Customer time is scarce and many prospects resist spending it with salespeople. Consequently, making a great face to face sales call has never been more important. This is not the time to be unprepared or execute poor sales behavior. Being able to gain interest quickly and to ask outstanding questions is vital to identify customer needs and move a customer to a close.
Developing and asking good questions requires practice and preparation. We see many salespeople ask the same manipulative and annoying questions on each and every sales call. Asking direct questions such as “when do you need this by?”, “who is the decision maker?” or “what is your budget?” are turn offs.
Most important information can be obtained through a natural business conversation with a customer. The objective of most sales calls is to close a deal or move the process forward; not interrogating the customer.
Developing Good Questions Starts with Preparation
Salespeople must bring value on each and every call. A poor initial face to face sales call means that the salesperson may never get in front of the customer again. .
The first step in preparing questions is to thoroughly prepare. Here are four necessary steps to accomplish this
What’s the objective of the call?
Determine what will be accomplished by the face to face sales call. If the potential outcome is not substantial, or is vague, then perhaps the call is not worth the time. Examples of good objectives can include gaining access to other decision makers, gaining exact information required for a proposal, or even closing the order.
Do your homework
Since it is so difficult to gain access to a customer, why take any chances? Work the web and talk to current and former employees, friends, suppliers, and anyone else that could provide important insights about the account. This is how salespeople can prepare to bring interesting insights that will build credibility and create interest with prospects.
You need to be different
Every customer perceives their needs as unique. Be different. For instance, just printing direct mail is not enough. Linking your capabilities to the success of your prospect will make them want to continue the conversation. Prepare questions and information that will create curiosity and interest that focuses on the customer opportunities to improve business and professional results.
Questions are the foundation of a great sales call. Having interesting questions prepared that can gain information and methodically walk through a logical needs analysis will establish credibility and build the customer’s curiosity. Encouraging and guiding the customer to talk will determine if the opportunity is a good fit for both the printer and the customer.
Ten Great Questions
Though each sales call is different, most salespeople have their favorite pre-prepared questions. Here are some of my favorites for salespeople selling graphic communications products and services:
1. How is the customer currently communicating and marketing? How are you presently using print and digital media to promote your new products?
2. How does the customer measure the results of their marketing programs? How do you determine how your current print and media marketing programs are working?
3. Where are the challenges and problems in your current marketing process? What would you envision as an outstanding cross media campaign using print and digital media?
4. When and how often does the customer communicate with their customers? How many communication touches do you expect your new and existing customers to receive?”
5. Why does the company generate communications in a particular way? Can you share your organization’s strategy in determining the mix of print and digital marketing when communicating with your customers?
6. How does the customer determine communication and marketing programs or initiatives for new products? How are print budgets determined when launching new products and programs?
7. Who else is involved with budgeting decisions? Can you share with me the makeup of the team that is responsible for initiating and working on marketing and communication programs?
8. How are budgets created for marketing programs? When launching new marketing programs and products, how are print and media budgets determined?
9. What print and digital marketing programs have been successful? In your experience, what past print programs have delivered the best ROI for your investment?
10. What does success look like? What are your top three goals for this
communication or marketing project?”
Expanding on answers to these questions will allow the salesperson to probe more deeply into the implications and impact of the problem or opportunity that is being addressed. The goal of the salesperson is to provide compelling business insights on why the customer should do business with them. This is best done in a consultative manner, and being face to face with a customer will allow you to guide the conversation in a way that showcases your unique capabilities.
Perhaps the best definition of this type of selling was described by the “Dean of American Printers” of the early 20th century, Charles Francis. Francis in his classic 1917 book, Printing For Profit, said that one of the essential qualifications of a successful salesperson is, “the ability to see the customer’s problems from the customer’s own viewpoint, and lead them for their own interest to place an order”.
Clearly, some things do not change.
In today’s world of unread emails and disregarded voice messages, a primary objective when selling large or complex printing projects is to obtain face to face meetings with customers. Once inside, great questions help salespeople build credibility and learn the true scope of potential opportunities.
Joe Rickard is a training leader and consultant dedicated to the graphic communications industry. He and his company Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com) works with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness. He can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joerickardIS. This article was published in the April 2016 edition of Printing News