The Art of Effective Sales Questions
The best sales people typically ask the most effective sales questions.  Being able to ask good questions is an art. Asking effective questions is a necessary skill for journalists, a developmental skill for salespeople and a desirable skill for conversationalists.

Insightful Sales Questions = Insightful Customer Conversations
As far as sales is concerned, good questioning skills are essential, value selling training experts say, for success. It is the basis for learning (and teaching) just exactly what your customers want and need.  Unfortunately, too many buyers report that sales professionals asked them a canned list of questions trying to close the deal.

Poor Sales Questions = Poor Customer Conversations
Anyone who has ever been on the other end of a high pressured sales conversation can attest that teh approach does not build trust, credibility or revenue.  In fact, poor sales questions typically lead to unqualified leads, missed opportunities and wasted effort.

Four Steps to Help Master the Art of Effective Sales Questions
If you want to have meaningful and insightful sales conversations with your target buyers:

#1.  Start with Open-Ended Questions
The most effective sales questions are open-ended.  Open-ended questions are those that cannot be answered with a simple (and unhelpful) “yes” or “no.” They require a more thoughtful answer.  Try to always begin with the big six open-ended questions – Who?  What?  Where?  When?  How?  And our favorite – Why?

The best solution sellers are curious about how they can truly help their clients to succeed.   It seems simple enough, but open-ended questions promote a meaningful and client-centered conversation.  Without them, it is difficult to uncover customer goals, problems, needs, objections, risks and next steps in a way that makes sense.

#2.  Be Clear and Concise
Get right to the point. Don’t ramble. You will lose focus and your target will be confused.

#3.  Actively Listen and Embrace Silence
Do not interrupt.  Actively listen.  And be patient with silence by accepting the pause.

Sometimes counting to 10 before speaking again can help you become more comfortable.  Your listener will soon fill it…hopefully with the answer you were looking for.

#4.  Be Authentic and Client-Centered
First, have your client’s best interests at heart.  Second, ask follow-up or clarifying questions if you do not understand what they are talking about…especially if it gives them a chance to be the expert and keep talking.

The Bottom Line
The better you become at listening and asking effective sales questions, the more you help your customers to succeed.  The more you help your customers to succeed, the more you will sell.

Want to learn more? Download 30 Effective Sales Questions More Important than Budget When Selling Solutions

Sales and Marketing Leaders Want to Convert More Sales Prospects
But not all prospects or leads are created equal.   Some are the key to value and solution selling success, others are not.  Too many sales and marketing leaders treat all leads with the same amount of time, attention and effort. This undisciplined approach is bound to disappoint.

Defining Marketing and Sales Leads to Convert More Sales Prospects
To set your sales and marketing teams up for success, we recommend starting by defining two main types of leads.

  • A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a prospective customer that is more likely to become a paying customer compared to other leads based on pre-determined demographics, activities, attributes or behaviors that are aligned with your ideal target client profile and unique value proposition.  In other words, they are worth investing the time and energy to nurture and potentially vet.
  • A Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is a prospective customer that has been researched and vetted — first by marketing or business development then by sales – and is is qualified enough to move to the next stage in the sales process.

The Job of Marketing
We believe it is the job of marketing to create brand awareness and generate consistent marketing qualified leads that have a high likelihood to turn into sales qualified leads.  In short, marketing should help set the stage to convert more sales prospects into buying customers.

The Job of Sales
We believe it is the job of sales to convert more sales prospects into buying customers by turning marketing qualified leads into sales qualified leads – that turn into profitable customers.  Top performing solution sellers excel at conversion.

The Bottom Line
To convert more sales prospects into paying and satisfied customers focus on the quality (not the quantity) of your leads.  Marketing to or following up on unqualified leads that do not match your value proposition can be a total waste of valuable marketing and selling resources.  You will know you are on the right track when you increase the percentage of leads that convert into customers.

To learn more about sales performance, download 15 Sales Warning Signs Your Sales Team is Headed in the Wrong Direction

The Difference Between Leading Sales Metrics and Lagging Sales Metrics
Unfortunately most sales teams are either confused about  leading sales metrics or do not use them at all. Their sales teams feel like they are blind to what activities matter most.

  • Leading Sales Metrics are the greatest and most influenceable predictors of sales goal achievement.
  • Lagging Sales Metrics measure sales goal achievement results for a specific period of time.

The Value of Leading Sales Metrics
Because they are predictive and influenceable, leading sales metrics provide real-time feedback and enable sales teams to learn and adjust behaviors to increase their chances of achieving their sales goals.  While they are often challenging to identify and track, they are worth their weight in gold.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could measure the likelihood of sales before they happen?

Don’t just work through the selling process blindfolded, hoping to find your way. There are leading sales measures you can apply that will help predict sales success and allow you to adapt your approach if you are not moving in the right direction.

An Example of a Leading Sales Metric

  • Perhaps you have learned that the salespeople who reach out to customers with key insights on a weekly basis are more successful than those who check in less frequently or do not provide valuable insights.
  • Or you may find that the salespeople who regularly spend one-quarter of their day researching and prospecting are better at maintaining a productive pipeline.

If so, measure those two leading sales metrics of success. They will tell you how a salesperson is doing during the sales process, predict outcomes and allow for sales performance coaching when needed to improve their chances of success.

The Bottom Line
Identify the critical few sales activities that lead to success for your specific sales strategy, target market and value proposition. Then measure, support and reinforce them at every turn.

Want more sales coaching tips? Download The Truth about Sales Coaching’s Biggest Mistakes

Do You Have Call Center Complacency?
Running a call center is not easy.  Getting the most from call center reps is even harder. Resting on your laurels can be a big leadership mistake.

Just Possible Goals
It stands to reason…if the gap between who you are and who you want to be is “just possible,” you are stimulated to reach higher.  So, too, in a company, comparing yourself to a more successful person can encourage greater effort on your part to achieve. Conversely, if you are the higher achiever, you may be tempted to relax, get complacent and let others catch up.

Creating a High Performance Call Center
These are critical foundational concepts behind creating a high performance call center.

Your #1 Job as a Leader
As a Call Center Leader, your number one job is to stimulate greater performance of your team. One of your most important tasks is to identify clear, transparent, and fair standards of job performance. This clarity will help you lead the fight against complacency that can take over average and low performance call centers.

Four Warning Signs of Call Center Complacency
Be on the lookout for the four key signs of complacency:

  1. Satisfaction with what is rather than what can be
  2. The sense that no more can be done
  3. Lackadaisical acceptance of the traditional ways of behaving
  4. Lack of interest in innovation and continuous improvement

The Bottom Line
Once you introduce a new and higher standard, you will need to offer the support call center employees will need to be successful in their journey toward improved performance to help you avoid call center complacency.

To learn more about improving call center performance, download How Serious Are You About a Customer Centric Culture Strategy?

What Are the Best Sales Questions?
The best sales questions predictably lead to better customer relationships, higher win rates and more successful sales forces.

Sales is an Art
Being able to ask good sales questions is an art.

Asking effective questions is a necessary skill for journalists, a developmental skill for salespeople who sell solutions and a desirable skill for conversationalists. As far as sales is concerned, good sales questioning skills are essential, value selling training experts say, for success. It is the basis for learning (and teaching) just exactly what your customers want and need.

4 Steps to Asking Effective Sales Questions
Here are four steps on to use the best sales questions:

1. Start with Open-Ended Sales Questions
Open-ended sales questions questions cannot easily be answered with a single word.   Begin with the classic who-what-why-where-when-and-how questions that are open-ended and encourage deeper and wider conversations.  Open-ended sales questions help to create personal and professional connections while opening the door for you to learn what matters most to your prospects.

While most sales people know the best sales questions are open-ended, we are constantly surprised by how many sales reps (regardless of their experience level) ask too many closed-ended questions and limit their ability to create more meaningful relationships and solutions.

2. Be Concise with Your Sales Questions
Get right to the question mark. Don’t ramble. You will lose focus and your prospective client will likely be confused.  Concise sales questions contribute to the quality of the discussion and hopefully add valuable perspectives and insights along the way.

3. Embrace Silence
Do not chatter through silence. Accept and appreciate the pause. Counting to 10 before speaking again can help you become more comfortable.  Your listener will soon fill it…hopefully with the answer or information you were looking for.

4. Be Authentic
Don’t appear to understand if you don’t. Ask a follow-up or clarifying question instead…especially if it gives them a chance to be the expert and keep talking.  Many sales reps find it challenging to be authentic to themselves and their company’s brand in uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations.  Ultimately, authenticity creates trust and respect.  Sales people who are authentic have high levels of self-awareness about their strengths and weaknesses, find meaningful and genuine connections with their clients, are OK making mistakes and remain focused and present when they interact with their clients.

Want to learn more about the best sales questions to improve your sales performance?  Download 30 Sales Questions More Important than Budget When Selling Solutions

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