We have all had sales meetings that we wished had gone better. For some reason, you were not able to get to the objective of your meeting or you were not able to move the prospect forward. When you tried to capture the next steps it felt awkward and uncomfortable. In my experience, this generally happens as a result of not having a good understanding of your client or prospect’s needs.
This is one of 3 common mistakes salespeople make when leading sales meetings.
These mistakes are:
- Not qualifying the people in the room
- Not understanding the need/pain
- Selling too soon
For the purposes of this second part of our three-part post, we’ll focus on understanding the client or prospect’s need/pain.
Once everyone in the room has been introduced, it is time to get into the body of the meeting and do our discovery.
To begin, the key to understanding your client’s needs is to ask “power questions.” Power questions are well researched, thoroughly thought out, and appropriately timed. A customer will not move forward to the next stage of the sales process just because they like you. No matter how strong your “relationship” is with your client, if there is no need, or in sales parlance, no “pain”, it is impossible to move the deal forward.
This is obviously a big topic and hundreds of books have been written on this single topic. But here are a couple of fundamental questions and strategies to help you uncover your customer’s pain.
1. Understand Their Business Priorities
A great way to start to uncover your prospect’s needs is to understand their business priorities. Then you can align your solution to these existing priorities. The questions might sound like this:
“After reading your company’s yearly statement (recent blog post or press release) it would appear that at least one of your priorities for this year is XXXXXX, is that correct? And what are some of your other general business goals for this year?”
(By the way, if this question is about something entirely unrelated to what they would expect you to be concerned with, this will earn you even more credit and can be a great icebreaker since they won’t be inclined to withhold information that they think you want/need.)
By asking this question, you demonstrate that you have done your homework, that you have the business acumen needed to engage in a more high-level conversation, and that your focus is on helping their business be successful, not just on selling a pile of your products. You will instill trust and respect.
2. Listen Critically and Ask Follow-up Questions
Now that you have asked the question, the hard part starts… you have to LISTEN and listen CRITICALLY. What are they telling you? What are they not saying?
Learn to ask this essential follow-up question: “That is interesting. What else?” And after they tell you more, recap what they have told you and then ask “What else?” one more time.
Now you should have a solid understanding of their business priorities, and conversely, you should be able to infer the top business challenges the business is facing.
At this point, the best salespeople have listened carefully, made detailed notes, and can begin to deep dive into a few of the priorities the client has shared, that might best align with their objective to present their solution. The most effective way to do this is to try and ask at least 5 follow-up questions that start with these words - why, who, how, when, and what.
"You mentioned that one of your top priorities is to add a second production facility before the end of the year.
- Why is this an area of focus for your business?
- Who will be responsible for ensuring that goal is met?
- How do they intend to accomplish this goal?
- When do you expect to have the project completed?
- What happens if they are not able to complete the project by this time?"
By the time you have asked these questions and had a discussion, you will have not only isolated the client's “pain” but you should have determined the urgency associated with the issue, the responsible parties, the consequences for not meeting the objective, and most importantly what is the compelling event.
What strategies do you use to uncover your prospect’s need or pain?
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