I’ve had lots of conversation in response to my last post on cutting your sales cycle time. What’s mot interesting to me is the varied disciplines that are commenting to me. I’ve already posted a comment from a physician friend of mine, and over the weekend, I had another conversation with another physician.
We were talking about the oft-quoted statistic that the number one indicator of whether a doctor will get sued for malpractice is not competence, but how much time they spend with a patient. The doctor I was talking with told me that while that was true, another key skill that drives better patient-doctor relationships is how they ask questions.
He asked me to guess what the average time is before a doctor goes from a general question (which is important to make the patient feel understood) to a directed question. Take a moment and make a guess yourself.
Eight seconds – that’s it.
Actually, I’m not surprised – most salespeople aren’t much different. It’s one thing to ask a question; quite another to let the customer/prospect answer, and I mean really answer, the question. I work a lot with companies and salespeople to develop the types of Resonating Questions™ that I discussed in my previous post. While asking these types of questions are critically important to sales success in today's world, the way you ask the questions is equally important.
I call the most common style used by salespeople "the interview." I refer to it as such because the person selling goes in with a list of questions (either written or in their head) and goes about asking them. The problem with interviewing is that the focus is on the question and the answer. However, little to no attention is paid to the implication of the answer; and as a result the conversation never goes deep and as such the selling organization is commoditized.
I call the most effective style "The Best Friend Conversation." When I'm training salespeople I ask them how would they ask questions, and how would they behave if they were talking with their best friend. Here are the components of a Best Friend Conversation (as least as it applies to selling):
- There is a clear understanding of what you want to discover in the conversation.
- You have a few Resonating Questions in mind to get the conversation started and moving if the conversation gets stuck. You know that, by no means, will you ask all of the questions on your list.
- You are intently focused on the answers you are given.
- As you listen to the answers,you dig deeper to understand the implications of the answers. You are constantly comparing what you know as a result of the conversation against your intent going into the conversation. Any or all gaps are areas for additional conversation.
- You do all of this is in the engaged, low pressure method, as you would do if the person (or people) you were talking with were your best friend. As a matter of fact, a pretty good filter as you get stuck when figuring out what to do in a sales situation is to ask yourself what would you do if the customer/prospect were your best friend.
While you begin developing your Best Friend Conversation capabilities, you'll find that they require more preparation that traditional interviews do. That preparation, however, will be rewarded exponentially with more sales, faster sales, less competition, and better customers.