When I ask a salesman what percentage of talking the customer should have, the answer is usually 70 %. But in reality,salespersons often talk so much themselves. First, they start with a boring company presentation and talk about solutions and their advantages before they understand the customer’s needs.
In my opinion, there are three reasons for this: insufficient time for preparation, too little control throughout the conversation and wrong questions.
What distinguishes a good first appointment?
The first goal is to create trust. Only then is the customer willing to answer your questions. Secondly, you get all the relevant information before you talk about solutions. And finally, you arrange access to other members of the Buying Center to get to know their needs before making an offer.
You won’t achieve such results by having a high proportion of your own talking and lots of power points.
The Appointment One Pager
To build trust and increase the outcome of a conversation, we recommend the Appointment One-Pager tool. It enables you to deepen your understanding of the customer and ask questions before you talk about solutions. You demonstrate your professional preparation and control the progress of the conversation.
Let me first talk about the structure of an Appointment One-Pager:
- Mutual presentation
- Validate your perception about the customer and potential needs
- Solution approaches and benefits with a case study
- Questions and answers
- Next steps
Here is an Info team example to illustrate this. This is a first appointment with the sales manager of a supplier in the mining industry.
Questions to validate and understand customer needs
The most important part of the conversation is asking good questions about potential challenges. To minimize the time and effort involved, we recommend that you create a database of good questions that only need to be adapted to a specific customer.
- Potential challenges of this function
- Typical causes for each challenge
- Questions to deepen your understanding
- Description of your approach
- Benefit for the customer (illustrated by an example)
Below is an example of a database entry for Infoteam:
1) Function: sales manager
2) Potential challenges: Large, expected deals are not realized
3) Typical cause: lack of relationship with the real decision-makers
4) Questions to deepen your understanding:
- How often do you lose business because you lack access to key decision-makers?
- How does this affect the reliability of your forecasts?
- How many sales are lost in this way?
- If you could reduce this problem by 25%, by how much would your sales increase?
- How would this affect net profit?
5) Solution approach: Opportunity Roadmap and Deal Pit-Stops
6) Benefits: Considerable profit increase!
Other potential challenges for a sales manager are avoiding ‘dead horses’ and reducing mistakes in the recruitment of new employees. Of course, the entries in our question database for other roles, e.g. personnel manager, look different. The challenges of a sales manager in the IT industry are different from those in the food industry. Therefore, your database should be developed function- and branch-specific.
The development of a database of good questions is a valuable investment. It considerably shortens the preparation of good sales talks. Also, in the conversation itself, the customer takes a much higher share of the conversation.
Questions you should ask yourself
- Do you plan enough time for the preparation of customer meetings?
- Do you often get into your car with the feeling that you have talked too much?
- Would well-prepared questions help you to do your sales job better?
Source: Infoteam Sales Process Consulting AG