Part One: Superstar Salespeople Ask ProActive Questions
Jim thought he’d make an excellent sales person because he was outgoing, inquisitive, and friendly. He made friends easily and did great in college. Fresh out of college, his five-year plan included zipping up to VP level and buying his first house before his 30th birthday.
Much to Jim’s surprise, he was falling flat in his sales role for a software company in San Francisco and reality was setting in. He was asking prospects a lot of questions, and was repeatedly being shut down. He sat down with his mentor and sales manager and soon came to understand the problem: Jim was asking the prospect a lot of questions, but not ProActive questions.
Jim and his manager sat down to role play a typical sales call, and it quickly became apparent that Jim’s Achilles heel was qualification of the prospect. Jim would ask the prospect questions like, “Mr. Stonewall, are you the person that is going to make a decision on this deal, or should I reach out to your manager for that?”
Ouch. While Jim was inquisitive, his off-putting questions lacked the tact and grace necessary to qualify a lead effectively. His sales manager Alexandra introduced Jim to the ProActive Selling qualification process, a way to focus on getting the qualification information from the prospect.
In short, it’s not enough to ask questions. You have to ask the right questions. Qualification is a skill that has to be practiced and eventually mastered. Once mastered, using it consistently can have a dramatic affect your sales success.
The right qualification questions are centered around three important areas, which M3 Learning calls the Three M’s:
Within the Three M’s, the MMM qualification process revolves around seven questions. We’ll cover the first one of the M’s in this article.
Money – It’s What, Not Who
Money is the one of the topics that needs to be addressed in your qualification process. If the prospect doesn’t have a budget for your solution, there is simply no deal. While this seems simple enough, how a salesperson asks questions can vary dramatically and result in success or utter failure. It’s all about nuances. While Jim felt like he cut to the chase to get an answer, he was not only off-putting to the prospect, he placed an incorrect emphasis on who, not what.
ProActive Sellers always ask ‘what’ instead of focusing on who. When talking about money, there are two questions to be asked:
• What is the process for obtaining a budget for a decision like this?
• What is the process for making a decision?
These are the right questions. Buyers ask themselves “what” questions all the time:
• What should we do from here?
• What is the process we need to go through to get Kaleb to sign off on the project?
• What do you think we should do first?
• What are the steps to getting more money if we exceed our budget?
‘What’ is a process question, and companies work in processes. Remember that budgets are fluid at a senior management level. If the value on the investment they are making for your solution is high enough, they‘ll go get more budget money from someone. High level executives can always find more budget. Lower level executives must spend what they are given.
‘What’ encourages conversation that stimulates information retrieval. Questions focused on ‘who’ limit the discussion to people. What questions pull towards process, and and part of that process, you will uncover who has power. This is a useful tool to gather relevant information.
‘What’ lets you look at the big picture, whereas ‘who’ is a pointed word that limits scope and authority.
‘What’ can include you… while ‘who’ cannot. It’s helpful to know if the prospect will include you in their buy process.
‘What’ can be revisited, and revised at every call. This is helpful because you can ask about changes to the process and recommend changes. You can probably see how that can be difficult if you are asking about just people instead of process.
Remember, the word ‘what’ is your trigger for process. What is the process to obtain funds and make the relevant decisions?
Learn more about how to be a ProActive Seller by reading ProActive Selling, Second Edition here.