Being a sales professional is one of the coolest things! If it wasn't for us salespeople, most B2B companies would not grow, would not be able to employ people, would not be able to pay their tax! (no smart Google/Starbucks comments needed, thank you!)
However, one of the most annoying things is to not be given a straight answer by a customer...
I've taken a flight to close a deal, only to be told that the Finance Director has 'suddenly' pulled the budget! Or another occasion I received the PO from an IT department, only to find the person who signed it, did not have authority.
Yes, we can all sit here and be righteous and say our sales process should weed out the opportunities that are not as real as you'd like them to be. However, sometimes, you just don't get told the truth.
Can we mitigate against these situations? Yes, definitely! - Ask the right questions...
Do you have budget, and are there any conditions to the budget?
It’s amazing how many tire kickers there are out there. Presuming they want your product, then make sure they can actually buy it. AND, make sure they can buy it from YOU! Don’t let some other supplier with an existing relationship sneak in there. Give the customer a reason to buy from you. i.e. your company/product is technically superior etc. DON’T make it cheaper, or you’ll always have to drop trouser to get repeat business.
Who makes the final decisions (technical & financial)?
These are often not the same people and department. Even when the person in front of you says they are, they often aren’t. Do some snooping around to see if you can find out from others what the real situation is.
What are the personal drivers of the decision makers?
Find out their personal drivers, and can you match them to the business drivers? Make a really solid case across all areas. Unless you know these, you’re just lucky if you close them, and luck only gets you so far.
There many more questions you need to ask and I am hoping I've given you a good start. You'll need to consider your own products and solution.
Practice makes perfect:
As a team, you have to test your Q&A. If you're not already roll playing your sales pitch and your close, then you're wasting a lot of time and money to create the opportunities in the first place. Adding specific Q&A tasks to your roll play time will pay dividends in the long run.
Working with a colleague, write a list of 10 pieces of information you need to qualify your lead (you can expand this to include later parts of your sales process when you are done with this first part)
Craft leading questions that will help you discover this information
Spend time to develop these questions so they can be delivered in your natural style and then focus on what responses you are being given
Talk through the Q&A until the conversation feels right
Write down the answers!
Review the information you have written down is the same as you were actually given, that way you can prove you're listening
The more you do this, the better you'll become at both crafting the right questions and listening to your customer
Please share this article! I would also love to hear from you with your comments or if you have any questions.