Today's post is by Dave Kurlan, founder and CEO of Objective Management Group Inc. and Kurlan & Associates, and author of Mindless Selling and Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball.
Sellers tend to have strong people skills. But, if they don’t apply those skills in the right way, they might be losing out on sales.
I’ve seen many cases where a salesperson’s need to be liked actually sabotages deal opportunities. In fact, I’d say that nearly 90 percent of all salespeople lack the emotional intelligence they need to ask good, tough, timely questions. They’re too busy trying to raise their likeability quotient.
Why does this matter? In my prior guest post on the Selling Power blog, I discussed the role of emotions in selling value. I explained that the way we sell value today is to connect business problems to emotional needs. Salespeople who can create an emotional urgency out of business challenges will be far more likely to compel the prospect to want to solve those challenges and thus move the sale forward.
In this way, selling is no longer about articulating your value proposition or simply providing added features and benefits. These days, those things fail to differentiate us from our competitors. Salespeople need to actually be the value – and you can’t do that if you’re spending your time trying to be liked at the expense of creating a dialogue around value.
While salespeople can be made aware of their need to be liked – and we can explain how it affects them on the phone and in the field – it’s much more difficult to eliminate that weakness. After all, they’ve had it all their lives and it doesn’t usually cause problems in social settings. The listening and questioning skills can be taught, but they require a tremendous amount of practice and coaching.
How about an analogy to help you get this? You’ve been driving a car since you were a teenager, but your cars have always had an automatic transmission and you’ve always driven on standard roads. Now we will ask you to drive a much larger car, drive it at faster speeds, on an obstacle course, with people in your way. Oh, and one more thing – for the first time, you’ll be driving a six-speed manual transmission. You might be afraid to take your foot off the clutch and put the car into first gear because, if you’re not careful, you might kill those people standing in front of your car!
That’s how salespeople sometimes feel when they need to be liked and are expected to ask their prospects some really difficult questions. Salespeople think someone will be killed – and they worry that it might be them!
So, what can a salesperson do to learn these skills and not be so worried about being liked when it comes to asking the tough questions?
Commit to practicing 30 minutes each day by role-playing the early stage of your sales process. Focus on asking the tough questions that have always made you uncomfortable. Take notes, listen to the responses, and – based on what you hear – ask a follow-up question that goes deeper rather than the next question on your list.
Think of it this way. Asking 50 questions is like snorkeling. Asking questions that go wider and deeper on the current topic or subject is like scuba diving. All you have to do is jump in and breathe!