Now working as a consultant, Kelly sold digital printing for 15 years so she understands the challenges, frustrations and pitfalls of building a successful sales practice. Her mission is to help printers of all sizes sell more stuff. Kelly's areas of focus include client recovery, retention and acquisition, and marketing communications projects.
Kelly graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and, among other notable accomplishments, co-founded the Windy City Rollers, a professional women's roller derby league.
My husband and I went car shopping the other day. Why, you ask? Well, it’s funny that YOU ask, because not one of the car salesmen on any of the lots we went to did. As it happens, we are in the market for a mini-van because we are expecting ANOTHER set of twins in April. And the utterly dismal performance by each and every salesperson we encountered got me thinking about—and criticizing—their approaches.
One of the fundamentals of sales is the concept of asking open-ended questions to get the most useful information out of someone you are trying to forge a relationship with. These are typically the five W’s and an H that we learned back in grade school—the “who, what, where, when, why and how” questions.
Not only did the sales reps NOT ask very many questions, but the way they asked them was very counterproductive. Here’s another bad example. “Do you care about DVD players at all?” How about, “How important is having a DVD player in your new car to you?” See the difference?
So here is my recommended version of how our interactions should have gone:
How can I help you folks today?
Well, we are in the market for a used mini-van.
Great! Why are you shopping for a minivan today?
We are expecting a set of twins in April.
Congratulations! Do you have any other kids? How old are they?
Yes—we have two girls that will be three in February.
WOW! So you’ll definitely need a six-seat vehicle that can accommodate four car seats. Am I right about that?
Our best-selling and highest-rated vehicle that fits that bill is the Honda Odyssey. Would you like to come take a seat so we can talk more about options, price range, your time frame, and purchase, lease and financing options?
Our experiences were nothing like that. And it sure would have made our lives easier if they had been more like that.
So how does this issue apply to us in printing? I can recall from my early days in sales that I rarely asked the question, “Why?” And here’s why I should have. What comes after the question that begins with WHY is vital to you. And you need to learn how to ask it, shut your mouth, and listen to the answer, because you need to hear what your prospect or customer is telling you.
Here are a couple of examples:
• “Why are you considering changing or adding a new supplier?”
• “Why have you come to the conclusion that you want to try a variable-data campaign?
• “Why is same-day delivery important to you?”
• “Why are you producing these postcards? What do you hope to achieve?”
• “Why are you attending that trade show? How will you determine whether it was a success or not?”
Get the picture? The answers that you get to the questions that begin with “why” will tell you loads about who your customers, what they want, what is important to them, and where they are trying to get. “Why?” places you firmly in the role of consultative partner and differentiates you from the order takers.
Why ask why? It just may get you places you’ve never been before, or get you there a lot faster. Give it a try. Why not?