Sales conversation nightmares are made of this. You’re with a prospect. You’re interested in their work, and you’ve researched them, so you have a pretty good idea of what they do and with whom they do it. You feel excited about how you might collaborate. Like any good salesperson, you start asking questions about their business and inquiring about their challenges, aiming to find where you two will best intersect. Suddenly, they shut you down. They don’t want you asking questions about their business. They feel you’re prying where you shouldn’t be. Things get tense. The conversation lags. How do you move forward and win the client? It seems like mission impossible, but it’s not!
In a recent discussion in the Sales Best Practices LinkedIn Group, group member Simon Wong, Head of Sales, APAC at AG|Delta, posed an interesting question to the group about having sales conversations with an individual whose culture highly values privacy in business data. Having worked as a Sales Coach with people in 53 countries around the world, I have quite a bit of experience with this challenge. Read about it below or follow one of the links to join the discussion. Do you agree with me? What do you do when a prospect shuts down your questions in the middle of a sales conversation?
Prospects that do not like to ask questions…
I’d like to get some feedback from my peers on this point. Being in Asia, one interesting cultural dynamics in sales here is that we have prospects who don’t like sales people asking too many questions. Often times, when I being my meeting with questions, I get interrupted with the prospects saying “Why don’t you just tell me what you have and don’t ask so many questions…” Reasons for this behavior varies but I can imagine they don’t want the experience embarrassment of admitting they have a problem.
In such situation, I typically would go and proceed with telling them about what my offering is and cite examples of how we’ve helped others, and then ask one or two questions throughout (giving before asking I guess), but it still feels like trying to play darts in the dark.
Would like to get some feedback on how you would handle such situations?
Simon Wong, Head of Sales, APAC at AG|Delta
#MissionImpossible? Not at all!
I’ve worked, as a Sales Coach, with people in 53 countries around the world, and there are people everywhere who don’t want to admit to a seller that ANYTHING in their business is less than optimal right now.
At the same time, everyone aspires to get even better results.
And everyone is afraid they’re missing something—that something new has come along that will help them and, in the flood of information they are coping with daily, they just missed it.
So be a guide to them. Offer them an “update.” Few people will refuse an opportunity to learn what others in their own industry are doing now.
In Asia specifically, I say things like, “I know your time is short. Would it be of value for us to talk about ___________ briefly?” That’s a yes or no answer, and I have never had people refuse to reply.
Interestingly, often they will say they do not want to speak about a topic I mention, and then later they give me an opportunity to circle back around to it!
Here’s an example: I might say, “Would it be of value for us to talk about updating your co-workers’ selling skills, to make sure they’re effective in today’s very competitive market?”
I might hear, “No, that’s not necessary. Our people have all had Sales Training.”
And then later I might say, “Shall we talk a bit about Closing Skills?”, and get an immediate response like, “Yes, they need to be much better at Closing!”
Of course Closing problems come out of weaknesses in the overall sales approach, so to fix their Closing issues, we will need to update their Sales Training! I just have to make sure that I refer to our work as a “Closing Skills Update”—and then to make sure that they see an immediate uptick in selling activity, and, very soon, an improvement in new revenue/new clients coming in.