Have you ever asked for help in a store and received one of these dead-end replies?:
- “It’s over there.”
- “Everything’s out on the floor.”
- “Go ahead and help yourself, you’ll find it.”
If I Could Find It Myself, Why Would I Be Asking You For Help??
I recently tried out a local store for the first time, and couldn’t find what I was looking for. So I approached the register, where three “salespeople” were standing around talking, and asked where they kept the item.
“It’s over that way,” someone said, with a vague wave toward the back.
“Thanks,” I said with a vague wage — as I walked out of their store, forever.
Actively helping your customer is the first step to fulfilling their needs, not the final step. You need to take the next step of finding out what they truly want and need, so that you can help them at a higher level than anyone else — and become their go-to service professional or vendor!
Here’s How Highly Paid Sales Professionals Learn About Their Customers
Pharmaceutical sales representatives are among the most highly educated, trained, and paid sales professionals out there.
And when I was writing speeches for pharmaceutical executives, their top-selling “reps” were invariably the ones who gave special and relentless attention to communicating with their customers:
- She was the rep who never got tired of asking pesky probing questions (“probing”) and really listening to the answers.
- He was the rep who brought donuts at break time, or pizzas at lunch, to tempt a doctor’s of hospital’s staff to sit down and talk to him about how things were going.
- They were the reps who, when a customer said no, answered, “Then let’s talk more about what you need so that I can find the best way to help you.”
In fact, the more time reps spent talking (read: listening!) to their customers, the more successful they were likely to be. That’s why pharmaceutical companies carefully track how often their reps visit every doctor’s office, who they talk to, and for how long.
But the best reps go further when they “probe” customers. They don’t just acknowledge and ask about a need. They dig deeper, so that they become an expert on what solution would be best.
Don’t Take a Statement of Need at Face Value. Find Out What Your Customer Really Wants!
The following questions are guaranteed to help you hear and understand your customer’s or client’s needs. And remember: Understand what they need isn’t just for their benefit; it’s so they’ll get what they need from you!
1. Tell me exactly what you’re looking for (or, if you’re in a service business, Tell me the problem you’re trying to solve.)
2. So that I’m not wasting your time, what steps have you already taken to find (or solve) it?
3. If you’ve tried other solutions, tell me how they failed or fell short. If you sell a product, this information will help you recommend the best choice.
Ask About Their Previous Vendor or Service Provider Relationships
In addition to asking about what solutions have failed, ask how their previous service provider or vendor failed.
Lots of times, you’ll discover to your surprise that things went just fine with their previous vendor or provider — and that’s a red flag.
- If your prospect is new to their company and “just wants to make a change,” that’s probably OK. New people like to bring in new resources to establish their territory, which is their right.
- But if someone who’s been around for a while is changing vendors for no obvious reason, ask:
4. If everything went fine last year, do you mind telling me why you’re making a change? I’ve heard some amazing answers to this question; dead give-aways like, “We thought we could get it cheaper,” or “They refused to work on Thanksgiving” or “They wanted the contract in writing; can you believe it?!”
If this is how a prospect operates, you want to know it before you make them a client (or decide not to).
A Three-Step Plan for Sales Success
When you talk to your clients, customers, or prospects:
- Listen when they ask for help — whether they use the word “help” or not;
- Ask probing questions about what they need, how they’ve tried to get it, and the solutions that have failed; and
- Find out about past relationships so that you can evaluate what’s best you, as well as for them.
If You Need Help, Developing Your Selling or Public Speaking Skills, Please Contact Me!
Image by Vincent Pollard