Very few of the sales people I have encountered enjoying walking away from a deal. As a result, they end up working a potential deal for an extended period of time only to have it fall apart.
Here are 11 warning signs that that indicate it might be time to walk away from a deal.
1. Your prospect gives you excuses such as, “We haven’t got to it yet” or “We’re still considering your proposal” or “We’re still thinking about it.”
2. Your prospect keeps telling you that he/she is the decision maker but they refuse to make a final decision.
3. Your key contact no longer responds to your emails or voice mail messages.
4. The company starts making unrealistic demands for discounts or other concessions.
5. Your prospect refuses to engage in a meaningful dialogue early in the sales process and simply demands a quote or pricing sheet.
6. You cannot speak directly with the person who will ultimately sign off on the deal.
7. Your prospect keeps reducing the size and scope of their commitment.
8. Your prospect refuses to commit to any next steps.
9. The company expects you to “compete” in an RFP process.
10. Anyone in the prospect’s company acts or behaves in an unethical manner.
11. Your champion has limited influence within his/her company.
It’s never easy to walk away from a sale especially if you have invested a significant amount of time with it. However, it can free up time to work on deals that have a higher likelihood of maturing to fruition.
The key is to recognize the signs and be prepared to cut the ties BEFORE you have invested too much time.
These are just a few warning signs…what other signs tell you that you should walk away from a deal?
During a sales training workshop I recently conducted, the term ‘investigate’ kept cropping up and it started with a participant saying, “We need to investigate why they (the prospect) are saying that.”
If you have read my blog or articles for any length of time you know that I am a huge advocate of asking plenty of questions during the discovery phase of a sales conversation. Needless to say, I loved the word investigate!
Many sales people think they are good investigators; however, the reality is that they often wait to conduct their investigation only after their prospect expresses an objection.
A true sales investigator takes a different approach.
She asks high-value, tough and penetrating questions early in the conversation rather than waiting until her prospect resists or pushes back.
A good sales investigator understands the importance of uncovering all the pertinent information that will influence the outcome of the sale BEFORE he pitches his product, service or solution.
An effective investigator explores the reason behind a person’s hesitation to make a buying decision
It’s a simple concept…at least in theory.
The challenge is that many sales people have conditioned themselves to talk first and ask questions later–usually when their prospect expresses an objection. And breaking this habit is difficult.
Here is a strategy that can help…
Before your pitch your product, discuss your offering or present a solution ask yourself, “Do I know enough about this person’s situation to offer a solution?”
If you can answer yes to this question, you are ready to move forward. If your response is no then you need to investigate a bit more.
Yesterday I was crossing the Canada/US border enroute to work with a new client. The custom’s officer asked typical questions such as “What’s your citizenship?” “Do you have any food or alcohol?” along with a few others. Then, as she handed me my passport, she asked, “What else would you like to add?”
A dozen thoughts ran through my head before I smiled and said, “It’s a great day isn’t it?” We exchanged a few more pleasantries and I headed toward the interstate.
For several minutes I wondered why she asked that question, because in my mind, it seemed very random. However, I started to think about the possible responses she might hear and reactions she might see as a result.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this could be a great question to ask new prospects. It could uncover additional opportunities, potential challenges or roadblocks, or reveal another motivator behind the buying decision.
I once spoke to a manager who told me about an interview he had recently conducted. During the interview he asked, “What else should I know that you haven’t told me yet?” and the person he was speaking with replied, “I have a criminal record.” Further questioning uncovered that the potential candidate had been jailed for fraud. Needless to say, he wasn’t hired.
During your next sales meeting—face-to-face or telephone—consider asking this question when you think you have all the information you need to move forward. You may just uncover something important that will influence your approach, affect your solution or improve your offering.
Planning a sales meeting, sales training or other related event? I might be able to help you get a higher ROI. Give me a call and we can discuss. 905-633-7750.
Last year my wife and I moved into a brand new subdivision. We couldn’t erect a fence then because the land needs time to settle so we’re eager to get going on it this summer so we can enjoy some privacy in our backyard.
However, trying to get multiple homeowners to agree upon a contractor and style is proving to be a formidable challenge. Our block (front and back) is home to about 20 homeowners and everyone wants to give their input. We have had several companies quote on the project and even though the quotes have been very reasonable someone always wants to get another estimate.
As I write this post we’re at a deadlock with respect to the contractor we should use.
The neighbors to each side of me are ready to move forward as is the person who owns the home directly behind me. However, no one wants to take the initiative to say yes to a particular fence builder without the approval of the entire group because someone will end up footing a larger share of the bill if their direct neighbor fails to give their consent.
Since the onset of the recession, I have noticed that many companies have fallen into this decision-by-consensus trap.
Although this can be an effective way to prevent hasty decisions from being made it often paralyzes businesses.
In early 2010 I spoke to company about developing an in-house training program for their front-line sales staff. I met with the VP of Sales who informed me that he wanted to consult with four direct reports before making a final decision. A few weeks later he asked me to deliver a presentation to these individuals and he also made the same request of a competitor. After our presentations, the four people were split in their decision and in the end no decision was made because the group could not reach an agreement.
It’s important for sales people to realize that more companies rely on decision-by-consensus than ever before. And this approach dramatically slows down the decision making process.
Sharon Drew Morgen suggests we stop trying to sell and start helping buyers understand and navigate the internal challenges and politics they encounter trying to implement a solution. This means we need to ask questions like, “What does your decision team need to know or understand in order to reach agreement?”
Then you just might be able to get past the decision-by-consensus mentality and actually move the sales process forward.
I help sales teams master their sales conversation so they can win more deals. Let me know if I can help you or your company: Kelley@Fearless-Selling.ca or 905-633-7750.
You would think that after 15 years of talking to prospects about sales training I wouldn’t forget to ask any questions during initial conversations.
I recently spoke with the COO of a mid-size company about delivering sales training for his team. Everything, I mean, everything was going well.
We had an intelligent conversation about his goals and objectives. We discussed what he wanted he wanted to accomplish and we talked about previous programs he had embarked on and the results he had achieved.
I submitted a proposal and followed up as promised. During that subsequent conversation he indicated that I had addressed every key issue and that he was eager to schedule a sales training workshop for his team.
That’s when I hit the roadblock.
As we discussed the timing of the program he said, “I just want to run this by my President and CEO to make sure they’re onboard with it.”
As Homer Simpson would say, “Doh!”
I made the common assumption that he was the key decision maker because he was a high-ranking executive in the company. I believed that he owned the decision. I was wrong.
Simply put, I forgot to ask a key question…
“Who else will you consult with before moving ahead with this decision?”
It’s a simple question. But one that often goes unasked.
If you want to increase your sales it is critical that you ask this question early in the sales conversation. Force yourself to ask who else is involved and make sure you have a conversation with them BEFORE you submit a proposal. Otherwise, your best efforts can result in a no-sale.
I help sales teams master their sales conversations so they can win more business and increase their sales. Call me for more info: Kelley@Fearless-Selling.ca or 905-633-7750.
This past Monday I wrote a post called, “You Don’t Understand” that prompted a newsletter subscriber to ask me several questions in an email. Lauren’s questions are listed below along with my responses.
“The product I work with made immediate sense to me—and so I am probably particularly frustrated when it doesn’t make sense to others. It was so commonsense to me when I learned about it eight years ago that I never understand why people don’t get started right away (although there are lots of cases where people make the decision to get started many months or years down the road).
Q: How do I learn how to ask the questions that will help me understand what they understand – and don’t understand – about what I am offering?
A: I have a list of high-value questions here; although they are directed to B2B sales, you may be able to adapt them to your situation.
Q: Sometimes, people say it makes sense and then they still don’t get started or they back away from earlier interest. How does the salesperson find out what the real concerns or issues are?
A: In your conversations with new prospects ask, “What concerns would have about moving forward with this?” or if you’re following up ask, “You expressed interest when we initially spoke and I’m curious to know what’s changed?” You can also say, “Some people are hesitant to start this because (fill in the blank). How does that compare to your thoughts?” Also, are you actually asking them to get started (asking for the sale)? If not, you are missing sales opportunities.
Q: How do I, the salesperson, get over my own feeling that everyone should get this product right away and get started? (Even though I’ve seen people change their impressions over time – and now they love it – I never know what finally clicked for them. Granted, I grew up in open-minded northern California and am building this business in skeptical and slow to grasp new concepts Massachusetts.)
A: Every time you get a new customer ask them, “What prompted you to start now?”
Q: How do I better understand what health concerns they are looking to address, so I can better share the benefits of interest to them?
A: Once again, ask… “What health concerns are you looking to address?” “What prompted you to consider this product?”
As you can see, most of the approach is to ask more questions BEFORE you start talking about your product. Find out what’s important to them so you can address it when you discuss your product. Here’s a personal example:
I take greens every day. I know there are many benefits of taking greens but I’m not interested in them because I take them for one simple reason: I know it reduces the effects of spring/summer allergies. If you started telling me how greens would improve my digestion, lost weight, etc. you would lose my attention…quickly…because you wouldn’t be addressing what’s important to me.
Lauren’s situation is not uncommon.
Many sales people kn0w they should ask more questions but they are afraid of being perceived as being pushy. However, salespeople who consistently increase their sales know the importance of developing the courage to ask. As Wayne Gretzky once said, “You will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
If I can help you or your company please feel free to reach out. You can contact me at 905-633-7750 or Kelley@RobertsonTrainingGroup.com
I’m about to go on a bit of a rant so buckle up!
A few days I stumbled across a website designed to help small business owners improve their results. The owner of the website had written a blog post on selling skills and I was disappointed by the advice he dispensed.
He suggested that small business owners use probing questions throughout their presentation. While I agree that this is important the examples he presented were not reflective of this style of question. Here are the three questions he listed as being “probing”:
“How do you feel about the program explained so far?”
“Which option do you prefer?”
“Can you see the value in the additional features we can provide at an extra cost?”
The last time I checked these were not probing questions!
They are self-serving, seller-centric questions that do nothing to uncover a prospect’s potential problem. Do you seriously think asking lame questions like these are going to separate you from your competition and give people a compelling reason to do business with you?
He also went on to suggest that you need to “convince” people that they “need” your product or service.
If you have to “convince” someone to do business with you, I suggest that you have done a poor job positioning the value of your offering which likely means you haven’t asked the right probing question to determine the extent of their current problem.
Don’t get me wrong…
I’m sure the blog author had good intentions with his advice. However, in my opinion, his advice was off-target. It was evident he had little, if any, experience in sales, and as someone who has dedicated the last sixteen years to helping sales people improve their results, I take tremendous offense when someone with few qualifications dispenses poor or misleading sales advice.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called, 11 Lame Questions You Need to Avoid. It generated several comments and one reader asked, “What questions should I be asking?”
What ARE the questions sales people should be asking to increase their sales and improve their results?
Certainly this depends on your industry and/or product(s). However, there are many questions that are generic in nature or that can be easily modified to your specific sales environment. Here are 23 high-value, tough, penetrating and powerful sales questions that will help you grow your sales.
Let’s start with high-level questions; these are important if you sell to senior executives.
The higher up in an organization you sell, the more important it is to ask these types of questions simply because executives are used to asking—and answering—tough questions.
- What goals are you striving to achieve this quarter?
- How do those targets compare to last year’s results?
- What, if anything, is preventing you from achieving these goals?
However, do NOT start your conversation with questions like this because you have to earn the right to ask them, especially if you do not have an established relationship. It is much better to begin by demonstrating your expertise, industry knowledge, and understanding of your prospect’s business and/or company.
- We’ve noticed several trends occurring in the industry lately. The two that stand out the most are… How are these affecting you and your business?
- When I was doing some research, I noticed on your website that your company is… What progress are you making on that initiative?
These questions are effective because they show that you have done your homework and executives appreciate that. In fact, many of them would like their own sales team to take this approach before calling on a new prospect. Questions like this also demonstrate that you know what is happening in business as well as your customer’s industry.
Assuming you have captured your prospect’s attention you can move the sales process forward by asking other questions that focus on a problem they may be facing.
- What are the 3 biggest mistakes being made by…?
- What challenges or difficulties are you experiencing with…?
- What two problems are giving you the most grief or taking up the most of your time?
Once you determine the key problems that your prospect is dealing with the next step is to determine the impact of the problem. You can do that by asking:
- What impact is that having on your business?
- What is this problem costing you in terms of (money, profit, market share, customer loyalty, time to market, etc.)?
- What will happen if you don’t take action?
- How will that affect your company? You personally?
It is critical to understand that business people do not make buying decisions based on your ability to spew out product specifications and information. Instead, they want to know what result they can expect. In other words, your prospect wants to know how your solution will affect their top line (sales) or bottom line (profits).
Will they make more money? Gain more market share? Improve brand recognition? Compete more effectively? Save money? Improve morale? Increase productivity? Reduce costs?
That means you need to be prepared to ask questions that focus on the future. When I talk to new prospects about sales training, I often ask what they want to see as an outcome or final result. This information then helps me position my solution and the positive financial impact training will have on their business. Consider these questions.
- What is the ideal outcome you would like to see or experience?
- How does this compare with your current results?
- You mentioned that you want to improve employee morale with this initiative. Can you tell me what that looks like?
- You have stated that increasing market awareness is one of your primary objectives. How will you know that you have succeeded?
You need to determine the priority of this decision, how the decision will be made, and what potential roadblocks may prevent you from moving forward. Here are few examples.
- How does this project rank in priority compared to the others you are working on?
- Walk me through the process you follow when you consider decisions of this nature?
- Who else do you normally consult with on decisions like this?
- What potential roadblocks might prevent you from moving ahead with this?
- What concerns, if any, do you have about moving forward?
There are also questions that don’t fit into a specific category.
- What are some of the qualities you look for in a vendor?
- How will you measure success?
These may sound like difficult questions. And they can be. However, with practise you can develop the courage and confidence to ask these tough, penetrating questions. And in doing so, you will separate yourself from your competition and increase your sales.
Full disclosure: I can’t take credit for developing all of these questions. Here are some of the resources I referred to:
Paul Cherry, Performance Based Results
Jill Konrath, Selling to Big Companies
Scott Ginsberg, NameTagScott
Alan Weiss, Summit Consulting Group
During a recent workshop with a client, we were discussing the importance of asking the right questions; high-value, high-impact, penetrating questions. One person spoke up and said, “When I’m talking to a new prospect I like to ask, “What do you know about us?”
An uncontrollable groan escaped when I heard this. But it got me thinking, what other lame questions do sales people ask? Here are a few that I’ve heard over the years and still continue to hear. FYI: You might detect a note of sarcasm as you continue; I REALLY tried to contain this but couldn’t help myself…
1. “What are your needs?” Really? You seriously think this question separates you from your competitor? Using this question automatically turns you into an order-taker, not a sales-maker.
2. “Are you the decision maker?” Although there is nothing technically wrong with this question, it usually results in a ‘yes’ response. A more effective way to get this information is to ask, “Who else do you normally consult with on decisions of this nature?”
3. “What is your budget?” Many people haven’t established a budget or don’t know what to budget for a particular purchase. Do them and yourself a favor and focusing on exploring their problems and presenting a solution that addresses those issues and budget will become less of a concern.
4. “Do you want to save (insert money, time, or other lame benefit)?” Don’t insult my intelligence. Enough said.
5. “Do you want this (whatever the feature might be)?” I don’t even know what that feature will do so how can I possibly tell you if I want it. Oh, wait! If I say that then it gives you the opportunity to start talking about your product. Now I get it…
6. “Would you give me a referral?” I might if I knew what type of person or company you wanted an introduction to. Be specific and help your customer understand who would make a good referral. BTW: Saying “anyone” is NOT an effective reply.
7. “What do you know about us?” I know you like this question because when people say they don’t know anything about you it gives you the chance to start telling them everything you do. Unfortunately, this only serves to bore then and cause them to start counting the seconds until the meeting is over. Remember, the sales call and meeting isn’t about you; it’s about your prospect or customer.
8. “If I could show you (insert pathetic expression such as ‘how my product will benefit you) will you buy?” Really, dude? Can’t you come up with anything better than that?
9. “Are you ready to buy?” Perhaps, if I could figure out how your product or service would benefit me I might. But considering I just starting thinking about this purchase and you’re the first person I’ve talked to, I highly doubt it.
10. “Who else should I talk to in the company?” You seriously think I’m going to introduce you to my boss or colleague with an approach like that? However, if you help me solve a problem, I’ll be more than willing to introduce you to another department or division.
11. “Do you want to make more money, gain new clients, increase your sales, etc?” See response for point four above.
I trust that YOU don’t ask these weak, feeble, lame questions. If you happen to work with people who do, print this post and place it on their desk. Maybe they’ll get the hint.
Are there other lame sales questions you have heard people use? Leave a comment and share your perspective.
Decision makers in every type of business are under enormous pressure to produce results. Many of them are open to exploring new ideas, strategies and tactics that will improve their business results. However, just because a decision maker appears interested in your offering does not mean they will automatically move forward with the buying decision.
Even if they like your product or service they will certainly have questions and concerns about making a decision. And the challenge for you, the sales person, is that many of these questions will NEVER be verbally expressed.
The next time you’re talking to a key decision maker about your particular product, service, solution or offering, think about the questions running through their head. Here are just a few of the possible concerns and questions that occupy their mind space during your sales conversation.
1. How can this sales person or his company help me?
2. What’s in it for me? How will I personally benefit?
3. What happens if the company fails to execute or deliver what this sales person says they will do?
4. Are the claims about this product accurate?
5. How will that affect me and my position?
6. I’ve heard other sales people say that before, why should I believe this person?
7. What will happen if I do nothing?
8. How hard am I going to have to fight to get approval for this?
9. Who is going to challenge me and oppose this purchase?
10. How will this decision affect my boss’s perception of me?
11. What will my boss think about this decision?
12. We tried something like this before and it didn’t work; why should I consider it again?
13. How difficult is it going to be to implement this solution?
14. Is it worth the headache and hassle to make the change or is it simpler just to deal with the status quo?
15. Is the problem really big enough?
16. How much is this going to cost in terms of soft costs such as people, time, meetings, etc.?
17. What hidden costs haven’t been factored into this solution?
If you want the sales process to move forward in today’s complex business world, you need to proactively address these concerns.
That means it is critical that you find out what questions your prospect has on their mind. Unless you uncover AND deal with these questions and concerns, it is unlikely that your prospect will actually make an affirmative buying decision.
By the way; I’m currently on vacation so I have arranged for a few other sales gurus to post while I’m away. I know you will enjoy their posts.