The Progress Coaching Blog

Sales is Easy But We Need to Coach and Challenge Sales People

January 6, 2010 Posted by : Tim Hagen
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I often laugh when I hear people say they could never do sales. When I ask why, they state all that rejection and hearing the word "no". It hit me, that's why so many people actually fail at sales because they hear the word "no" so often. The sad fact is they should never hear that word if they follow a simple to use sales formula.

   1. Ask (open-ended questions, these usually start with "what" or "how")
   2. Shut Up & Listen
   3. Address what the client said and seek a way to help or solve a problem


Isn't that what sales is suppose to be about? Asking clients questions to see how we can or maybe cannot help. Most sales people have preconceived notions of what they are going to say or do in a sales call. What a BIG mistake. This puts you in the frame of mind of "Saying" and not asking. This is the biggest mistake I see when working with clients. Sales people who know what they are going to say before hearing a word coming from the client.

Mistakes in sales are usually very subtle and are attributed to a lack of sales planning. The planning should require what questions will be asked to ascertain specific areas of need, and what are the possible solutions for those responses. What do we hate about sales people? They are too pushy, they talk too much, they didn't even listen, etc. The sad fact is when asked what specific questions sales people use to ask their client to define needs they respond with a long-winded synopsis's of what they try to do in selling. By the way, they never answer the question. Here are the top mistakes sales people make:

  1. They ask close ended questions (questions that require a "yes" or "no" response).
  2. They have no planned or defined questioning sequence.
  3. They rarely listen to what clients say because they are already thinking of what they want to say next.
  4. Their call objectives are usually centered on the notion of what they want to do versus seeking information to help the client. This mentality pigeonholes their thought process.
  5. The biggest mistake I get from sales people is that they know what they are doing. The attitude is centered on the perception they have mastered sales. Sales is NOT an event you simply master, rather a process you can always get better at.

So how do we help sales people succeed? How can we get sales people to perform better? The first thing we need to do is break down the basics of sales techniques into a very simplistic components. Next, we need to condition their behaviors to follow the sales components. The trick is not how to do sales, rather getting people to break their habits into a very question-based approach that is centered around the client, NOT them. Sounds easy, but it is not. Sales people hate to change. Here are some basic methods to help sales people improve their sales

  1. Use question sheets to be filled out by sales people.This helps steer them and provide a glimpse of what is actually said.
  2. Start each question with the words "what" or "why". This guarantees the client will provide ample information.
  3. Listen! OK, so what does this mean? We need to break sales people's habits of thinking what they want to say while the client is talking. This inhibits the sales person from learning something that could actually help close the sale. You do this with listening games and role-playing activities.
  4. Encourage sales people to come up with at least 1 new question before each sales call. This promotes the thinking and associated behaviors with asking and listening

Sales is really easy if we focus on what we want to learn, what questions provide that information, and ultimately how we can solve/address the customer issues. Sales people often have their own way of doing things, but let's challenge them to look at the fundamentals.

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About Author

Tim Hagen
Tim Hagen

Tim Hagen founded Progress Coaching, a Training Reinforcement Partner Company, in 1997. His entrepreneurial career began in college leading to positions in sales, sales management, and sales training for small and large corporations, and eventually ownership of several training companies. Tim is often a keynote speaker at companies teaching the value of coaching and conversations in the workplace. He possesses a unique combination of hands-on experience, academics, and innovative insight to solve the industry’s most common challenges specific to workplace performance. Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in Adult Education and Training from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

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