Yesterday, a sales manager I was coaching asked me to explain the difference between a great question and a tough question. I gave him the one-minute version but this article has the expanded version of that answer.
I'll use my world as an example and ask you to translate accordingly.
In my world, while I might occasionally be on a first call with a Senior Sales Leader, I am most frequently speaking with the CEO. With CEO's, the most common issue they articulate is, "I'm not sure we have the right sales leader."
We have 3 levels of questions and it's important to understand that you must be patient enough to ask them in the proper sequence, and not one right after another.
There should probably be a few questions and answers between your good question and your tough question and there should be a few more questions and answers between your tough question and your great question. If you don't get as far as asking and getting the answer to your great question, I can promise you this:
So let's start at the beginning, where we heard, "I'm not sure we have the right sales leader."
A good question could be, "Why are you concerned?" A good question not only allows you to ask for more information, but it must also be relevant to the discussion at hand.
Several questions later, after hearing the CEO's concerns and getting much needed clarification, a tough question might be, "With all of these concerns, and him not responding to your challenges to step it up and make the requested changes, why is he still here?" A tough question is usually one where, as with this example, you challenge your prospect. You could also push back against what was said in an effort to change outdated thinking or an incorrect assumption.
Several minutes later, after additional conversation, questions and clarification, the CEO says, "He's my son-in-law - that's why he's still here." Now it's time for a great question. A great question might sound something like, "So, even if you found the perfect replacement, the challenge for you is how do you replace your son-in-law as the sales leader without ruining the relationship you have with your daughter?" You'll know it's a great question because your prospect will say, "Great question."
The 3 levels of questions, the sequence and your ability to go wider and deeper are examples of the consultative approach to selling. The consultative selling competency is by far, the one where most salespeople are the weakest. Objective Management Group's (OMG) latest statistics, from the evaluations and assessments of around 1.6 million salespeople, show the following:
The average score for all salespeople is just 50. The average salesperson has only 50% of the necessary attributes of the Consultative Seller competency which means that they suck at the consultative approach.
Dave Kurlan is a top-rated speaker, best selling author, successful entrepreneur and sales development industry pioneer. The founder and CEO of the Objective Management Group, Inc., the leading developer of sales assessment tools, headquartered in Westboro, Massachusetts. He is also the CEO of Kurlan & Associates, Inc., a leading sales force development firm. He has 3 decades of experience in all facets of sales development, including consulting, training, coaching, selection, strategy, systems, processes, and metrics.