Archive for the ‘Customer Relationships’ Category

Do You Have A Fear of Asking Questions During Sales?

March 24th, 2015

I spend about 80% of my time working with sales professionals to perfect their ability to structure the questions that need to be asked. They all understand the importance of asking questions but need some assistance in creating their own tailored versions. Salesmen often enjoy the exercise of deciphering which questions uncover the compelling reasons the prospect should do business with them. We all need to ask clients questions concerning budget, the decision-making process, and what the next steps should be. Even rapport and relationship building are best built by asking questions. People like to talk about themselves; if you keep the questions coming, you are more likely to make a positive impact on your prospects.

After spending hours and hours working with a sales professional to hone their questioning skills, I like to give them the chance to show what they have learned. During this “tag-along” session, the salesperson puts all these questioning skills into practice. I listen intently, whether it involves a phone conversation, an in-person interview, or just a practice scenario. But what I hear is sometimes shocking. The salesperson gets nervous and forgets to ask a single question, or they might ask simple rhetorical questions like, “How are you?” Instead of asking questions to determine the customer’s needs, I hear statements along these lines:

“So, I don’t know if this applies to you but we…”

“We can help you with…”

“I did some checking and I noticed…”

Finally, my least favorite question gets asked: “Do you have any questions for me?” Salespeople only ask this because they are not sure what else to say, not because they are interested in the prospects response. 99% of their sentences end in a period, not a question mark. Even after training, the salespersons conversation becomes more of a presentation. And predictably, the prospect nods off during this pitch.

I have researched this phenomenon, expecting to find that therapists or psychologists previously studied the subject extensively. The most I found were some articles written about the fear of asking people for money, which is especially a problem for non-profit foundations. But I found nothing that truly defined the fear of asking questions. I decided to create a word for this behavior. I discovered that “rogo” is the Latin word for “to ask or inquire” (fun fact, the root of “interrogate” springs from the Latin word). Adding to this, I came up with a new word for my findings.

Rogophobia: The fear of asking questions

If you are good at asking questions, you probably wonder why a salesperson suffers from “rogophobia”. One reason salespeople hesitate to ask questions is that they do not know exactly what to ask, or how to phrase their questions. Or the salesperson’s parents discouraged them from asking a lot of questions as a child. They were taught that asking too many questions is considered annoying or even rude. While there are many reasons salespeople are reluctant to ask questions, sometimes it simply comes down to a fear of rejection. They fear the prospect finding their pitch useless.

To overcome the fear of asking questions, try starting your sentences with some of the most basic question words. These include:

  • Why?
  • Who?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • What?
  • How?

Remember, talk to your clients, not at them. Find out what they need through questioning instead of simply explaining what your product does in boring statements. While curing your fear of asking questions may take time, keeping this simple practice at the front of your mind during your next prospecting meeting will help you improve and eventually beat your “rogophobia”.


6 Ways to Improve Customer Service

July 1st, 2014

You know good customer service when you experience it. It’s hard to explain at times when it’s not so great, but it’s easy to recognize when a customer service agent has gone above and beyond to make sure you’re satisfied.

At some point, every day, everyone is a customer. A good customer service experience is something that everyone can relate to – so what is it that makes for an exquisite customer service touchpoint?

Because of word-of-mouth and social media, companies can’t afford to provide less than stellar customer service. Sandler Training teaches companies how to focus on the fundamentals of customer service due its direct impact on the bottom line.

Whether you’re in B2C or B2B sales, the following tips are tried and true and will help your company reap the rewards that come with exceptional customer care.

  • Ask questions upfront. From the very beginning of a customer relationship, it’s crucial to know exactly what’s expected. This allows for you to manage expectations and also gauge what your customer will consider a success. If you’ve heard Sandler mention the “upfront contract” you know it all starts at this step.
  • Listen to your customer. When a customer speaks, you should be listening. This is when you’ll discover their pain and identify where you’ll really be able to make an impact and move the needle for their business. Additionally, sometimes a customer just needs an outside opinion to ‘hear them.’ This is when you’ll establish that trusting relationship salespeople long for.
  • Communicate regularly. A good business practice is to always be ahead of your customer. They should never be wondering when they’ll be hearing from you. Make it your practice to establish regular communications. And if there’s a particular situation that needs tending to, make sure you’re on top of the need and communicating accordingly. Remember, you’re there to make their job easier and more efficient.
  • Be sincere. This should without saying, but you’re efforts and communications with your customers should be nothing short of sincere. Take a moment and put yourself in their shoes, if it’s important and pressing to them then make sure they know you understand their concerns and needs. Then, do your best to provide solutions to remedy the problem.
  • Request feedback. A customer likes to be heard – and why shouldn’t they? They’re paying for a service and want to be handled to their liking. Insist that they rate you and give their feedback so that you can better service their needs. This is mutually beneficial as you’ll grow as a professional and they’ll likely continue to do business with you.
  • Keep a long-term mindset. There’s no quick fix when it comes to customer service. Companies that thrive invest in long-term training that the tackles behaviors, attitudes and techniques that are essential to customer service.

Customer service has often been called the “frontline” of an organization. When executed properly, a happy customer will share their positive experience which will ultimately lead to referrals and positive word-of-mouth marketing. What are some of your customer service best practices?

Ask “Why?” Five Times

May 29th, 2014

There’s something to be said about children who continue to ask “why” about everything. When they ask and you respond, and they ask “Why?” again, it means they don’t have the complete answer to their question. They will continue to ask until they understand the entire concept or until the adult gets frustrated.

In business, asking “Why?” five times can produce the same quality understanding to prepare for better results.

Common complaints we hear often in business:

“Sales wants more quality leads from marketing. The leads we currently receive from marketing don’t convert to clients.”

We may want to respond with a demand from the team:

“Get more leads for my business!” instead of trying to determine “Why” leads are currently slim.

We start on the surface by asking:

  • “Why don’t current leads convert?”
  • After a bit of blaming back and forth, the company drills down to the answer: “Because the majority of prospects we receive from marketing already have a solution in place and do not have a want or need for change.”

    Instead of making assumptions, we can drill down by asking “Why?” again:

  • “Why do we attract leads that already have a solution in place?”
  • The answer: “Because our advertisement language is promoting free information on a popular industry concept, not specifically a product benefit or value.”

    Going even further we question our practices again:

  • “Why are we promoting free information on a concept, not the product?”
  • The answer: “Because targeted advertising space for a new client base is expensive and out of our budget range.”

    Asking “Why?” a fourth time produces an even stronger response:

  • “Why is advertising space out of our budget range?”
  • The answer: “Because we spend a significant portion of the company’s revenue on expanding the capabilities of the operation.”

    And finally, we see the root cause of the problem:

  • “Why have we allocated a significant portion of the company’s operating budget to operations?”

The answer: “To plan for future growth.”

Today, this company’s bottleneck may appear, at first sight, to be the marketing team’s ability to attract leads. But asking why five times uncovers the underlying weakness. The company has made a decision to allocate what may be too many funds to one department. This has shifted the company’s bottleneck from operations to sales and marketing.

Without leads, there are no sales. Without sales, there is no revenue. Without revenue, there is no company.

In this case, as with many other scenarios, it’s easy to blame departments and processes on the surface. Rest assured, you’ll understand the bigger, clearer picture if you ask “Why?” five times.

How to Prepare for Departing Clients

March 4th, 2014

Nothing lasts forever, right? While it may seem pessimistic, having a plan for dealing with a client’s departure is sound advice when it comes to maintaining business and clients. We spend so much time building solid, trusting relationships with clients that it can come as quite a blow when news hits that your client contact announces they’re leaving their current position.

Before we get into tactics to employ to make this scenario less devastating, it’s important to operate under the assumption that our ‘in’ could easily be out at any given moment.

Prevent “scramble mode” from setting in by implementing some of the best practices we recommend to our clients.

1. Take stock of your current portfolio. Pull an organizational chart for each of your biggest clients and circle the names of those people with whom you have forged a close relationship. These are people who have seen the quality and level of service you have provided over the course of your time liaising with the client.

2. Count your circles – then grow your circles. More than likely, you don’t have as many circles as you’d like to have. Work to build relationships with those you’ve supported in some way or had contact with during your time working with the company. Schedule a lunch or coffee to identify common interests and gain better understanding of their focus areas in their position.

3. Document – every step of the way. If we’re always documenting, re-capping and following up digitally, then no tribal knowledge will be lost if our main point of contact leaves unexpectedly. It’s easy to fall into thinking that you and a client have an understanding, but it’s best to not leave all your good work to good faith. Doing this means there will be no questions when there’s evidence to support the work.

4. Ask for an introduction to the new contact. In a perfect world, introduction to the new client will be accompanied by a glowing recommendation, proof of your ROI and endless stories of your strategic support. So, if given the opportunity, ask your departing client for their help making a seamless transition.

5.Remember “New Person Syndrome.” We all want to be known for something, and this rings true when clients step into a new role. Some clients will choose to bring in someone they’ve worked with before, while others may continue to work with you and raise the bar.

6. Get to know your new client. Familiarize yourself with your new client by learning about what drives them, and not by telling them what you do. More than likely, they already know you’ve been successful in your role – now they just need to know they can trust you.

7. Ask for a meeting of the minds. This is where all of those circles will come in handy. Position the meeting as an opportunity to bring the new client up to speed by bringing together all your contacts for an account review. This goes against the grain because so many professionals fear the tough questions account reviews can bring on. But asking for the meeting displays confidence; demonstrates your commitment to the company; highlights your services; and will show the deep, trusting relationships you have within the organization.

8. Let the chips fall where they may. If you’ve followed these tips and the new client still decides to go in a different direction, the best advice to follow is to end on good terms, stay in touch and learn from the experience.

So tell me – are you taking any of these steps already?

Voicemails: Old School or Still Appropriate? Results May Vary.

February 24th, 2014

Like it or not, times have changed and the usefulness of a voicemail is up for debate. With email, text messages and Caller ID, some people find it irritating to see that they have a blinking red light or a notification alerting them to check their voicemail. And as sales professionals, the last thing we’re trying to do is annoy a prospect or current client.

Above all, I recommend trying to establish a rapport voice to voice if possible. (Of course, face to face is best, but not always an option in our business.) Try calling the contact at different times of the day – first thing, mid-day, after 5 p.m. – on different days to catch them on the phone. Careful though, with Caller ID you need to make sure you’re not over-doing it.

The following are questions to ask yourself when trying to make contact with a business connection.

1. Have I ever met this person before? If the answer is no, then I highly recommend not leaving a voicemail as the efficacy is practically diminished. If you’ve tried calling and feel defeated on that front, then leave a brief message that includes your name, company, number and a compelling, emotional reason for them to want to call you back. (Max voicemail time: 30 seconds.)

2. Have I been referred to this person by a mutual connection? If a friend or contact has made an introduction for you and there’s an identifiable connection between the two of you, then it’s acceptable to leave a brief voicemail.

3. Have I left a voicemail for this person already with a response? I recommend hanging up and continuing to try to reach the person on a phone call or consider other means of connecting.

4. Is the information I need to convey better for an email? If a complex subject matter needs to be shared and a phone call can’t take place, then send an email. No one wants a 3-minute voicemail that they need to repeat two or three times to understand.

5. Have I considered the age of the person I’m trying to reach? The more I work with the younger generations, the more I understand them. If you’re able to identify a contact’s age through LinkedIn or other means, then take that into consideration. What I’ve seen is that the 35 and younger crowd are more likely to be irritated by a voicemail, while the 35 and older crowd still rely on this as an effective form of communication. But, there are always exceptions to the rule. One thing everyone agrees on – a phone call is the fastest way to do business and move a conversation forward.

6. Should I text them? This is tricky and largely subjective. Just because you have a contact’s cell phone number doesn’t mean they want to receive a text message from you. I never recommend using this form of communication on a prospect. When it comes to a current client, only send a text when they’ve open the door to this and encouraged you to text them. No exceptions.

Now I’m curious to know your style when it comes to receiving voicemails? Comment below.

Old Clients, New Business

October 1st, 2013

A mistake too many salespeople make is not keeping in touch with former clients. It’s not uncommon for past clients to come to a point where they need your product or service again but don’t remember how to get in touch with you. They are more likely to have your competitors’ information handy. (Your competitors are still calling on your client even though you are not).

The odds of obtaining business from a former client are typically better than the odds of obtaining business from cold prospecting. So, keeping in touch with former clients is not only the professional thing to do, it also makes good business sense.

“Keeping in touch” doesn’t mean pestering them – pushing for a sale. It simply means letting them know that you are still there, ready to provide service when necessary. This can be accomplished in various ways: a regularly scheduled phone call – just to say “hello;” a monthly or quarterly newsletter about industry events and trends; or a monthly e-mail regarding new products or services. Don’t try to overwhelm your client; just make it easy for them to find you.

Are Your Customers Buying from Your Company or Your Salesperson?

October 10th, 2012

The good and bad of relationship-based sales.

The Good

Relationship-based sales methods are ideal. Most of the time those relationships are the only thing protecting you from competing solely on price. In sales training, we have a saying: “All things being equal, people buy from people they like. All things being unequal, people still buy from people they like.” (more…)

Networking Works!

September 1st, 2011

Attending a networking event? WHY??

That may seem like a strange question, but time is one of our most limited resources! Taking a few minutes to evaluate why you should attend THIS particular networking event may save you hours of unproductive time and energy. (more…)