Being Indirect with Clients
Bill Alpert, of Copies & Ink in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, wrote a comment to my announcement of the first-ever “National Scavenger Hunt for Graphic Arts Company.” Growth. He noted that:
“A lot of this is just research. That’s pretty easy, but some of this stuff involves getting information from a person of influence with the prospect’s company. Since I’m no sales ace, some additional questions come to mind for the author: How to get in front of someone who can answer such a comprehensive list of questions? and How to get that person to answer even half of what’s on the list? Unless of course you have the prospect under gunpoint.”
Bill, your comment and your Website tell me that you and your co-workers are a bunch of creative people. Based on my interpretation of your target market after viewing your Website, I urge you to create some communication that will get you in front of your prospect and customers’ decision makers.
This could be a small spray of balloons and donuts with a note that says, “I’m trying to win a National Scavenger Hunt among boutique marketing communications companies like Copies & Ink and I’m hoping you’ll help me win. I just need about six minutes of your time to answer a handful of questions. You see, I get Scavenger Hunt points for every question you answer and your answers are totally confidential.”
Something like that may get you in front of the right person and if that doesn’t work, call or e-mail and I’ve got dozens more ideas that you may like better, or that at least are less expensive. I am guessing that when do get in front of the right person, you will get far more than six minutes of time, and maybe even become fast friends.
The rest of this blog may help you with your questioning technique and help to insure that you have some new life-long friends.
The following is another in the self-training extract from my book titled, “A Year of Selling Profitably.” I have had to adapt the book for individual consumption since it was originally written for group weekly sales meetings. I wrote it because I felt the genius in every company is already present and you just need a format—like weekly two hour sales meetings—to open it for sales development.
The purpose of this blog is to demonstrate the value of indirect questions in obtaining information. You should use the list of qualification questions you developed the last time as the basis for this week’s session.
Exercise 1 (15 MINUTES)
Review the differences between direct and indirect questions. Close yourself up in a room and talk out loud if it helps.
Describe how indirect questions result in valuable information dumps from the buyers, and direct questions result in uninformative responses such as “Yes.” “No.” “Maybe.” “I’ll get back to you.” and “Never.”
As we discussed in the previous blog, buyers will often give you vital clues about their goals, problems, objections to buying from you, personal interests and the characteristics they look for in vendors. In other words, indirect questions are the keys to “agenda selling”—the sales practice of attempting to learn the buyer’s personal agenda and the agenda of the buyer’s organization. The salesperson who can meet both agendas often wins the sale.
Exercise 2 (30 MINUTES)
Every individual is a buyer—a buyer of automobiles, clothing, insurance, appliances, investments, housing, etc. As buyers, we have frequently been “told” things by salespeople. Reflect on questioning, probing and listening skills that you have most appreciated when being sold. Force yourself to go into detail.
Exercise 3 (30 MINUTES)
Still locked in the room?
If anyone knocks or calls out to you, don’t answer—or if you do, say, “I’m not here. Call back later.”
Now I hope you have paper and pen or your laptop handy. Write eight to 12 indirect questions that you would ask your most desirable prospect.
Exercise 4 (45 MINUTES)
Reading aloud, ask yourself the questions and then comment on each question. Be sure to praise yourself a lot. Be alert for slip-ups when you accidentally write a direct question (those with yes or no answers). Punish yourself severely when you make a mistake—maybe no beer, cheesecake or pizza tonight.
Asking the right questions is only the first step in communication; it’s equally important to listen to the answers to those questions. “Active listening” means listening to everything and getting the whole picture before evaluating or acting. Active listeners do not jump to quick conclusions, they never interrupt the speaker, and they always respond to the speaker without drawing incorrect conclusions.
Our society has lost its talent for good conversational skills. Learn to ask good questions and learn to actively listen and you will go a long way toward achieving world peace, or at least peace in your world of customers, co-workers, friends and family. You will be amazed at how all the folks you encounter will be saying, “Marge is such good person. I love being around her!”
A Year of Selling Profitably
By Harris M. DeWese with Jerry Bray
Employ techniques and tools that turn weekly sales meetings into energetic learning experiences, resulting in a more enthusiastic, more motivated, and more effective sales force. Understand how these techniques and tools required to build successful marketing, sales and, ultimately, profits, will help you achieve “A Year of Selling Profitably.” Click to order a copy.
Harris DeWese is the author of "Now Get Out There and Sell Something." He is chairman/CEO at Compass Capital Partners and an author of the annual "Compass Report," the definitive source of info regarding printing industry M&A activity. DeWese has completed 100-plus printing company transactions and is viewed as the preeminent deal maker in the industry. He specializes in investment banking, M&A, sales, marketing and management services to printers.