Posts Tagged ‘sales fact finding’

Are Sales Negotiations Overlooked Sales Objections?

Sales negotiations are part of earning the sale.  Yet I am beginning to question if in some instances the reason for the negotiation is because specific sales objections were never reconciled. For example if price requires negotiation, then this might suggest the salesperson failed to do all of her or his homework regarding the budget, the return on investment, etc.

Sometimes to earn the sale or close the deal does require an adjustment to the delivery of the solution.  Had the salesperson explored the urgency dictating the consideration of his or her solution possibly there would not be a need for any sales negotiations?

Of course not all sales negotiations happen because of unreconciled sales objections. Yet I believe the reactionary behavior to engage in negotiation may reflect some miss steps in the selling phase of the sales process.

If for example a new decision maker enters into the sales conversation and starts requesting changes to the offered solution, my question would be “Why didn’t you know about this person?”  One of the most basic questions to ask is “Is there anyone else involved in this buying decision?” Yes sometimes there are surprises, changes within the organization.

These changes can be addressed by this two-fold question during the presentation of the sales proposal. “Has anything changed since we last met or are there any changes coming that may impact this solution?” Usually buyers have a good idea of what is happening within their organization.  If the buyer responds yes, then the salesperson returns to sales fact finding to determine if said change will affect the offered solution.

Depending upon the new facts, the salesperson has the opportunity to reschedule the sales presentation so he or she can address these new facts in his or her sales proposal.  By taking this action reduces future sales negotiations.

From a sales coaching perspective, maybe it just may make sense to revisit past sales negotiations and determine the why behind the negotiation.

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You May Wish to Add this to Your Sales Fact Finding Process

Most sales training programs look to the sales fact finding process.  This process usually involves asking open ended questions as well as doing some research before actually meeting with the sales lead or prospect.

Today through the Internet, there is a wealth of information available to assist salespeople in this fact finding research. Yet one area that is often overlook is the “social history” of the prospect’s organization.

For current sellers looking to sell deeper into the organization, the social history is how did the seller’s firm originally connect with the buyer’s organization.  A new seller would look to not only how did other firms connect with the prospect, but who else does he or she know at the existing firm.

LinkedIn can assist with some of this fact finding data.  With its recent sale to Microsoft what was available for free such as advanced search now is only available through the paid subscription service. However, with some due diligence this information can be gathered by connecting with other people at the prospect’s organization.

My sense is through your fact finding quest you will probably discover the two or three people who had the first established relationship.  This relationship then transcended through other people in the organization.  In some instances, the relationship can be several decades old if not older.

The social history of any business is essential because it provides clarity as to what was valued by the original buyer and seller. This clarity can support further sales efforts including prospecting to keeping loyal customers loyal.

Possibly any SMB may wish to begin to construct their own social history through their CRM.  This could be a simple sheet showing the various people involved in the sales buying decision directly or indirectly.

Yes sales fact finding is important.  By adding social history to your fact finding process may just give you the competitive edge you need to earn that next sale.

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2017 New Sales Behaviors Replace Obstacle with Limitation

How many times have you heard this word “obstacle” in many sales training programs or books on sales fact finding?  This word makes you sound like all the others salespeople out there peddling their solutions.  Considering changing your sales behaviors by replacing this overused and now almost trite word with this word – limitation.

When the word obstacle is heard, many people receive a visual in their heads because we hear words, but think in pictures.  This visual may be so large, so filled with a lot of hidden emotions, it possibly can shut down the sales conversation or make further sales conversation even more difficult.

Now speak the word limitation to yourself.  Do you see in your mind’s eye some foreboding potentially humongous obstacle?  Or do  you see something much smaller, something that may have been consistently ignored?

Possibly there are far more limitations keeping the sales prospect from moving forward than one or two major obstacles?

These limitations may have been ignored by other salespeople because their sales training told them to look to the obstacles.

One obvious but often overlooked limitation is alignment. There is misalignment between the various leaders, managers or departments. Rarely in my nearly 20 years when speaking with sales leads rarely have I heard any mention of misalignment until I bring up this limitation.

Check out Fail-Safe Leadership to better understand how misalignment can easily happen.

Our sales behaviors when they are aligned to the emotional, neuro pathways and experiences of our sales prospects can literally propel the sales conversation forward far faster.  Of course the challenge is to go with the flow of the sales conservation and not stick to some sales script that is several paragraphs behind.

sales-behaviorsThe words we speak, think and write do have a significant impact on our sales behaviors.  When we carefully choose the correct word in our sales conversations, we can change the results.

Unfortunately many in their daily sales behaviors are so busy thinking what we are going to say next, they fail to actually listen to what is being said. The good news is everyone has the capacity to change provided they are willing to do so.

If you are not happy with your sales results in 2016, then consider scheduling a free 30 minute conversation (CLICK HERE) to learn how to close the gap between today’s results and tomorrow’s goals.

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The One Question Salespeople Fail to Ask

Being in sales can be either extremely enjoyable or just the opposite.  With so many SMBs to larger organizations needing salespeople if not preferably top sales performers, then maybe it is time to ask this question:


Do you really WANT to sell?

Last night I talked with James Muir, the author of a soon to e released book, The Perfect Close. In listening to James, one could hear he truly WANTS to sell.

One of my coaches and mentors, David Herdlinger, developed the KASH Box.  Through reflection I revised it to the KASH BOX for Sustainable Change.  This revision was because of a statement/question my husband had made after seeing David’s initial graphic.

The question is not one of “Do I know it?” but rather one of “Do I WANT to do it?”  If I WANT to do it, I will learn how to do it.

The WANT is what drives my husband to do almost anything. He built all new kitchen cabinets and never had built one before. He is now building a kitchen table. Again never having built one before.

kitchen-01Yesterday I also read a piece by Townsend Wardlow sharing the old chicken and pig story with a twist. However the essence remains the same.  The chicken was involved, but the pig was committed. This is also true with salespeople.

How committed are you to wanting to sell?

Do you devote at least one hour each day to improving your own knowledge as well as sales skills?

Are you abreast of current market trends, economic trends and industry trends?

What due diligence (sales fact finding research) have you engaged in before meeting with new sales leads or prospects?

Many people in the workforce expect their employers to advance their knowledge and skills (training).  They fail to take the initiative for their own personal development and self improvement. I read a report that many millennials are leaving organizations because the organization failed to give them leadership development.

This expectation is also true for many salespeople especially in the SMB marketplace.  Top sales performers are consistently working to improve their game with or without support (sales training) from their employers.  If they are self-employed, this WANT is what makes them successful or not successful.

Answering this question of “Do you really WANT to sell?” goes far beyond the normal, reactionary response of “Of course” or “Yes.” This is a question that must be answered by looking at your behaviors through the lenses of your attitudes and habits. Then and only then can you learn the true answer to this sales question.

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How to Melt Those Freeze Moments in Sales

Remember back in grade school and your teacher called on you?  Suddenly all the eyes of the other students were staring at you waiting for you to answer incorrectly.  Possibly your throat constricted, your voice became raspy or you felt perspiration running down your neck.  You experienced the first of many freeze moments.  In sales, those freeze moments still happen. The goal is to melt them as quickly as possible.



#1 – Freeze Moment in Sales

You are asked a question in which you do not immediately know the answer.  Happens all the time especially when the sales lead may be more knowledgeable or even less knowledgeable.  This is when honesty becomes the best policy.  A simple “I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you in 24 hours” is the melting response.  Then you can ask “How would you like that response, a telephone call or an email?”

Sales Coaching Tip: Just make sure you know the question or questions you will be answering.

#2 – Freeze Moment in Sales

For many sales professionals especially small business owners and entrepreneurs, the question of “What do you do?” creates probably the second most common freeze moment. This moment is melted by practicing the answer to it becomes second nature.  The real challenge is responding to the asking person because in different situations the answer maybe slightly different.

Sales Coaching Tip:  Your response should be results focused not industry or role focus.

#3 – Freeze Moment in Sales

“So what’s the price?” or “What is this going to cost me?” freezes many salespeople.  What this question reveals is several facts.

  1. You maybe speaking with the wrong person, not the decision maker or influencer
  2. You may not have engaged in enough sales fact finding
  3. You may be believe price is what sells your solution

Again, the best way to melt this freeze moment is with an direct response of “It depends” or “I don’t’ know at this time.”  You may continue with “At this time I do not have enough information.  Can we schedule a second meeting since our initial meeting time is finished?”

Sales Coaching Tip:  Do not feel compelled to share the price or worse yet lower the price.

Freeze moments happen to even the best people in sales. Being prepared, being authentic and being willing to be vulnerable helps to melt those awkward moments.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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The Quicksand Known as Sales Fact Finding Questions

Attend most sales training programs and the subject of sales fact finding questions will emerge. In some instances, the entire sales training may be focused on the importance of sales fact finding questions. While knowing to ask the right questions is indeed important, sometimes being so focused on these questions has you quickly drowning in quicksand before you know it.

sales-fact-finding-questionsWhen salespeople become so intent on one aspect, they may lose sight of the bigger picture. Additionally, if salespersons have memorized the sales fact finding questions as part of a sales script, general sales conversation flexibility takes a backseat to following the sales script.

Years ago I learned a very simple series of fact finding questions. These questions could not be attached to any sales training program because those questions have been heard hundreds of times before.  By asking the same questions that everyone else asks has salespeople becoming gray suits instead of differentiating themselves.

The added benefit of these questions is they were already part of my process in working with clients.  So my sales conversation was quite natural instead of forced.

My first sales fact finding question revolves around learning the desired result or results. This question is “Where do you wish to be for yourself or your business or both?”  With prompting of subtle “Oh….?” and “So….?” questions, I usually gleam considerable information.

The next question is “What is the importance to getting to where you want to be?” Now is the time to emotionalize the impact of the desired results. Note, I avoid using any questions that start with “Why” because at this point in the relationship I may not have earned enough trust to ask “Why” questions.  Why is very personal.  I have yet to find a why sales fact finding questions that cannot be turned into a “what,” “where,” “who” or even “how” question.

Question number three is simply “What barriers are getting in your way to getting to be where you want to be?” In all instances, these barriers can be placed into one of two categories:

  • People
  • Processes

After many years in sales, I recognized people feel more comfortable when they believe that have some control over the conversation.  So I have integrated this feeling of emotional control into my sales conversations. with this question:  “I have asked three questions and now have two questions left, which one would you like?”

If the ideal customer responds with question four, I ask “Is there anything additional you wish to share or any question you wish to ask, that I have not asked?” This question is open ended.

My last question is one I developed by myself and I found it usually uncovers some significant fact that had yet to be shared.  This question is:

“Imagine for a moment you are at some local business or charity event in two to three years and you are introduced to someone who recognizes your name. What are the first words you would like to hear from this person, outside of the name introductions?”

Of course, I have a few other supplemental  sales fact finding questions depending upon the overall sales conversation that are specific to certain industries or issues such as disengaged employees to failed execution.

Just remember the goal with sales fact finding questions is to learn what others may not have uncovered or heard because they were so focused on asking the “right questions” they did not notice they were drowning in quicksand.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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The Sales Fact Finding Problem of Symptom Solving

How many times in the sales fact finding do salespeople look to solve symptoms instead of the real problems?  Probably more often than many will admit.

sales-fact-findingFor example, small business owners come to me and other sales coaches because they have a sales problem.  Unfortunately, the inability to increase sales is a shadow or a symptom of another problem usually people (executive leadership) or poor process such as customer service.

Now in some instances, the weak sales maybe because of a lack of sales skills.  Usually, for small businesses with under 20 employees (97.7% of all U.S. businesses), the real problems are:

  • Ineffective executive leadership
  • No strategic plan
  • Poor communication to all employees
  • No alignment between sales goals and strategy and operations including better sales fact finding skills
  • Isolated marketing to no marketing especially through social media such as LinkedIn

When small business owners to those in sales management look to blame salespeople, this may become a foolhardy path.  Yes, there maybe some poor sales skills require some sales training or sales coaching. However until all actions are aligned as noted by the authors of Fail-Safe Leadership, the desired results will be inconsistent to unsustainable.

The flip side to this sales fact finding problem is the willingness of the salesperson to say “your poor sales is a symptom of …”  Telling the decision maker that he or she or the overall operations of the small business is the real problem is difficult.  Additionally it may require turning down a viable sales lead because your solutions as the salesperson do not align or will not correct the poor sales problem.

Many salespeople can solve symptoms. Top sales performers are true leaders who know how to separate the symptoms from the real problems through effective sales fact finding research and interactions (asking exceptional questions) with the sales lead.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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The Reluctance to Use Close Ended Questions in Sales

Open ended questions are the key so I once heard a sales trainer tell the audience. He continued with close ended questions in sales are old school.  Sales people who ask close ended questions do not understand the sales process.

close-ended-questions-in-salesWhen I heard these statements, my little brain said “Really?” For me close ended questions in sales where I received a yes, a no or even “I don’t know” allowed for agreement, permission to move forward and sometimes hidden pain points within the fact finding step of the sales process.

For me the sales process is very much a yin/yang proposition.

There is give and take.

There is a balance between open ended questions and close ended questions in sales.

Top sales performers understand and leverage this delicate balance.

Close ended questions provide a point to move forward to that next step within the sales process with assurance and confidence. More importantly close ended questions in sales provide absolute crystal clarity as to the exchanged words within the conversation.

After hearing a specific pain point, the salesperson may ask “Would you please tell me more?” (Open ended question)  Then upon that sharing from the qualified potential customer, he or she may ask “Is there anything else you would like to add?” (Close ended question)

Sometimes in our desire to be different be it sales training coaching consultants to other sales professionals, there is a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Both open ended questions and close ended questions in sales are required. If you want to be a top sales performer, then learn the when and where of  balancing these two different types of sales fact finding questions.

Leanne Hoagland-Smith is a heurist who disrupts the status quo by discovering new ways to guide and support rapidly growing small businesses; those who wish to grow beyond their current employees and executives in career chaos.  She is recognized as one of the Top 25 Sales Influencers in 2013 by Open View Sales Labs and can be reached at 219.759.5601 CST.

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Is It Time to Go Beyond the Sales Fact Finding of Blood and Bleeding?

Years ago I heard a sales trainer describe the result of sales fact finding to be:


Having potential customers figuratively gushing blood or bleeding all over the place.

The more blood, the more bleeding,  the better it is for you.

He suggested many salespeople do not bleed their potential customers or prospects enough! From his perspective, this is a wasted opportunity. This sales fact finding philosophy is still very much present when we hear or read about “asking those pain questions.”

Possibly for him it worked. However for me, I have always had an internal disconnect with this approach. Yes, people react to pain or the fear of pain probably more than they do to pleasure. This may originate from the negative conditioning of early childhood.

The more I have pondered this approach, the more I realized we as sales people should be more strategic, more surgical in our sales fact finding approach. Also my sense is this blood and bleeding approach may stir up too many emotions and may cause a bad decision to be made.

What would happen if we would seek those existing sores (problems) that are just hiding underneath the skin and force some of the infection out from them?  By integrating education based marketing into the sales fact finding conversation, there could be some temporary relief that would indicate you truly want to support and not just sell.

The flip sense to this approach is we may become caught up in our own knowledge and miss some vital problems. However, the same could be said about all the gushing blood sales fact finding approach as well.

Each salesperson must find his or her own selling style when it comes to sales fact finding. Let me know what has worked for you if you care to share.

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