The Tao of Sales
An Easier Way to Sell in Tough Times
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Sales Success Stories: We learn to stretch our own capabilities by observing others. Find what’s true for you and what challenges you in each of these stories. Ask yourself:

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Other Stories

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You don't like questions?

"You don't like questions?"

© 2007 E. Thomas Behr, Ph.D."

John Hone is a senior manager with PaintTek, after having successfully run his own business, Hone Painting and Restoration, for three decades. He's one of those salespeople who can make the "Sandler Method" work on a very customer-focused, ethical basis. Because he's paid by the hour, he also manages the prospecting/new business acquisition part of selling as well as anyone I've ever met. Every minute he spends with a prospect who turns out to be a bad customer takes money out of his pocket.

John's a master of qualifying questions, aimed at surfacing issues like:

Of course not every customer like to take time answering questions.

"You ask too many questions," one prospect remarked, somewhat testily, when John was half-way through his qualifying process.

"I'm telling you what I want!" the prospect said. "Don't you listen?"

"It really irritates you when salespeople don't listen to you, doesn't it?" John replied.

"I hate it. You salesmen are all alike - always pushing."

"I know. I run my own business and pushy salespeople turn me off too. Listening is important. How important is it for salespeople to understand what you say?"

"Well [duh] that's the whole point."

"So listening is one thing," John replied, "and understanding is another, right?" [customer head nod.] I ask questions because I want to know what I have to do to make sure you're 100% satisfied with my work. If I don't know how to do the best possible job for you, chances are I won't do what you really want. If I don't completely satisfy you, you'll be unhappy, and I'll have wasted my time."

(At this point, he did a simple return. "So just how important is it for you to get exactly what you're looking for?" and followed up by both qualifying the customer and selling the value of his high-quality, but more expensive painting service.

Had the customer continued to resist, he could have used what Sandler calls a negative reverse, "If these questions are bothering you, I'm wondering if you might not be better off talking to someone else.")

Lessons Learned: A critical part of professional selling is developing a game plan and criteria based on how you (or your company) can best be successful. Your plan is an extension of your values. No matter what the situation, once you have a plan you believe in, stick with your plan.

We don't prosper by getting new customers; we succeed by gaining and developing good customers. And the way to get good customers is to ask the tough questions.