Does Your Sales Team Need Closing Skills or Opening Skills?
“Can you help my sales team close more business?” As a teacher of sales skills, I’ve been asked this question frequently. The answer is “yes,” with a strong qualifier: Your sales team may not have a problem with closing opportunities; the problem may be in finding the right kind of opportunities in the first place.
There are too many salespeople holding first and second sales conversations with prospects that are never going to buy. I have debriefed hundreds of sales calls and the first question I always ask a salesperson is, “Should you have been there in the first place?” Translation: Did this prospect fit your ideal customer profile? If not, there’s no reason to start a conversation and certainly no reason to have a second one.
Here are two questions that will help your sales team open up better conversations and opportunities.
#1: Does this prospect fit my psychographics? Our best clients value education and outside advice. They look at training and development as an investment, not a line-item expense. If a prospect sees it as an expense, the conversation usually focuses on, “What’s your price?” rather than, “What are your outcomes?”
#2: Is the prospect collaborative or combative? The best engagements are those where you and the prospect sit side by side, combining collective experiences and intellect, to create the right outcomes.
A combative prospect is guarded during the sales meeting. He gives short answers and is reluctant to share the budget or decision-making process. This prospect expects the salesperson to become a psychic and put together recommendations with no direction.
An early mentor gave me great advice on qualifying opportunities: “What’s starts stinky ends stinky.”
Improve your closing ratio by asking the qualifying questions before picking up the phone. Is your prospect qualified to do business with you?