Sales Leadership Part IV — Questions Over Answers

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“We live in the world our questions create.”

–  David Cooperrider (b. 1954), scholar, professor at Case Western University, with a title too long to include other than that he’s a strengths-based leadership guy, so Boom! 

Anyone can memorize the answers.  The difference-makers learn to ask better questions.  Who would you rather buy from?  The saleslady that tells you that the car goes from 0-60 in six seconds, or the one that asks, “Mr. Heston, it sounds like acceleration is important to you. Can I ask why?  Would it be ok if I tried to match the right car to the way you plan to drive it?

Questions matter more than answers.  Here’s a post that takes a different angle at the same point.

Consider a B2B comparison…

“Why, yes, the XT5000* does a more complete second grind than any other grinder can accomplish in three or even four grinds!”

or…

“I’m curious, why do you ask about the number of grinds required?  Have you had a bad experience with another grinder?  Is there something you’re trying to accomplish that will make a difference in your work?  I can tell you all about the features of the XT5000* — but they won’t matter unless I know what you’re trying to accomplish.  Can we take that approach?”

My money is on the second sales pro, in both examples.

Selling is no longer telling.  And, if you’re leading a sales team, they had dang-sure better be superb questioners or they’ll never get the chance to be decent “tellers.”

Here’s a pocket full of difference-making questions:

“Why do you ask?”

“If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the way we work with your company, what would it be?  If you had the capability to make sure that we never changed something about the way we work with your company, what one thing should we never, ever change?”

“Why did you start doing business with us?”  “What made you stop doing business with the provider you used before us?”

“What does a successful engagement look like from your chair?  How will you measure success?  If you solve this problem, what will that feel like?  What’s the risk of not solving this problem?”

A Corollary on Questions

There are two kinds of questions we can ask:  fact-finding questions and feeling-finding questions.  Teach your team to know the difference, to understand why they’re asking them and to use questions in at least a 3:1 ratio to answers — and watch the numbers go up!

This post is the fourth in a series on leading sales teams.  Tomorrow, the playing less often but more better.

*A shout out to my friend, Chris Nichols, who knows the difference between grinds better than anyone in the heavy machinery world — and who peppers his answers with questions — and therefore gets it right most of the time.  If you have a few acres of trees you need ground into mulch — I can hook you up!

 


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