, WHAT? When do I get my updated training? And what is the most important skill – prospecting, presenting, closing?” Relax. Your training is still intact.
The most valuable skill is the ability to LISTEN to the great answers generated by your questioning, and to react and respond appropriately. Recently I spoke with a friend who had not one, but three encounters in the same day with salespeople who refused to listen. She had filled out some contact forms on three websites asking for more information on a particular software solution for her company. Each form asked for her preferred method of contact. On each, she selected “Email only.”
All three companies had a salesperson call her without emailing.
Despite being mildly annoyed by the phone calls – she prefers to deal with people through email – she spoke to each salesperson. The conversations were virtually the same. None of the salespeople had looked at her company’s website, and two hadn’t even read any of the details that she provided in the contact form.
All three made assumptions about her company that were wildly incorrect; she was looking for a fully-featured version of their software for a small amount of users. They assumed that, because she had a small company, that she was looking for a less-featured product. Wrongo. And in assuming that, two of the three managed to make (hopefully inadvertent) disparaging comments about her organization.
The worst part is that she knows my sales philosophy, and she even said emphatically that all three salespeople asked quite a few questions and pretty good ones – they just didn’t listen to the answer.
You’re probably guessing how the conversations ended. Abruptly, and with some bad feelings on my friend’s part. And a need for software remains unfulfilled, just because salespeople don’t listen, and didn’t prepare for the calls.