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TJ Tedesco

View from Mount Olympus

By TJ Tedesco

About TJ

T.J. is team leader of Grow Sales, Inc., a marketing and social media services company operating at the intersection of compelling content, clear vision and quality communication practices. In this blog, fire is a metaphor for print. Hang on, this ride will be weird...

Prometheus crept into Mt. Olympus, stole fire, returned to the lowlands, ran from house to house distributing it, got caught, was chained to a rock, lost his liver to a huge ugly bird and was rescued by Hercules. Leveraging his fame, Prometheus started Fire Enterprises Inc.  (FEI). Since fire was the hottest technology of the time, company success came fast and furious. Two generations later, fire isn't such an easy sale. Now led by Prometheus' grandson Org, FEI's growth is non-existent, competitors are pounding and prices are in the toilet.
 

Ask Questions, Get Results - The Art of Listening, Part II

 
Last week, FEI sales leader Zoot taught young salesman Ganymede how to develop excellent listening skills, and explained why salespeople who are good listeners will sell more. This week, Zoot teaches Ganymede how to ask thoughtful, probing questions— another component of good listening that’s crucial to sales success. Remember, fire = print.

Ganymede shuffled despondently into his office, laurel wreath in hand. Zoot, who was finishing up some paperwork in his office across the hall, instantly noticed Ganymede’s glum mood. He could read his apprentice like a scroll.

“What’s wrong?” Zoot asked.

“Another blown sale,” Ganymede said. “I don’t know what I did wrong! I talked and talked and talked. I told the prospect everything about FEI: our history, our products, our people.”

“Is it possible you’re talking too much?” Zoot asked. “You’re confident, outgoing and motivated to succeed—qualities that many successful salespeople possess. But those attributes can also make it more challenging for you to simply sit still and listen.”

Ganymede rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I agree. I need to listen more.”

“As I said last week, skilled listening involves hanging on a prospect’s every word and empathizing with him or her,” Zoot said, “but it also involves asking the right questions in order to move the conversation forward. Asking probing, yet thoughtful, questions in response to your customer’s stated interests and needs will propel you toward a closed sale.”

“Can you give me some examples?” Ganymede asked.

“Let’s pretend you’re the prospect—Demeter of Demeter’s Café—and I’m the salesperson,” Zoot began. “So Demeter...you value a fire service provider that can guarantee next day torch delivery, don’t you?”

“This is an example of a tie-down question,” Zoot explained. “It’s a natural-sounding query that involves putting a question at the end of a statement. Every time a prospect nods ‘yes’ in response to a tie-down question, you come one step closer to locking that person into a sale.”

“Say I’m the salesperson and you’re Demeter again, and we’re sitting in Demeter Café’s dining area,” Zoot continued. “Demeter, I think a new oven would go great in that open space next to your kitchen stove, don’t you? And what if we placed torches in the lobby and along the back walls; do you think that would provide your restaurant with enough light?”

“I get it,” Ganymede said. “These questions get the prospect involved in the fire service or product we’re selling.”

“Precisely,” Zoot replied, pleased his apprentice was learning so fast. “Prospects that answer these questions are moving toward a buying decision. If Demeter can ‘see’ our torches, ovens, matches or other products adding value to her restaurant, she’ll be one step closer to doing business with us.”

“Now, Demeter, would you like to have these torches delivered tomorrow, or would next week be more convenient?” Zoot added.

“Either way Demeter answers, she’s moving toward the sale!” Ganymede said excitedly.

“Exactly,” Zoot said. “There’s a direct correlation between your ability to ask the right questions and making a lot of sales. Active listening and intelligent questioning form a knockout one-two punch that will lead to sales success.”

Over the next few weeks, Ganymede stopped talking so much and started listening and asking questions. He was amazed at how prospects and customers reacted. After he had listened to them diligently, asked questions, and addressed their particular concerns, they were more receptive once the sales rep asked for the order. His closing rate skyrocketed. 

One day, in celebration of his improved performance, Ganymede brought in gourmet grapes for the whole sales staff. Popping a grape in his mouth, Zoot said, “I’m proud of how you’ve improved, but I’ve been watching you the last couple of days. Your approach still needs improvement. Don’t worry—it’s nothing we can’t fix.”

Ganymede was so nervous he swallowed a grape whole.
 
Today’s FIRE! Point
Asking probing, yet thoughtful, questions in response to your customer’s stated interests and needs will propel you toward a closed sale. There’s a direct correlation between print salespeople’s ability to ask the right questions and making a lot of sales. Active listening and intelligent questioning form a knockout one-two punch that will lead to sales success.

FIRE! in Action: Sales Success is Simply not Possible without Good Listening Skills
Research by the Sales Training Consultancy found that, for salespeople, asking questions is at least three times more persuasive than simply presenting information.

Next week: Zoot and Ganymede discuss how to overcome selling objections.

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