was early in the morning on a cold January day. The phone rang. I
picked it up. Said Hello. Cheryl was calling.
Cheryl has been
selling electrical equipment for a company in Evansville IN, for the
past three years, and has been having a tough time.
She was upset,
distraught - and about to begin looking for a new job - because for
the past few months she had been sending out proposal after proposal
and hadn't closed any sales.
She would talk to
prospects on the phone and have a good conversation. They would say
"Send me a proposal." Which she did. Then she would call
them a week later and when they weren't in she would leave a message.
The call wasn't returned. A few days later she would call again, and
after a week or two would eventually track the person down. At which
time the prospect would say something like: "Thanks for sending
the proposal, but we're not 'really' in the market at this time.
We'll call you when we are."
The results of her
face-to-face meetings weren't any better. The interviews would go
rather well - or so she thought - and when she would ask if they
would like to see a proposal, everybody always said, "Sure, send
it to me."
So she put the
proposal together, sent it out, and ended up having the same
follow-up problems. Nobody returned her phone calls, and nobody
wanted to schedule another meeting.
As we analyzed her
selling process this is what we discovered:
1. Need to Ask
Better Questions in Order to Identify a Problem. Cheryl wasn't
probing enough. When she would discover a 'potential' or 'possible'
problem, she immediately jumped into her close. She didn't take the
time to find out the financial impact of the problem, nor did she ask
additional questions to determine if the problem was something the
prospect wanted to do something about. Cheryl started asking
questions like this: "How often do you have to shut down your
assembly line because one of your machines overheats and stops working?"
Then she asked
some 'Financial Impact' questions:
does this happen?"
does it cost you in lost production?"
does it cost you to have 35 people standingaround and not working?"
Much to her
surprise, she quickly learned that these were $100,000 to $1,000,000+ problems.
Once she got into
the habit of asking these types of questions, her prospects started
paying attention to her and began listening to what she had to say.
2. Meet with
Decision Makers, Not Gatekeepers or Screeners. Many of the people
Cheryl was speaking with weren't the ultimate decision makers. She
was talking with plant managers and plant foreman, but didn't know
who the 'real' decision makers were or how the company went about
We solved this
problem with two questions:
addition to yourself, who else is involved in the decision making process?"
you please describe how your company goes about making decisions to
purchase electrical equipment?"
DIDN'T ask if they wanted to buy the equipment, just how they go
about making their decision.
Now Cheryl is
discovering who the decision makers were and is getting meetings with them.
3. Get Commitment.
Once Cheryl discovered the full extent of her prospect's problems,
how much these problems were costing them in lost production and
wasted man hours, and how they went about making decisions; she
insisted upon getting commitments from the decision makers that this
was a problem they really wanted to fix 'before' she put her
It's been about
three months since Cheryl and I started working together and she's
creating far fewer proposals, but is selling about 80% of them. Today
she's among her company's top 5 sales people.
So if you want to
close more sales and make more money, do these three things:
1. Ask better questions.
2. Find out the
decision making process.
3. Get commitments.
permission from "Jeffrey Mayer's Succeeding In Business
Newsletter. (Copyright, 2001, Jeffrey J. Mayer, Succeeding In