GUEST: Brian Robinson, Author of The Selling Formula
Sales Prescription without Needs Diagnosis is Malpractice
You’d probably rate the importance of a sales presentation at 10/10.
And you’d probably rank asking questions and listening at, say, 6/10.
But if asking the right questions doesn’t rank at 11/10 with you, you’re losing dozens, even hundreds, of opportunities to connect with prospects.
On today’s B2B Revenue Executive Experience, we’re lucky to have Brian Robinson, author of The Selling Formula and an executive who has worked in sales and marketing for companies like Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson.
We had two big topics to discuss: sales malpractice and creating questions to drive results.
“There's something incredibly powerful about having a list of questions you've already prepared,” Brian said.
The word “malpractice” instantly makes us all think of doctors. But it should raise the idea of responsibility instead.
“It's rushing to the presentation of your product or service and providing a solution before really digging into the situation with great probing questions,” Brian said.
“To put it in a medical context, sales malpractice is like a doctor prescribing medication without asking pointed questions to determine if in fact this is indeed the best medication for the patient,” he added.
Rushing to the presentation before asking questions. Sales malpractice.
Here are some reasons why that’s so prevalent in sales:
1) Misplaced values
Even seasoned salespeople could double their income if they just took the time to craft better questions.
“The value we place as salespeople on the presentation and product knowledge is a 10 out of 10. On the questions, it lingers around 5 or 6 out of 10,” Brian pointed out.
If you haven't asked the questions, you don't have the context. You don’t know whether your presentation will resonate.
“You need to put an 11 out of 10 in terms of importance of your questions, and then you know the presentation will take care of itself. It really will,” Brian said. “If you've asked the appropriate questions, you'll have people begging to do business with you.”
“Sales malpractice is rushing to the presentation of your product or service and providing a solution before really digging into the situation with great probing questions.”
2) Not enough listening
Asking questions intentionally takes work. Asking the right questions intentionally is basically an art.
Oh, and asking questions means listening to answers.
A good sales manager makes it clear that questions are important.
“As a sales manager, you would just say, ‘I'm going to focus today on your questions. I'm going to listen very carefully to what you're asking,’” Brian said.
Then share the most successful questions throughout the team so that everyone can start asking better questions.
Another reason for sales malpractice—that is, hurrying to the presentation without even finding out if your product or service matters to your audience—is a lack of patience.
“Take as much time as you need to build good questions,” Brian urged.
Here’s his methodology, and it isn’t fast:
Make three columns on a spreadsheet or piece of paper.
- First column: features of product and service.
- Second column: benefits of each feature.
- Third column: questions that elicit those benefits.
Obviously, you can't do this on the fly. And you’d be a fool to just all of a sudden try this in front of your C-level buyer.
Brian says to have your questions with you, tell your prospect you’re going to be asking them, and ask permission to take notes.
“It forces you to pull this list of questions out. You can literally step through each question and ask them,” he said.
“It shows you're trustworthy, you care, you want to really help them,” Brian added.
So, how do you ask the right questions?
“Take as much time as you need to build good questions. It shows you're trustworthy.”
Creating Questions to Drive Results
You’ve got your three columns. And you’re trying to sell premade home cooked meals for four.
- Features: premade
- Benefits: saves up to 60 minutes per meal
- Questions: If you could just pull your dinner out of the freezer already prepared and put into the oven without having to think about it, how would that affect the frequency of your family meals?
“So now you're getting down into the emotional, heartfelt level,” Brian explained.
You don’t drop the emotional question first thing, but asking it shows that you’re trying to understand how your product will change lives.
It creates a trusted relationship by showing that you understand everyone has a story.
“If we can get to a place where we care about our prospects before we ever sit down with them, it can change everything in the sales conversation,” Brian said.
That word “conversation” was on purpose. Not presentation.
Because nobody wakes up in the morning and hopes they have a death by PowerPoint session.
One of Brian’s conversation success stories.
He had a colleague who does a full video production for real estate agents. After talking to Brian, this guy went three levels deeper with his questions, getting to a place where he was asking how their inability to generate leads would affect their family.
He genuinely wanted to know how he could help—and they begged him to do business with them.
“If you've asked the appropriate questions, you'll have people begging to do business with you.”
How to Self-Coach Asking Questions
#1. Keep a sales journal.
After every conversation, journal everything you did.
“You'll instantly be able to tell yourself, I could have done better with that question,” Brian said.
“Just the fact of reviewing what you've done can make a dramatic improvement in your capability,” he added.
#2. Record yourself.
The audio will reveal all.
You’ll hear how you’re pausing or not pausing. You’ll be able to tell if you’re listening or not.
“We are stuck inside our bottle and we cannot read the writing on our own label,” Brian said. “When you record yourself, the label is wide open.”
Listen to yourself over and over.
So painful at first, so meaningful an instant later.
Three more tips from Brian.
- Be brutally honest with yourself about what’s working in your sales process and what’s not.
- Take 100% ownership of your actions and recognize you have the ability to choose.
- Embrace struggle.
“When you embraced struggle, that was when you catapulted yourself to the next level,” Brian said.
To learn more about Brian’s ideas, preview his book for free on his website.
This post is based on a B2B Revenue Executive Experience podcast with Brian Robinson. To hear this episode and many more like it, subscribe to the B2B Revenue Executive Experience.
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