Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Conversation Helpers: Segues And Bridges

Segues (pronounced SEG-ways) and bridges are important to executing your line of questions (LOQ) effectively. Segeues are logical, smooth transitions into another line of questions. Segues usually feel very conversational. The customer may not even realize you have shifted to another LOQ. Bridges are more abrupt changes in your questions. It will feel to the customer like a change in the direction of the conversation.

Sometimes you can make the bridge feel like a segue by using what the customer has previously said to make the transition into anther LOQ topic. Example: "... so to tie that back to what you said a few minutes ago about meeting with Jason Smith next week, how is he involved in the decision making process?" This provides two benefits -- it shifts the conversation where you want it to go and it shows you are actively listening to what they're saying.

Usually it's required and appropriate to segue from one of your LOQs to another to fully understand one Value Opportunity. This means that you will often segue to another LOQ topic before fully exhausting the current LOQ topic. If this occurs, you must segue back to the original LOQ topic later in the conversation to ensure you gather all of the necessary information in that LOQ. That could be kind of hard to follow, huh? This is why we encourage you to take good notes during your sales conversations.

Some LOQs will warrant deeper probing and more questions than others. Ask yourself, "What do I need to know to about this subject to sell this account?" Once you have gained that information, move to the next appropriate LOQ topic. You should go to a depth necessary to close them before moving to another LOQ without overselling.

Reading The Prospect
Prospects may provide a cue to prompt you to segue. Examples include:
* Tone of voice: The customer may be excited or particularly animated with their response to your questions about a specific subject.
* Repetition: The customer may mention another LOQ topic several times.
* Their Answers: Trial close them and ask for feedback.

When a prospect throws out a cue to segue to another LOQ topic, you should:
* Recognize the cue and if it will move you off the current Value Opportunity you are discussing
* Decide if you should segue right then or not. If you are going down a path that is important to them, stay with it. It is preferred to fully understand the Value Opportunity, give value, and get acceptance before covering the next VO.

If no cues are presented, move to the next LOQ topic once you have a good understanding of the current topic. When moving to the next LOQ topic, refer to the customer's responses to the previous questions that you noted to keep the discussion conversational.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How Is Sales Like Basketball?

College and pro basketball have a shot clock, ranging from 24-35 seconds depending on the league, to quicken the pace of the game and to ensure one team doesn't dominate the ball. Sales doesn't have an official shot clock, but you should adopt one if you want to be a successful sales rep. We call it the 30-Second Rule.

The 30-Second Rule improves communication and understanding between two parties because it keeps individual points separated, making them easier to digest and understand, even in long, in-depth conversations. Basically, the guideline with any discussion is to talk 30 seconds or less each time you speak so you don't jeopardize the effectiveness of the conversation. If you talk longer than 30 seconds at a time, the higher the likelihood the person will miss your point. Obviously, this is not a hard-and-fast rule, but it's a good guideline to make sure you don't overwhelm the other person with too much information.

To be effective with the 30-Second Rule, provide small pieces of information on the topic you're trying to convey. Follow up by asking for feedback (QACF). Doing this provides improved communication between two parties because you actively engage the other person in the conversation. While more complex topics require more explanation, the information will be more easily understood if you stop and ask for feedback during the explanation. Resist the tendency to keep talking until you exhaust the subject.

Here are some techniques to help you stay within the 30-Second Rule:
1. QACF
2. Ask for feedback or questions every 30 seconds.
3. Plan your conversation in advance of you opening your mouth.
4. Ask more questions. An excellent (and brief) question is "Why?"
5. Ask the person if they need more data before you continue. Speak for them, not for you.
6. Lead with the punchline. Nobody likes it when you "beat around the bush." So don't.
7. Use silence.
8. Warn the person in advance if you are going to break the 30-Second Rule.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of four leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, VertMarkets, and Howland Peterson Consulting.

Friday, December 9, 2011

We've Got Some Questions For You

Here are 5 topics that you should ask questions about to learn more about your customer (and their company if it's a B2B sale):

1. Company Goals: Fully understand what the customer is trying to accomplish in relation to the product/service you're discussing and what's preventing them from accomplishing the goals.
2. Expectations: Fully understand what the customer expects to gain if they purchase your product/service.
3. Competition: Fully understand how the customer views and evaluates your competition.
4. Company Information: In addition to understanding their goals, understand the basics of their company.
5. Personal: Understand enough about them as a person to make a connection. People buy from people they know and like.

Here's a sample line of questions related to #4 Company Information:
* What makes you different from your competition?
* What's the most unique thing your company does? Why do you do that?
* What are the biggest changes your company has experienced recently?
* What changes are on the horizon?
* How many locations do you have? Do you plan to add more?

And here's a sample line of questions related to #5 Personal:
* What do you do for a living? Tell me about your career path that got you there.
* Why did you make your last job move?
* What are your future plans?
* What do you like about your job?
* What do you like about the city you live in?
* Tell me about your family.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of three leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, and VertMarkets.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

QACF: Question, Answer, Comment, Feedback

No, QACF is not the sound a duck makes when it's trying to quack and eat at the same time. QACF is an acronym that represents the pattern your sales call should follow: Question, Answer, Comment, Feedback.
* Q & A is the process where you ask the contact a probing question and they answer it (information gathering). When you ask questions, they should be clear and succinct. Speak plainly. Avoid cliches such as "hot button" and "pain point," as the contact may feel as though they are being sold.
* C is when you comment in response to their answer. The comment validates your understanding of the answer. You can present a Value Proposition to address one of their needs.
* F is when the contact provides feedback. Did you understand the information provided in their answer?

When gathering feedback, you will uncover the contact's attitude. It will fit into one of four categories (1) Acceptance: "I agree. I like that." (2) Skepticism: "I don't believe you." (3) Indifference: "I don't care." (4) Objection: "I won't."

7 Tips For Effective Use of QACF to Advance an Account
1. Listen to the contact's answers and react to their cues naturally.
2. Don't assume anything.
3. Let them fully answer your questions. Don't interrupt. Use live note-taking to capture pertinent points that you want to come back to later in the conversation.
4. Engage the client. Talk about what's important to them.
5. It helps to have a good understanding of your products/services. While you listen to the contact's answers to your questions, there may be a point in time where your internal alarm should go off to tell you, "Hey! There's a match. We can help them with that."
6. Listen! You should be succinct with your Q and C. The contact should be more verbose with A and F.
7. If you talk too much, the contact may:
- Feel as though you are not trying to understand them
- Not have the time or opportunity to fully answer your questions
- Begin to ignore you
- Think as though you are serving your own agenda, not theirs

I could go on-and-on about the topic of QACF ... but I don't want you to begin to ignore me or think I'm serving my own agenda and not yours.

The Erie Sales Club is a joint effort of three leading local businesses: Jameson Publishing, Marsha Marsh Real Estate Services, and VertMarkets.