“I want to talk about what I believe is the single most important skill that separates the average sales reps from the ones that win bigger, better, and more and create customers for life.” – Anita Nielsen in today’s Tip 157
Do you use high impact questions?
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Scott Ingram: You’re listening to the Daily Sales Tips podcast and I’m your host, Scott Ingram. Today’s tip comes from Anita Nielsen. Anita is the President of LDK Advisory Services, a sales performance coach and author of the brand new book that was just released today: Beat the Bots – How Your Humanity Can Future-Proof Your Tech Sales Career. Here she is:
Anita Nielsen: Hi, this is Anita Nelson. I’m president of LDK Advisory Services, Sales Performance Coach and the author of Beat the Bots – How Your Humanity Can Future-Proof Your Tech Sales Career. As a sales performance coach, working with sales leaders and sales professionals, I always got asked the same question. What’s the secret sauce that differentiates high performers from all the rest? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is none. There is no secret sauce. There are though a few specials, specific skills, knowledge, and behavior that characterize elite performing sales professionals. Today, I want to talk about what I believe is the single most important skill that separates the average sales reps from the ones that win bigger, better, and more and create customers for life. That skill is Discovery. Discovery is one of the first things that any salesperson is taught or trained. I mean from the minute we decided to carry a bag, we’re taught how critical it is to do a thorough discovery using our open-ended questions so that we can qualify an opportunity and all that’s important. You have to ask open-ended questions to help you learn the basic info that you need to qualify an opportunity. I mean things like budget, timing, authority, etc. But when I’m talking about is much more than old school discovery. When high performers think of discovery, they think of it from a genuinely curious mindset. They look at it as a way to gain as much valuable information as possible. High performers tend to use high impact questions that allow them to not just get the basics required for the qualification, but also to get more important things like the emotional and rational needs of the customer, their objectives and their requirements. Oftentimes that a professional and a personal level. So what’s the difference then between an average opening question and a high impact question or I call them High Qs? Open-ended questions are questions aimed at getting you more than just a yes or no answer? For example, when someone asks a close-ended question like, “Do you have a team reporting to you?” The customer can pretty much only answer that with a yes or no and then you can try to build from there or you just move on to the next question because sometimes it feels awkward. We are trained repeatedly to not use closed-ended questions and there’s a lot of reasons for that. But the one that I think is super important is when you ask closed-ended questions, your customer will quickly begin to feel like they are being interrogated. That definitely doesn’t foster rapport and the trust, which are key to differentiating. So I’m not going to bore you with all the other reasons that have been hammered into your head about how useless closed-ended questions are. You already know, but if you look at an average open-ended question, you’ll see that it’s far better than a closed-ended one because don’t get just a yes or no answer. You get more information. So using the same example as before. An open-ended question would be something like “How many people report to? In this case, you’ll get a number that’s valuable. You want that information to help you qualify and even determine if there’s a good fit. That’s a data point that you got to have. It’s foundational and it’s more than a yes or no, but honestly not by much. So another question would be “Who reports to? The song and get you a little bit more and I’ll probably help you learn what roles or skill sets report to that customer who you’re asking. These open-ended questions are much better for conversation because they’re easier to build on and they don’t make the customer feel like they’re in the hot seat. Open-ended questions are absolutely what most sales reps use and their discovery. But the High Qs, they’re like open-ended questions on steroids. High impact questions get you more from your customer in terms of their thought process and you’ll hear more meaningful and descriptive answers. Sometimes you’re gonna get more than others, but you’re always giving yourself a higher chance at better intel when you use High Qs than with the good old open-ended questions with high impact questions, you’re going to gain some insight into what’s on your customer mind based on where they go with their answers. So using our same example, you could say something like, “Can you help me understand the org chart for your organization?” Bingo! Right. Open the flood gates. Now your customer has to answer it in much more detail and emotions tend to creep up when they get into those details. They may walk you through the roles and inevitably give you some insight into how well each of those roles is doing. They may even start talking about the actual people in those roles and their strengths and weaknesses. These are all great things. This is information that you’re going to be able to spend into sales goal because differentiation lives in these details. This is the exact information that’s gonna help you personalize your solution and then differentiate yourself based on that. Now when you go back to present a solution, you can say something like, “I know you mentioned that Tom on the engineering team is doing the job of two people and he’s really overwhelmed. Well, I think I found a way that I can help make him more effective and less frustrated.” And at that point, you would go into how what you’re selling will do just that. In this way, you’ve made whatever it is that you’re selling. Much more real by personalizing that message based on the fruit of your discovery superpowers. Think of High Qs as questions that shrink would be jealous of. Think things like “How do you think your leadership will respond to needing an additional budget?” Or “What do you believe the outcomes of putting out this change would be?” Or “Would you please share with me how you currently manage your infrastructure and can you help me understand how you prioritize your projects or even how does that make you feel?” Just kidding. That’s a little shrink humor. Please don’t ever ask that question they will think you’re being creepy. So my tip to you is to make discovery as meaningful and powerful as you can by using high impact questions that are aimed at getting you details and a chance to glimpse at more emotional responses. All of these things help you to personalize your product or solution and the message and use to position them. Those details on your message based on the Gold Mine of information you mind and discovery. That’s where differentiation lives. That’s the kind of differentiation that will keep competition and robot hands off of your commission checks.
Scott Ingram: On this tips page at DailySales.Tips/157 you’ll find links to all things Anita Nielsen including a link to her new book: Beat the Bots – How Your Humanity Can Future-Proof Your Tech Sales Career. Anita has also been generous enough to offer 3 signed copies of her book to listeners of this podcast. All you have to do is be one of the first 3 people to email me at [email protected] and mention Beat the Bots, BUT this offer is only open to humans.
Thanks for listening, and be sure to come back tomorrow for another great sales tip.