Don’t Want to Upset a Prospect? Join the Peace Corps


It’s no mystery that our job in sales is to find problems: Uncover the PAIN. Get to the real issues. Dig deep & get to the root of things. This requires communication (questioning) skills. Questioning skills that allow us to have conversations about business problems. Again, business problems. Most prospects don’t pay money to “fix” something that is working & that is comfortable – that’s not a problem. They pay money to get out of trouble, to make their lives & jobs easier, to solve business problems.

But, business problems can be uncomfortable. That’s the whole point, Salespeople, you must get to “the uncomfortable.” It takes skills.

Most salespeople ask the basic questions – the questions that need to be asked (technically). These questions engage high-level “fluffy” conversations. You know… the easy questions.

The basic questions:

  • What do you need?
  • What will it do?
  • What are the specs?   
  • Who will use it?
  • When do you need it?
  • Where do you need it?
  • & many other “easy” questions

These are the “technical qualifying questions” & yes, they need to be asked. But, don’t confuse them with the soft-skill sales qualifying questions. Soft-skill sales qualifying questions can be difficult to ask. This can be uncomfortable. They can be hard to ask. They could upset a prospect. Again, that’s the whole point. Most prospects don’t take action unless they are upset at something.

In 2018, there is still a ridiculous stereotype of salespeople (the back-slapping, glad-handing, jolly ole salesperson). This salesperson loves people, smiles all the time, makes people laugh – everybody loves her. The problem comes when the salesperson believes this stereotype & behaves that way (back-slapping, glad-handing, jolly ole salesperson – Herb Tarlick comes to mind – WKRP in Cincinnati). It’s pretty hard to ask tough questions with a smile on your face. It’s not natural to uncover serious problems while you are telling jokes. It’s a fact; if you’re making friends in sales you’re not making money. Want friends? Join the Peace Corps.

Now, this is not to say that you won’t develop a relationship with your clients – you probably will. But, what comes first the relationship or the sale? Often, the salesperson tries to make friends in sales & she is successful. That’s the bad news.  It’s easy to make friends. It’s a piece of cake to not “go there – it’s too uncomfortable”. Wrong move.

Start asking tougher questions – not just the technical questions.

Soft-skill Qualifying Questions:

  • How long has this been a problem?
  • How long has this been on your desk?
  • What have you done about it?
  • What else have you looked at?
  • How did that work?
  • How much do you suppose this has cost you over the past ____ months?
  • How much do you imagine this will cost you over the next ____ months?
  • Who else knows about this?
  • What happens if you don’t find a solution?
  • What happens if you don’t find what you’re looking for? 

The world can always use more Peace Corps volunteers. There are plenty of bridges that are still not built. If it’s important for you to stay the nice guy or nice gal, you should seriously consider joining the Peace Corps. If you are being out-sold & can’t figure out why, take a good look in the mirror. Are you a nice guy/gal?  Everybody’s friend?

How many nice salespeople do you know that would be a lot more successful with a hammer in their hand – building bridges?

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Dave Tear

Dave is passionate about selling & helping others understand the sales process. Whether a client company has a 5 person sales team or a 300 person National sales force, Dave can Coach & Train them to be the best in their industry.
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