Action Selling’s emphasis on questioning skills is key. Great questions do a lot for a sale, but above all they build trust. No matter how good the pitch, a customer who has been pitched has no reason to trust a salesperson enough to keep on taking those steps. But a customer who has been expertly questioned—and listened to, and understood—has every reason to believe that the salesperson cares about him and his real needs. Of course a customer will walk hand in hand toward a solution with a partner who has earned his trust and obviously is dedicated to finding the best solution. I would. So would you.
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His whole demeanor has changed. He talks about the various elements of our sales organization much more clearly and precisely. He seems able to visualize what has to happen and why—which of our needs are most pressing and where the greatest leverage can be found. Even his questions have become more penetrating. He’s no longer just thinking about how to boost our growth rate but about how we should track and measure the improvements we’re going to achieve. Not might achieve, mind you; the improvements we’re going to make.
Whether she presented me to Nancy too soon or not, I’m certainly glad that Carrie consulted me as soon as she recognized the potential in the Amstand account. Before we institutionalized Action Selling we expected our reps to act single-handedly: “Go out there and make it rain business.” A few of them did just that. But now that Action Selling has given us a common sales language—and everyone speaks it—the whole company is involved in the sales process. Selling has become a team sport at GoTeam. We talk to each other about deals. We discuss strategy. We test ideas. Everyone has a common vision about how we’ll get the business.
“Right. I need to differentiate myself, and I don’t want the differentiating factor to be price. I want to offer a solution that adds value in the customer’s eyes — something that gives the client a reason to buy from me even though I might charge more for something like a bottle of disinfectant. I want to take the focus off which supplier is offering the lowest price this month. I want the competition’s next flyer to be irrelevant.”
Your company has tried to differentiate its goods or services with guarantees, “partnership” programs, and other value-add strategies to let you compete on some basis other than price. But so have your competitors. Their value-add strategies look almost as much like yours as their products do. Like almost all goods and services, these strategies, too, have become commodities. Even if you come up with a tactic that is genuinely new and different, competitors can quickly copy it. And your customers go right back to hammering you on price. Month after month, year after year, the price pressure increases.
“You’ve just completed the first step of a questioning process that Action Selling calls Back-Tracking Benefits,” Harry told him. “To Ask the Best Questions that uncover needs your products or services could help solve, you work backwards from the thing you’re selling. First you identify your selling strengths. Then you identify the common benefits of those strengths—what makes them appealing to most customers? Before calling on a customer, you prepare some questions designed to reveal needs for those benefits. During the call you listen carefully for clues that allow you to probe deeper and ask more specific questions about how a product benefit would help this particular customer.”
Joe leaned back in his chair. “Sure,” he said. “The best way to replay the call is to go over it in your mind, Act by Act. It doesn’t have to take long. Just ask yourself what worked in each Act and what you could have done better. In today’s call, for instance, your Commitment Objective was to make the sale—to gain commitment from Iverson. Since you achieved it, you obviously chose a realistic Commitment Objective in Act 1.”
“You’re always selling against your competitors,” Joe said, “and in my experience, the salesperson who wins is the one who does the best job of uncovering needs that match the particular strengths of his product features, allowing him to present his products as a solution. Action Selling says that’s how you persuade the customer that you offer the best solution.
Differentiation can be exhausting stuff. It’s trench warfare, where companies leverage a leading advantage to grab a point here only to lose it over there. So, it becomes a consistent battle between you and your competitors to drive a stake in the ground that you can defend.
Welcome to Action Selling’s Plan to Win series! Your go to resource for real-world solutions to real-world sales challenges. This week we’re continuing our conversation on differentiation – how to plan your sales call so you consistently moving the sales process forward.