The Strangest Sales Call
First impressions are everything. And so are questions! Learning to ask a prospect the right questions not only demonstrates a genuine interest on your part but it also enables you to then make appropriate suggestions.
Last week I had the strangest meeting with a potential vendor. It was a perfect compendium of what not to do on a sales call. I share it with you, my readers, with bafflement and in the hopes that we may all learn from it.
Id been looking for a PR representative and Debbie had come highly recommended from a client. I was looking forward to meeting her. On the appointed day, Debbie showed up wearing dance practice clothes. Hmmm Im a dancer, but I thought it a little odd, it was, after all, a business meeting. Perhaps had she blown me away by her presence, creativity, passion and experience it would not have mattered, but since she didnt, it did.
We exchanged pleasantries and more or less got down to business. Debbie immediately started talking. She asked not one question about my business, but instead proposed a national book tour. As my book, Cold Calling for Women came out four years ago; I felt it was a little late. (I am working on another book, but its not yet in the book tour stage.) She then suggested producing events throughout the country that would be a draw for the media. An interesting idea, but not one I would consider. She never asked a single question about my business, my goals or my reasons for wanting to hire a PR representative.
At one point I thought Id help her out so I asked, Is there anything that you would like to know about my business? She beamed at me, Oh, everything! she said. Then she continued talking about inappropriate possibilities that I would never implement.
An hour later she was out the door and I was confused, dispirited and drained. I wondered how she had managed to sustain any type of business.
So here are some lessons learned: Ask questions. Ask many, many questions. Find out everything that you can about your prospects business, goals, hopes, dreams Then and only then do you start pitching ideas. You cannot hope to have a match between your products or services and your prospects needs and wants unless you ask questions.
Most of my meetings are set up through a phone call, either a cold call (I practice what I preach) or a referral call. The first question that I usually ask a prospect is, What was it about our telephone conversation that made you decide it would be a good idea for us to meet? It is amazing the information that this question elicits. If the prospect originally called me, I change it just a bit and say, What was it that made you decide to pick up the phone and call me? Either way, prospects invariably start to describe their situation, their issues, challenges, needs and wants. After that it is easy to follow up with additional questions to fill in the gaps.
If you are not sure of all of the questions you should ask, start a list and then keep adding to it as you think of additional questions. Put all of your questions in a notebook and take the notebook with you. Tell your prospect that you plan to take notes, open your notebook to the page with your list of questions and write down the answers as you get them.
What are the opening questions that work for you? I would love to see them. Please email your favorite opening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will publish them in subsequent newsletters.
P.S. Debbie sent a lovely thank you e-mail. It was gracious and well written. I started to feel guilty, thinking perhaps I had misjudged, until I got to the part where she got my brand wrong, calling me The Queen of Cold Calls rather than The Queen of Cold Calling. Is this a big thing? No. Does it matter? Yes. She wasnt paying attention.
2006 Wendy Weiss
Wendy Weiss, The Queen of Cold Calling, is a sales trainer, author and sales coach. Her recently released program, Cold Calling College, and/or her book, Cold Calling for Women, can be ordered by visiting http://www.queenofcoldcalling.com Contact her at email@example.com. Get Wendys free e-zine at http://www.queenofcoldcalling.com