Secrets of Question Based Selling by Thomas A. Freese



Sales organizations invest in training salespeople how to position the value of their product or service, but they just assume salespeople already know how to ask the right questions. You have to ask questions to identify new opportunities, qualify accounts and uncover needs. Questions have always been the cornerstone of the sales process – but just because you want to ask questions doesn’t mean your prospects and customers will respond favorably. I wanted to understand why it worked so I could repeat my success. What a salesperson asks and how they ask, is more important than what they will ever say.

How you can use questions to uncover greater needs and solicit more accurate information about where you stand in the sale. Strategic questions are more than just samples of everyday conversation. The first five chapters are intended to serve as building blocks for the rest of the QBS methodology. Once you understand the fundamental strategies, parts 2 and 3 of the book discuss more specifically about how to maximize your effectiveness in every aspect of the sales process.

Increasing your probability of success

When the risk of rejection is high, sales productivity tends to be very  low. QBS reverses this trend by showing salespeople that the best way to increase their probability of success is to decrease their risk of failure.

#1 Salespeople are being held at arm’s length, and rejection is making it more difficult for them to stay motivated.

#2 In order to achieve above average results, one must first be open to thinking above-average concepts.

#3 A salesperson who continues doing exactly the same things should expect exactly the same results.

QBS has developed a framework that’s based on cause and effect – a methodology that will help identify those things that will move you closer to making a sale and those things that will move you farther from it. When something we do causes prospects to respond favorably, this is good because it increases our probability of success and moves us closer to making a sale. But rather than ignore the negatives, we also want to identify ( and avoid ) those things that will hinder our progress. Not every idea is a good one, and not every activity adds value. The single most effective way to increase your probability of success in a sale is to decrease your risk of failure. The greater your risk, the lower your probability of success.

#4 The most effective way to increase your probability of success is to decrease your risk of failure.

#5 The greater their risk, the more reluctant salespeople are to pick up the telephone and initiate contact.

The risk of rejection is the greatest challenge salespeople face. Just because the risk of rejection does exist, it doesn’t mean that salespeople have to accept it. QBS enhances your effectiveness from both directions by increasing your probability of success and decease your risk of failure. If we can eliminate the traditional risks of rejection, salespeople will run to the phones. Not only will they make more calls, they will make them with greater confidence. Some people call dating “the ultimate sale”. That’s a fair description, because just like sales, dating is a positioning ritual that either brings potential partners close together or drives them farther apart. You can significantly reduce your risk of rejection by knowing where the other person stands before you actually pop the question. How do you find that? By sending a ‘single ping’.

#7 The Average sale requires five closing attempts before prospects are ready to make an emotional commitment, but the average salesperson never makes it to the fifth attempt.

#8 Once it’s clear that  prospect is interested, securing their commitment to take the next step is easy.

When its obvious that the target of your affection is not interested, its much better to approach them at another time, under different circumstances.

#9 When you reach out to someone by saying, “We ought to do something sometime,” the worst they can say is yes.

Did I catch you at a bad time?

When should I call back?

Can I ask you a question?

Salesperson – “Mr. Prospect, you’ve been considering our proposal for some time now. Does it make sense for us to think about sitting down and wrapping up the details ?”                 If prospect is still not ready, it is time to find out what the issues are and what else needs to occur to close the sale.

Mismatching : The avoidable risk

It’s an instinctive and emotional behavior that causes people to respond or push back in a contrarian manner, usually by taking the opposite viewpoint on what’s being said. While blinking is a physical reflex, mismatching is an emotional reflex, but it works much the same way. It’s an emotional knee-jerk reaction that causes people to respond in a contrarian manner. People will mismatch just about anything.

#10 Mismatching is an instinctive tendency of individuals to resist, push back or respond in a contrarian manner.

To have a mutual exchange of value, sellers must first get prospective buyers to agree that they have a need. Once  need is identified, then sellers must get prospects to agree that their product or service provides enough value to justify its cost because the more you know about the prospect’s needs, the more opportunities you will have to provide valuable solutions.

#11 Agreement is the emotional bond that brings people together to form mutually beneficial business relationships.

#12 Mismatching communicates disagreement, which increases your risk and lowers your probability of success.

Mismatching is very common and instinctive behavioral mechanism. Mismatching is usually more of a defense mechanism than an intuitive response.

#13 Mismatching is more of an instinctive defense mechanism than an intuitive response.

#14 A mismatched response satisfies the needs of the mismatcher more than it disagrees with the content of the discussion.

People are natural mismatchers because they are natural insecure. While agreement is an emotional bond that brings people together, it often fails to satisfy our internal and instinctive need to add value. Some of the best-intentioned people are the most fervent mismatchers. Pointing out a senior executive’s inaccuracy is both counterproductive and unnecessary.

#15 Prospects and customers have an instinctive need to be perceived as valuable too.

While a certain amount of detail is valuable, there’s a point where clarifying unnecessarily becomes detrimental to your selling efforts.

Prospects sometimes mismatch an overly polished salesperson because prospect wants to be perceived as equally charismatic. If you think your proposal is aggressive, you should see the discount your competitor is offering. In selling ( and in life ), a productive conversation shouldn’t be a contest, and suggesting, “I’m better than you,”, only increases your risk of failure.

#16 Everyone wants to feel valuable, but most people have an even greater need to protect against feelings of inadequacy.

“I know” is purely a defensive reaction. You could say it to make sure that others see you as a credible professional. But this creates a problem when your need for credibility downgrades the importance of another person’s input.

#18 If you are a habitual mismatcher, then you are shooting yourself in the foot and you must STOP mismatching immediately !

For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. In sales, that means the harder you push, the harder your prospects and customers will push back.

#19 The harder you push, the harder your prospects and customers will push back.

If we assume that most people have a natural tendency to mismatch, then telling customers why your product is great will often cause them to mismatch, telling you why its not. Most people love to buy, but very few want to be told, and even fewer want to be “sold”. To succeed in sales, you must uncover needs and then educate prospects and customers on the value of your product or service.

When mismatches are treated as objections, salespeople end up finding themselves in the awkward position of trying to overcome a prospect’s behavioral quirks – namely their intrinsic need to add value.

#20  Mismatching is not an objection; therefore it should not be handled like one.

If we can identify and prevent those things that cause people to mismatch the things we say or do, then we can avoid a negative reaction. The more definitive your statements are, the more susceptible they are to being mismatched.

#21 If your current approach to sales is statement-based, then your comments will actually invite mismatched responses.

We can avoid a mismatched response altogether by asking, “Is it supposed to be nice this weekend?” In reality, questions actually help to satisfy the other person’s need to add value by inviting them to contribute to the conversation.

The more credibility you establish with prospects and customers, the less standoffish they will be. Establishing credibility should be one of your primary objectives in the sales process. People who believe that you are credible are more willing to openly share. In QBS, we raise the issue of curiosity, because we want’ prospects and customers to invite us into more in-depth discussions about their needs and the value of our product or service. Making prospects curious is most effective way to engage as people who are curious would like to hear more about your product or service while those who are not curious wont.

#22 It’s impossible for someone who’s curious to be inviting you in and pushing you away at the same time.

And when they ask a question to satisfy their curiosity, they are actually requesting your help – and its impossible to ask for your help and push you away at the same time.

“Did I catch you at a bad time?”

“Am I interrupting?”

“Is next week too soon for a presentation?”

“Will the pricing in this proposal make your boss nervous?”

Each of these questions has a negative tone, so when someone takes the opposite position they actually mismatch in my favor. Remember when your parents used to say that you shouldn’t jump off a cliff just because your friend Johnny did? It’s the same with prospective buyers. Most won’t take the plunge.

QBS focuses on bringing people together, to increase your probability of success, and to reduce one the most prevalent risks in the sale – the risk of mismatching.

The Herd Theory

Positive reference can increase your credibility.

#23 Potential buyers are instinctively trying to reduce their risk of making a bad decision.

Walk a mile in the prospect’s shoes, and you’ll find that most are scared to death of the unknown. Other people or companies have already purchased, implemented, or deployed your solution is a proof statement that reduces the buyer’s risk. Nothing irks a prospective buyer more than the suggestion that just because someone else made a decision to move forward, they should too. Herd theory surrounds prospects with a sense of momentum – to establish credibility and convey a greater sense of value. People too are strongly influenced by the direction of their surrounding herds.

#24 How the rest of the “herd” feels is more important than any one person’s opinion or recommendation.

It also gives sellers a way to provide the emotional reassurance that prospects need to pull the trigger on a buying decision. “Since other customers are already using our solution, you should use it too.” This is a push strategy – one that attempts to encourage, nudge, and ultimately push prospects toward the desired result. Herd theory also has wonderful way of making prospects curious. Product training was the first step, so learn as much as about product.

#25 When you’re trying to make sure someone doesn’t get “left out”, their next four words will be, “Left out of what?”

Nobody wants to miss out on a potential opportunity, particularly if “everyone else” already seems to be moving in a certain direction.

“Do you have your calendar handy?” Now the only question was, were they available on the date of the seminar? Would you like me to reserve them a seat? Use herd theory to let prospects know what other companies who had scheduling conflicts were doing. Ask prospects if there was anyone else in their company who would benefit from attending this event. I offered to contact these referrals, but I always asked the prospect to forward a note letting them know we had talked.

#26 Most prospects are very interested in, and highly influenced by, what “everyone else” is doing.

We also closed more new-name accounts than any other commercial sales territory in the country – all because we leveraged the momentum of the surrounding herd. This way you are able to leverage other prospects to create a sense of momentum that helped us establish credibility and generate interest.

#27 If the rest of the herd seems to be moving in a certain direction, other prospects and customers will want to know why.

With media you create momentum – “Ms. Prospect, would you like to know why the Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, Newsweek, USA Today and Entrepreneur magazine have all featured articles about the success of our newly announced product?” Brand-new company may not yet have the luxury of existing customers to create a sense of momentum but established companies can use – “Would you like to know why all these companies are already using our product?”

Name references with a certain amount of credibility – popcorn credibility. It should sound like popcorn popping, as you demonstrate a higher level of competence and credibility by confidently rattling off an impressive list of customers, prospects, media references or partners.

Salesperson – Mr. Prospect, you mentioned that you wanted to increase revenue and decrease expenses. Would you like to know what your competitors are doing to accomplish the same objective?”

#28 When surrounding prospects with herd momentum, you gain credibility as long as your “popcorn” keeps popping.

Begin with customer references, prospect references, partner references and media references. Now, compare your score to the number of reference names you wrote down prior to the exercise. The key is increasing your skills so you can quickly create a robust list of herd references to establish greater credibility in the sales process. The best way to increase your popcorn credibility is to improve your recall. Sellers who can confidently rattle off an impressive list of herd references can surround their prospects with a powerful sense of momentum. Sellers can easily increase their popcorn credibility if they are willing to practice ten minutes a day for a full week. As you get more sophisticated, practice rattling off your reference names by geographic location or in alphabetical order. The more specific you can be, the more credibility you will convey.

The next time a prospect asks you for references, say “ Sure. Do you have a pencil?” ( Don’t ask for a Pen as it sounds too rhetorical and instead ask for pencil and response will be favorable. ) You might even give them a quick synopsis about the issues their references faced, and how their issues were resolved by implementing the proposed solution. You can literally watch a prospect’s face light up as you name five, ten, even fifteen references off the top of your head. This is the ultimate implementation of popcorn credibility and the herd theory. You want them to come away thinking that some of your competitors don’t even know their families as well as you know your customers. Your credibility will skyrocket; and chances are, they won’t even call your references.

#29 A salesperson’s ability to demonstrate account-specific knowledge translates into greater credibility.

Salespeople get just as many points for being prepared as they do for having a good memory. The herd theory is also useful later in the sales process to provide the emotional reassurance prospects need to pull the trigger on a purchase. The same momentum that you used to pique the prospect’s interest can also be used to overcome objections and show customers why your product providers the best solution.

#30 Surrounding prospects with a credible herd reduces your risk because you become the messenger, not the message.

“Would you like to know what they did to ensure their success?” This gives you an opportunity to share what these customers ( i.e. the rest of the herd ) did to ensure their success. This positions you as the messenger and not the message, which significantly reduces the likelihood of a mismatch. If you can reassure prospects that they are indeed moving in the right direction, you will increase your probability of making a sale, and you will also reduce the buyer’s risk. It’s the perfect win/win scenario.

Gold Medals & German Shepherds

#31 If you want to motivate people, then its more important to think about what they want, rather than what you want.

Always positive isn’t always the most productive approach. True professionals are not “always positive”. They radiate competence, capability and expertise by being serious and self-assured.

#32 Competence, credibility, expertise and value will outsell over eagerness every time.

Most behavioral selling models are very difficult to implement in the real world. When you are dealing with multiple people in a strategic sale, who all have different personality profiles, whose personality style should you match? To categorize people according to their personality type and then match your behaviors to theirs is an ineffective way to manage the sale. The truth is, many salespeople end up outsmarting themselves by first misjudging their prospect and then mishandling the situation.  Most salespeople perform at their best when they are just being themselves.

#33 Keep it simple. You will be more effective just being yourself, rather than trying to be something you’re not.

Tell prospect how your unique product would improve their performance, productivity and reliability. Prospects have very different reasons for buying our product; and to motivate more prospects, it was clear that it needs a change in the way we position value. While some athletes are motivated by positive rewards, many others are trying to avoid “the agony of defeat”. Rather than hoping to benefit from all the wonderful things your product or service offers, they’re trying to avoid potential problems, uncertainty or even failure.

#34 While some people run fast toward gold medals, many others run even faster from German shepherds.

The fear of failure is a powerful influence. In reality, some prospects you meet will be driven by positive benefits ( gold medals ), while others will be motivated by their need to avoid problems and feelings of uncertainty (German Shepherds). Ultimately, we want to establish enough value to justify the cost of our solution. Together we aggregate these benefits into a larger list that summarizes their company’s value proposition. Dictionary defines a benefit as something that promotes or enhances one’s wellbeing.  We definitely want to motivate prospects who get excited about positive rewards. But we also want to reach those people who are trying to avoid potential problems, uncertainty or even failure.

Seller – Ms. Prospect, our reliability features will increase your productivity ( gold medal ) and reduce all those pesky interruptions that would otherwise handcuff your business (German Shepherd). Positioning benefits both as gold medals and German shepherds accomplishes two very strategic objectives in QBS sale. You’ll know in advance that prospects are motivated either by positive rewards or by negative aversion. This allows you to score points with those prospects who are motivated by gold medals, and with those prospects who are motivated by German shepherds.

#35 By positioning both gold medals and German shepherds , you will get more bang out of each benefit.

Your competitors will claim that they too provide the same list of benefits. But you’ll have the advantage if they focus only on the positives ( as most sellers do ), because they will address only eight value points.  Your ability to present twice as many benefits gives you an opportunity to present twice as much value; it also gives your prospects and customers twice as many reasons to move forward with a favorable purchase decision.

Potential buyers have been responding to gold medals and German shepherd motivations for a long time. Sales managers want salespeople to go out into their respective territories looking for German Shepherds -problems or issues that are causing pain. It makes sense to talk about both gold medals and German shepherds so your internal champion can buy into the total value of your product and then position it both ways to other people in the organization.

Being motivated by German Shepherds is not some demented form of paranoia or pessimism; nor does it equate to having a negative attitude. Rather, the fear of failure is very powerful and constructive motivational influence that, when channeled properly, can improve both your performance and your results.

#36 Some of world’s most successful people get to the top because of their intense desire not to be on the bottom. QBS teaches salespeople to focus on what the customer wants, rather than what we want.

Fueling the Sales Process

In this chapter, we’ll examine how you can help prospects recognize greater needs, and how those needs will fuel a successful sales process.

#37 Without needs, there are no solutions; and without solutions, it’s virtually impossible to establish value.

If you fail to uncover a need that would fuel the sales process; therefore, you will miss an opportunity to either solve a problem or improve your existing condition. You can offer a solution if the buyer has needs. It is salesperson’s job to uncover needs. Sellers cannot provide value until the prospect first recognizes the existence of a need. The more needs you uncover, the more likely it is that prospective buyers will find value in the solutions being proposed.

On the surface, looking for pain makes sense because pain causes prospects to seek relief. It also motivates them to want to prevent problems from occurring in the future. But we must realize that pain is not the only cause of prospect needs. Needs are also created by desire. These desires are needs, but they are hardly problems in traditional sense. In QBS, Need is defined as discrepancy between what is and what could be. Needs are formed when people who are dissatisfied with the status quo ( what is ) recognize that they would be better off if their situation was improved ( by what could be ).

#38 To alleviate pain, prospects will seek relief. To satisfy a desire, prospects will attempt to improve their existing condition.

A discrepancy can also  be created by desire – a need to improve the status quo. As a result, the CFOs contentment with his previous carrier would be replaced by a desire to improve the status quo. If your need is to uncover needs and provide solutions, you can significantly expand your opportunity ( to sell ) by offering relief to those prospects who are currently experiencing pain, and a vision of value for those who wish to improve their existing condition. If a product needs regular maintenance and there are serious consequences if regular maintenance is not properly performed, there is an existence of a need.

#39 Active needs occur when prospects recognize that they are no longer satisfied with the status quo.

It would be nice if every prospect had active needs. Latent needs are needs that do exist but haven’t yet surfaces as problems or desires. The tread of your tire didn’t wear itself down overnight but your need for new tires was latent.

#40 Latent needs exist when prospects fail to recognize that they are no longer satisfied with the status quo.

When prospects are not aware of a problem, they have no reason to change the status quo. Another source of latent needs is a false sense of security. Active needs represent only a small fraction of the overall market opportunity, while latent needs make up the lion’s share. While 60 % of middle-class Americans are under-insured, less than 2 % are “in the market” to buy additional coverage. Thus, 2 out of 100 have active needs. Prospecting for active needs is unproductive. If that same salesperson went after the larger market segment, by targeting the other 60 percent who have latent needs, the number of opportunities would increase dramatically. Overwhelming majority of sales comes from ability to transform prospect’s latent needs into active needs.

Dangling potential solutions out in front of a prospect with latent needs is a low percentage play. No matter how good your solutions are, prospects with latent needs are not going to buy. Urgency motivates people to act when problems are painful enough, or opportunities are enticing enough, to justify making a change. All you have to do is transform their latent needs into active needs.

#41 “How badly you’re bleeding usually dictates how fast you drive to the hospital.” The greater the prospect’s sense of urgency, the more likely they are to act on your solutions.

Turning a prospect’s complacency into an active desire is the real game of professional selling. This allows sellers to go after prospects who have needs but haven’t yet recognized the opportunity to improve their existing condition. Sellers have to realize that prospective buyers can’t take advantage of opportunities they don’t know about.

#42 Uninformed prospects are much less likely to make a favorable buying decision.

The easiest way to increase a prospect’s sense of urgency is to change their perspective. You can accomplish this either by offering new information or by asking questions that will help them discover opportunities to improve their existing condition. The greatest opportunity to make sales lies in ability to create demand, by helping potential buyers recognize latent needs.

#43 Urgency sells! It increases the prospect’s desire to satisfy their needs, and it also increases your probability of success.

Transforming your latent needs into active needs will escalate the prospect’s sense of urgency for finding a solution; which in turn, increases your probability of making a successful sale.


First, you must ask for initial appointment; then you must ask questions to uncover needs; and when you reach the end of the sale, you must ask for the order. In addition to helping sellers gather information, questions can also be used to establish your credibility, uncover prospect needs, and develop mutually beneficial business relationship. But too many questions can make prospects feel uncomfortable, and asking the wrong questions at the wrong time can kill a conversation in its tracks. Every question you deliver has three strategic attributes – a Scope, a Focus and a Disposition.

Conversational Layering

Conversational Layering is the key to building effective relationships.

Curiosity à The QBS sales forum à Credibility à Expand Relationships à Needs Development à Qualify à Present Solutions à Commitment

#44 Jumping ahead in the sales process increases your risk of failure and reduces your probability of success

#45 Unless a relationship already exists, most prospects are reluctant to openly share, especially with a salesperson

Just because a salesperson wants to probe for need, it doesn’t mean prospects are ready to openly share their thoughts, feelings or concerns. Unlike other sales methods where salespeople want the prospects to make a buying decision, trying to get prospects to answer questions or to listen to our pitch, QBS focuses on getting prospects to want to buy, to want to answer and to want to listen. QBS focuses on getting prospects to want to buy, to want to answer questions and to want to listen. Presenting a solution is the prerequisite for securing a commitment. Sellers can only present solutions if they have uncovered a need and qualified the opportunity.

#46 To secure a commitment, you must first present a solution; but to present solutions, you must first uncover a need.

Needs development is one of the most important components of the sales process. It’s a prerequisite for presenting a solution. For sellers to successfully establish relationships, prospects must want to engage further. Credibility is the prerequisite for every relationship and is the key to building effective relationships in a strategic sale.

#47 Credibility is the basis for every relationship; and the more you have, the more your prospects will want to engage.

Salespeople have a bad habit of trying to communicate credibility by claiming their own greatness. While credibility is the prerequisite for relationships, it’s still not the beginning of the sales process. Sellers can’t just pick up phone and rattle off a bunch of diagnostic questions. Instead, they must first secure a forum for selling. There needs to be an environment that’s conducive to selling which means there should be two names – prospect’s name and their attention.

#48 Sellers have to compete with everyone ( and everything ) for a slice of the prospect’s time and attention.

Curiosity makes a prospective buyer want to give a salesperson their time and attention. It is curiosity that top performing salespeople are consistently penetrating new accounts while average performs struggle and it has nothing to do with top performers being better conversationalists or better closers.

#49 Curiosity is the key that unlocks the rest of the sales process

Curiosity gives you an opportunity to establish credibility. Build relationships, uncover needs, present solutions and ultimately secure the prospect’s commitment to buy. QBS offers a proven and repeatable sales model that will enable you to engage more prospects in more productive sales conversation. They figure it’s tough enough to build relationships without having to think about making people curious and establishing credibility.

#50 Salespeople who understand how to make prospects curious will never have to worry about being successful.

What makes people curious

Curiosity is the spark that makes people want to find out more about the products and services. It’s not a salesperson’s job to make people buy but his/her function is to uncover new opportunities, and then pique the prospect’s interest, so they will want to know more about the products and services being offered.

#51 The more curious your prospects become, the more opportunities you will have to add value and provide solutions.

A salesperson can be aggressive and try to force your way in, or you can make prospects curious enough to want more information about the value you provide – so they will invite you in. As prospective buyers become more and more curious about how you can offer value, it becomes much easier to create new opportunities to sell. If you can make prospects curious, then you will have many more opportunities to establish credibility, build relationships, uncover needs, present solutions, and secure the commitments necessary to move forward with a sale.

“Guess what” is simplest way to pique someone’s curiosity. Another way is asking “Can I ask you a question?” In sales, forum for selling means that a salesperson has to walk before s/he can run.

#52 Making prospects curious only takes a minute, but it gives you an opportunity to establish relationships that can last a lifetime.

Don’t start probing for needs without first saying, “ Can I ask a couple specifics about your current _________ environment?” “Would you like to hear some feedback?” Asking questions to make sure it’s OK to proceed is not only good manners, it demonstrates that you are sensitive to the prospect’s situation and you are also very respectful of their needs.

#53 Rather than positioning value to pique the prospect’s interest, QBS piques the prospect’s interest in order to position value

Leveraging curiosity does require some thought and creativity. There are many ways that you can pique someone’s interest ( when leaving voicemail ) in order to engage potential customers in a mutually productive sales conversation.

Salesperson – “Hi Susan, this is ( your name and affiliation). I was hoping to catch you for a minute because I have a question… that only you can answer. If you could please call me back, I’ll be in my office this afternoon until around 4:30 P.M.”

“Hi Richard, I decided to pick up the telephone and call … because something happened earlier today that made me think of you. If you get a minute, I’ll be in the office until around 6:15 P.M. this evening. My telephone number is (770) 840 7640.”

#54 The more curious prospects become, the sooner they’ll call you back.

If a prospective customer is not the least bit curious about who you are or what you can do for them, they will quickly disregard your voicemail message. After they call you can begin to build a relationship that could yield potential opportunities in the future. Associative reference communicates a sense of familiarity that allows you to pique the interest of decision makers in order to cause them to want to engage further. Most strategic salespeople have been taught to target the end user, rather than go through the purchasing department.

#55 A highly positioned, curiosity-inducing voicemail strategy will only be effective if it is also 100 percent accurate.

Prospects and customers are being deluged with electronic mail messages. When I send an email message, I don’t consider it “fluff”. I focus on leveraging curiosity with email in order to get an increased share of their time and attention.

Salespeople have a bad habit of using the subject field to satisfy the recipient’s curiosity, by telling them what the message is about. We want the prospects, customers and coworkers to notice the subject field, become curious and consequently open the email to see what it says.

Subject: What would happen if …?

Subject phrases – Two Questions …, On second thought …, Wanted to ask a favor …, Would like your opinion about … , Per George Thompson …

#56 With email, the subject should make prospects curious so they will make your message a high priority.

Five QBS Strategies that sellers can use to make prospects want to engage – questions, partial information, glimpses of value, newness and momentum.

Some sellers spend lots of time trying to satisfy their prospect’s curiosity but little time creating it. If prospects you call already have all the information they need, then they don’t have any reason to meet with you.

#57 Average sellers try to satisfy their prospect’s curiosity. Top performers try to make prospects even more curious.

Rather than telling them everything up front, leave some meat on the bone. You just can’t cover all the features, benefits, cost comparisons, configuration details, upgrade options, support options and warranty information in a single meeting or sales call. Now the question is, do you say things that satisfy your prospect’s curiosity, or do you say things that cause potential buyers to want more ? You should leverage partial information, as opposed to not enough information. Of course, if they ask for more information, you’ve accomplished the primary objective. Talk about glimpses of value ! Who wouldn’t want to know how to save money, increase productivity or improve their return on investment ?

#58 When prospects find out that you may be able to solve their problems, they will become curious and want to know more.

Mr. Customer, If I could show you how to improve your existing condition, would you be interested in taking the next step?

Last but not least, momentum is another very impactful curiosity-inducer that sellers can use to capture their prospect’s time and attention. If “everyone else” is already moving in a certain direction, prospects will become curious about why, and more often than not, they will want additional information. The appropriate curiosity strategy will vary depending on whether you’re leaving a voicemail message, sending an email, or talking directly with the prospect. Turn your cold calls into lukewarm calls as curiosity will help you secure the prospect’s time and attention in order to establish your credibility.

Establishing Credibility in the Sale

How to establish credibility very early in the sale by narrowing the scope of your questions. Credibility is an impression that people form about you. It’s a sense of trustworthiness, believability, and perceived competence that lets other people know you are able to provide valuable solutions, you deal honestly, and you can be trusted to help them make good decisions.

#59 Sellers begin to have credibility when prospects form a favorable impression about their competence and value.

The conversational layering model positions credibility as a prerequisite for building and expanding mutual relationships.

#60 Salespeople enter sales process with near zero credibility.

In American justice system, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Salespeople who don’t get a chance to demonstrate that they are indeed credible miss out on many lucrative sales opportunities. Personal references are excellent for building credibility with new prospects. Claiming your own greatness is a strategy that usually backfires.

Every question you ask has a scope, a focus and a disposition, and how you manage these three strategic attributes will ultimately determine the productivity of your questions, and the quality of the responses you receive. In traditional sales training courses, salespeople are taught that open-ended questions (wider in scope) are “better” than closed-ended questions (narrow in scope) , especially when you are trying to penetrate new accounts.

#61 Open-ended questions are great tools for expanding relationships, but they don’t help establish your credibility.

#62 Prospects will form impressions quickly – based on the statements you make, and the questions you ask.

#63 Prospects are reluctant to answer questions until the salesperson has proven that he or she is indeed credible.

As a patient, I would want my doctor to be the consummate professional. I would want him to initiate an intelligent dialogue by asking questions that would bolster my confidence and show me that he knows what he’s doing. Prospects want to know that they’re dealing with a competent sales professional, right? (As opposed to someone who’s following a script.)

Rather than starting with one of the “standard” open-ended sales questions, QBS suggests that you use this opportunity to establish your own credibility by asking a series of short-answer, diagnostic questions. Sellers typically have a limited window in which to pique their prospect’s curiosity and establish credibility.

#64 When you demonstrate an ability to ask intelligent and relevant questions, prospects will automatically perceive a higher level of competence, credibility and value.

Sellers have been taught that closed-ended questions are detrimental to the sales process because they “close-down” the conversation. Narrowing the scope of your questions is an effective way to establish credibility early in your sales conversations.

#65 If a prospect who is curious also believes that you are credible, then uncovering needs and presenting solutions is easy.

As finance professional, Rather than jump ahead asking the traditional open-ended questions about a client’s “goal and objectives”, try opening the conversations with a series of diagnostic questions. Pique their curiosity and then say, “Can I ask you a questions?” When they respond ‘yes’, ask following

  1. Do you currently have a life insurance policy?
  2. Was it provided by your employer or did you purchase it separately?
  3. Is your existing insurance whole life or term?
  4. How long has your current policy been in force?
  5. How many people are in your immediate family?
  6. When was the last time you reviewed your insurance needs?

Car salesperson can establish their credibility by asking a series of diagnostic questions, just like anyone else. If this prospect is truly interested in buying a new car, the salesperson is proving through questions that he ( or she ) can be a valuable resource in the sale – which is very different from the impression people have when a car salesman first approaches with an outstretched hand and a Cheshire car smile.

Diagnostic questions are also useful for breaking the ice in your sales presentations. Knowing that people in the audience who don’t know better are going to be skeptical, I want to change their perceptions and I want to change it early in the presentation. So, Whether I am the keynote speaker at a national sales meeting or leading a QBS sales training program, I always open my presentation with diagnostic queries. In addition to establishing my own credibility, this technique also helps pique the audience’s curiosity so they’ll want to hear more.

#66 Starting with bigger picture allows you to probe more deeply into more specific areas.

Offering a choice makes your questions easier to answer, which is particularly important at the beginning of a sales conversation when you don’t yet have the prospect’s full attention or their trust. The diagnostic process is a divide-and-conquer strategy.

#67 For most prospects, its easier to make decisions on smaller components of a sale then to tackle the larger purchase in its entirety.

Early in sales process, our objective is building credibility, to communicate an increased sense of competence and expertise. You don’t have to be expert to ask expert questions.  Learn what questions to ask and how to ask them. Make it a point to compile a list of most frequently asked questions, and then take the time to memorize them. Perceived credibility isn’t just a function of what you know, it’s also a function of the questions you ask.

I recommend not starting with questions about the prospect’s budget, their time frame for making a decision, or anything else that might cause them to pull back. As prospective buyers become more willing to openly share, you must be ready to broaden the scope of your questions –  to find out more about their needs and their motivations for making a decision that will favor your product or service.

#68 By establishing credibility, salespeople earn the right to broaden the scope of their sales conversations.

Closed-ended questions are excellent tools for building credibility, but they aren’t particularly effective for building relationships.

#69 Closed-ended questions are great credibility building tools, but you can’t build a house if your only tool is a hammer.

To develop the opportunity, you’ll want to ask questions that uncover the prospect’s needs – needs that can be successfully addressed by your product or service offering. By asking intelligent questions, you let prospects know that you are a cut above everyone else who is also competing for their time and attention. This credibility will give you an opportunity to probe more deeply into their thoughts, feelings, and concerns, so you can uncover more needs and put yourself in a position to provide greater value.

Escalate the value of your questions

‘Focus’ is second of three attributes that characterize strategic questions in QBS. In addition to managing ‘scope’, escalating the ‘focus’ of your questions will uncover greater needs and increase the value of your sales conversations. In theory, that meant asking open-ended questions to build rapport.

#70 Small talk might be good for building rapport, but it isn’t nearly as valuable as BIG TALK – focusing on key business issues.

While it is important to ask probing questions, it’s even more important to ask the right questions at the right time. This is critical if you want to increase your probability of success and decrease your risk of failure. Most sales managers and sales trainers will quickly tell you that questions are the key to qualifying new prospect opportunities and identifying buyer motivations. Asking questions in a random fashion is unproductive.

#71 A fine line exists between asking productive questions and ‘pumping’ your prospects and customers for information.

Managing the scope of your questions is important because it establishes your credibility and gives you an opportunity to build relationships. Successful questioning is a strategic process – one that goes far beyond telling salespeople to go out and ask open-ended questions. There are four types of strategic questions – Status questions (lowest value), Issue questions, Implication questions or Solution questions( highest value).

One of your goals in conversations with prospects should be to ask questions that earn you the right to probe further. Once you have earned the right to probe further, you’ll want to escalate the focus of your questions to increase the value of your sales conversations.

#72 To increase the value of your sales conversations, you need to escalate the focus of your questions.

You can’t begin to solve a problem until you cover key issues. Similarly, It’s important to uncover the implications of an issue in order to justify the need for a solution. An more implications create a great urgency to find a solution. That’s why Implication questions are so valuable. Solution questions focus on prospect’s needs to benefits of your solution.

#73 Most purchase decisions are emotional, and prospects have to feel that they are making the right decision.

Status Questions and Issue Questions are analytical in nature. Value line separates the status and issue questions from Implication and solution questions. Decisions below value line are analytical and above are emotional. Hence, Status and Issue are Analytical and Implication and Decision are Emotional. Emotionally driven discussion is where you will find out what is actually motivating your prospects to move forward, or what might be holding them back. Jumping ahead in sales process only increases their risk and reduces their probability of success.

Once you begin to uncover the issues, you earn the right to ask about various implications of the issues you have uncovered. “ Mr. Prospect, If our product or service provides a solution for the issues we just discussed, would you be willing to take the next step? ”

After piquing the prospect’s curiosity, we ask a series of diagnostic questions to establish credibility. A status question like “When was the last time you reviewed your life insurance needs?” uncovers facts and information but because they are narrow in scope, they are very effective tools that can be used to establish credibility.

#74 Status questions are low in mutual value because prospects aren’t learning anything new. They already know the status.

Status questions are merely steppingstones to more in-depth conversations and too many status questions could bore prospects. Just ask enough to establish your credibility. Issue questions uncover potential issues that need viable solutions.

#75 Asking, “ To what extent is ________ important?”  is a technique the uncovers needs and encourages people to expand their responses.

Most prospects are motivated by a combination of gold medals and German shepherds, which gives salespeople who are willing to probe for both an opportunity to uncover twice as many needs.

#76 By probing for gold medals and German shepherds, you have an opportunity to uncover twice as many needs.

Prospects tend to be much more responsive when they find out that other people have similar needs or are already finding value in your solutions. The greater the need, the more likely your prospects will feel an urgency to find a solution and make a buying decision.

#77 Greater needs cause prospects to feel a greater sense of urgency for finding a solution and making a purchase.

People buy when an issue becomes detrimental enough or opportune enough to justify purchase. That is why its critical to uncover the implications of issues that get raised by asking Implication Questions. The Implications Questions are designed to get prospects to think about the implications of an issue, because it’s the implications that will ultimately justify the decision.

#78 The more implications you uncover, the easier it is for prospects to justify a favorable purchase decision.

“Mr. Prospect, if ( issue) becomes a problem, what effect will that have on different areas of your business?”

The relationship between Issue Questions and Implication Questions is different. Back and forth strategy is more effective. This means asking a series of Implication Questions to expand each one of the prospect’s issues as they get raised. Asking Implication questions to understand the prospect’s thoughts, feelings, and concerns about that particular issue. How each issue affects their business and how each issue affects their business and how they may be affected personally. The objective of this technique is to expand the issues that get raised, so prospects will feel a greater sense of urgency to find a solution and make a decision. “To what extent is (Issue 1) important?” What about (Issue 2)? To what extent is (Issue 2) important to your business?”

We want to ask questions that make people feel comfortable enough to openly share their thoughts, feelings and concerns, but we don’t want to ask so many questions that prospects feel pumped for information. That’s where Global Questions come in.

“What do you mean?” , “What happened next?” “And then what?” “How do you mean?”

Global questions are designed to expand the context of the existing conversation. Global questions are some of the most productive questions you will ever ask – especially if you are trying to encourage prospects to open up and talk about the emotional aspects of a problem or an upcoming purchase decision. Global questions are extremely practical – much more than having to concoct a sophisticated-sounding question every time you want to probe for additional information.

Even though this questions is “grammatically challenged”, it is one of the most effective ways to find out what people are thinking and feeling.

#79 Asking, “How do you mean?” will give you great insight into what other people are thinking and feeling.

“What do you mean?” causes some people to get defensive. The difference between “What” and “how” could mean the difference between a budding relationship and a lost opportunity. Solution questions help balance your sales conversations. On one hand, we want to increase the prospect’s sense of urgency, we don’t want prospects to feel so overwhelmed by the magnitude of a problem that they divert their attention elsewhere. Positive emotions like satisfaction and relief are just around the corner from their current levels of frustration, pain and concern.

Salesperson – Mr. Jenkins, if I could show you how to solve each of the issues we just discussed, would you be willing to take the next step?

#80 Solution Questions motivate prospects to move forward by focusing their attention on solving the problem.

Why would a qualified prospect willingly participate in an in-depth discussion about the issues and the implications of those issues, but then not want to hear more about your solutions?

We said that prospects who are curious will choose to engage, while prospects who are not curious won’t. Solution Questions that give prospects a glimpse of value of how they can improve their existing condition. “If we can show you how to solve your outstanding problems, would you like to know more about the solutions we offer?”

Seller – “Mr. Prospect, in your mind, what would the ideal solutions to this problem look like?”

Asking Solution Questions too early puts you at risk because you will end up moving forward before you have uncovered enough needs ( and implications ) to justify a favorable decision. In the strategic sale, this is a mistake because it’s impossible  to present valuable solutions without first developing the need.

#81 Prospects are motivated to respond when they recognize that by helping a salesperson, they’re actually helping themselves.

How to Solicit more Accurate Feedback

We understand how to solicit more open, honest and accurate feedback from your prospects, customers, friends, and coworkers – by neutralizing the disposition of your questions. Accurate information is also important because if a transaction is not going to happen, you want to know so you can refocus your efforts on something else that’s more productive. In QBS, we’ve adopted the premise that the only way sellers can effectively manage a sale is to recognize potential problems or issues as they arise.

#82 Prospects are reluctant to share bad news, and most salespeople aren’t particularly good at asking for it.

Instead of blaming prospects, we find that the quality of information you receive is more a function of the questions you ask. Most salespeople don’t want to hear bad news.

#83 The risk of failure and the possibility of hearing bad news makes the “hard” questions in sales very difficult to ask. “Our solution looks really good, doesn’t it?” is a hopeful question.

#84 Salespeople who bias their questions positively are hoping that prospects will tell them what they want to hear.

Positively dispositioned, people ask positively dispositioned questions when they are hoping for good news or when they are feeling some risk. When a prospect sense that you are hoping for good news, they are more likely to respond cautiously and diplomatically, rather than openly and honestly.

#85 Most people would rather sidestep a difficult issue or make a convenient excuse, that can be the bearer of bad news.

If problems or issues are brewing in one of your prospect accounts, do you want to know about it?

#86 If you want open, honest and accurate responses, then you need to make it OK for prospects to openly share.

How can salespeople make it OK for their prospects top openly share? By neutralizing the disposition of your questions and replacing hopefulness with accuracy. Neutralizing the disposition is simply offer the prospect a choice to respond positively or constructively. ”Are we still in good shape to complete this deal by the end of the month, or do you think something might cause it to be delayed?”

Neutral questions are not hopeful in their delivery, nor do they urge a more positive response. They are designed to solicit open, honest and accurate feedback by making people comfortable enough to share their thoughts, feelings and concerns. e.g. “Ms. Prospect, would it be possible to meet later this week …or would that put a burden on your schedule?”

By asking prospects for both good news and bad, you take the pressure off by inviting them to give you an accurate response. Neutralizing the disposition of your questions does guarantee more open, honest and accurate information.

#87 Having an accurate read on your sales opportunities gives you a strategic advantage over your competition.

Neutral questions are good because they give sellers a chance to discover any problems or issues that may be brewing within one of their prospect accounts. By definition, emotional rescue is a mismatch.

#88 Inserting the negative into your sales questions causes positive responses from prospects to become emphatically more positive. When you insert “the negative” into your questions, people will jump to your emotional rescue.

#89 By making it easy for prospects and customers to respond, the “hard” questions become much easier to ask.

Mismatching is an instinctive behavioral tendency, would you rather have prospects pushing back against the positive in your questions, or rescuing you from the negative? Humility is a very attractive human quality. e.g. of humbling disclaimers include

“I’m not sure how to ask this, but..” “ Without being too forward, can I ask about …” “At the risk of getting myself in trouble, would you mind if …” “I don’t want to ask the wrong thing, but …” “I don’t mean to push but can I ask you about the budget for this project?”

#90 Humbling disclaimers give other people an opportunity to “rescue” you before you even deliver the question.

Opening your sales call with an apology is not the message you want to be sending. If you want to be perceived as a competent professional, then it’s important to act like one, which does not include begging, groveling or doing anything else that will reduce your credibility or disparage yourself as being unimportant.

Make it a point to ask questions in a way that invites  the prospect to openly share. “If you were the salesperson  on this account, what would you be doing differently?” Doing so gives you an opportunity to make a conscious decision about how best to proceed either by addressing the outstanding issues or cutting your losses and reallocating your selling resources elsewhere. “It is just me, or something bothering your about this proposal?” Negative dispositioning allows salespeople to be very direct without being overly aggressive.

Predicting outcome of sale – Ask “ If you were a betting man, would you say this deal is getting ready, to close or would you say we’re at risk?”

Neutralizing the disposition of your questions also serves as a great tool for developing internal champions. Before the decision authority or someone else on decision committee puts them on the spot, you may want to ask some tough questions to see how they respond. e.g.

“What will you do if your boss says the price is too high?” “What is someone on the committee wants to delay the project?” “What if they ask about different maintenance options?”

#91 Negative dispositioning gives sellers n opportunity to see how well champions will handle the “tough” questions.

Asking negative questions helps a salesperson to know exactly where they stand in the sale and what else needs to occur to complete a transaction.


In addition to piquing interest , establishing credibility and uncovering needs, strategic questions are powerful tools that you can use to navigate the sale.

Navigating the QBS Sales Process

Selling is not an activity, it’s a process which includes demonstrating solution, handling objections, justifying the purchase and consummating a mutually beneficial solution.

#92 In QBS, “selling” is not an activity … it’s a process.

Rather than just trying to sell a product or service, they take the time to identify each of the component steps that will lead to a successful sale, and then they organize those steps into a proven success formula that’s both easy to understand and easy to implement. In strategic sales, the presentation of value is not the most important event, its just one of many steps that must occur for an opportunity to move closer to mutual business transaction.

#93 Most of your invested sales effort is spent generating interest and moving prospects forward toward closure.

A salesperson’s invested effort per prospect increases dramatically as an opportunity moves forward in the sales process. We must generate enough interest in Phase I (interest Generation) to move qualified prospects on to Phase II (the presentation). Once we are in Phase II, we must accumulate enough value to motivate them to move forward into Phase III (Closing steps).

#94 Sellers must accumulate enough value to get their prospects to want to move into the next phase of the sales process.

Your success in sales will likely be determined by your ability to pique the prospect’s interest, uncover needs and establish credibility – all of which occur in Phase I.

#95 Salespeople who are the most effective in Phase I typically have the largest pipelines and the greatest sales results.

In QBS, the position is that you can’t force prospective customers to buy a product or service they don’t really want. Your objective in Phase III is closing the sale that means securing the prospect’s commitment to chose your product or service.

#96 If you believe the old saying, the customer is always right, then you forfeit your opportunity to add value.

#97 Buyers need direction from sellers, or at the very least, clues that will show them how best to proceed.

#98 Top performers control the sale ( using questions ) while average performers let themselves be controlled by the sales process.

If you want to expand the discussion, ask a question that broadens the scope of the conversation, or solicits additional detail. Questions are strategic tools that enable you, the salesperson, to control your conversations and more effectively navigate the sales process.

#99 Questions allow sellers to offer ideas and raise aspects of a decision that prospects might not otherwise consider.

Well-crafted questions can help move opportunities forward in the sales process. Some salespeople, particularly those with limited experience, are timid about asking questions. Salespeople need to ask questions to establish credibility, gather information, and uncover needs.

#100 He who asks the questions has the power in sales conversations.

By asking questions, you can control the subject of your sales conversations. You can also control the pace and depth, depending on what questions you ask and how you ask them.

#101 When people ask questions, it’s important to know why they’re asking in order to know best to respond.

“What advantages does your product have over other solutions?” “ How familiar are you with other products?” Global questions allow you to say, “Tell me more.”

The next time one of your prospects or customers asks you a question, ask them back, “How do you mean?” Odds are, they’ll provide a lengthy narrative which will give you valuable insight about how best to position your response. Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. Every question you ask should add value in the conversation by uncovering additional information or clarifying something that’s already been said. The point is, if you are willing to ask for help or admit that you don’t already know everything, people are quick to offer assistance.

The flow of information from high concentrations to low is initiated by silence. If you want other people to respond productively, you have to be wiling to ask questions and then shut up.

#102 After a salesperson delivers a question, the flow of valuable information is initiated by silence.

The most effective salespeople in every industry are the ones who realize that one of their greatest assets is their ability to find out information they don’t already have.

Turn your cold calls into Lukewarm calls

You can leverage curiosity, credibility, momentum and a great sense of value to “warm up” your sales calls and significantly enhance your results. The average success rate when contacting new prospects is very low, typically between 2 and 5 percent.

#103 Show me a salesperson who says they like making cold calls, and I’ll show you someone who would really rather not.

Most prospects view a cold call as an unwelcome interruption rather than a valuable use of their time. Once I realized it was the “coldness” of my initial contacts that was causing the problem, I decided to change my approach to increase the “warmth” of my sales calls. QBS methodology to pique the prospects’ curiosity, establish your own credibility, uncover needs, build relationships and secure the prospect’s commitment to take the next step in the sales process.

#104 When calling new prospects, the rule of thumb is : the ‘warmer’ the call, the greater its probability of success.

First pique the prospects interest, uncover needs and let them know that you provide valuable solutions. The only way to consistently succeed in the initial sales call is to execute the call one step at a time.

#105 In the strategic sale, the larger goal of making the sale is achieved by accomplishing a series of smaller successes.

Does the prospect have a need? Do they have a sense of urgency? Do they have the authority to make a decision? Who else needs to be involved ?

Our objective in the introduction stage is very straightforward. We are simply trying to get one foot in the door in order to secure a few minutes of the prospect’s time and attention.

#106 Very few sales are consummated during the initial sales call, but this is where many sales opportunities are lost.

When you meet prospects in person, look them in the eye, extend your hand, and confidently state your first and last name. when making a cold call, say : ”I’m trying to get you to like me so I can sell you my product .” There will be lot of time for chitchat once you establish a credible relationship. Sellers cannot effectively present a solution until they first uncover a need.

Seller – “I was hoping to catch you for a minute to discuss ( insert legitimate reason for calling ), Did I happen to catch you at a bad time ?”

“Well, Mr. Prospect, we’ve figured out how to solve a series of very specific business problems that many customers in your industry currently face, and I wanted to see if it would make sense for us to be having a conversation.” While many initial sales call are “cold”, QBS lukewarm calling strategy is intended to lower the prospects’ defenses by creating a sense of familiarity ( an association ) that lets them know you have already made it past the gatekeepers.

#107 Prospects are more likely to engage and share information with a salesperson who is already “plugged-in”.

Create familiarity using Personal Endorsements, Associate References, Herd Momentum and Glimpses of Value.

“Fred is a good friend of mine, and he’s also a client. He speaks very highly of you and suggested that you would be a great person for me to get to know. Do you have a few minutes?”

I would rather have a valid reason for calling than give important prospects the impression that I’m just another cold-caller.

#108 Associative references won’t close the sale, but they can give you an opening to execute a strategy that will.

“Selling the sizzle, not the steak”.

“Give us your most difficult networking problem, and if we can’t solve it within a reasonable time frame, our time and effort will cost you nothing.” Putting yourself in a position that earns you the right to engage further and uncover the prospect’s needs in stage II.

#109 Whenever someone agrees that they are the right person, you automatically earn the right to probe further.

#110 By securing your prospect’s permission to proceed, you can expect more productive responses to your probing questions.

In fact, asking people if you can ask them a question not only earns you the right to proceed, its also a terrific way to eliminate some of the nervous tension that’s often present at the very beginning of a sales call.

“What are your goals and objectives?” “ Tell me a little about your business.”

#111 Prospects who don’t like cold calls will gladly open up once you differentiate yourself as a competent professional.

Narrowing the scope of your questions establishes your credibility so you can broaden the scope of your questions to uncover needs and build relationships. You’ll want to ask enough status questions to establish credibility in the call, and then escalate the focus of the conversation, asking Issue Questions and Implication Questions that will uncover key business issues and the implications of those issues. “To what extent is ……… important?”

#112 The most effective way to uncover prospect needs is to simply ask: To what extent is … important?

Global question offer a compliment to the prospect’s ego because you are letting them know that you are interested in their opinion, and you would like them to please continue.

#113 The meaning of everyday words depends on the context in which they are used and the biases of the people involved.

Therefore, To successfully transition the call into Stage III, its easiest to keep it simple, by asking, “Would it make sense for me to take a minute and bring you up to speed on our products?” You should be trying to secure a commitment where the prospect agrees to participate in the next step in the sales process, whether that’s a meeting, a presentation, a proposal, or a product demonstration.

#114 Providing too much information, too early in the process, makes it too easy for prospects to say, “No, Thanks”.

To be successful, you must be clear, concise and impactful. Brevity counts. Tom Peters makes this point in his book, The Pursuit of WoW, where he says that given the pace of today’s business environment, successful business people should be able to articulate their entire value proposition in twenty-five words or less.

#115 Salespeople can rant and rave about their products without sounding arrogant. They sound arrogant when they start ranting and raving about themselves.

The goal in Stage III is to put your best foot forward. Essentially, You want to match the value of your solutions to the needs you uncovered in Stage II. The fact that “everyone else” is already moving in a certain direction implies that something about your offering must be valuable.

Seller – “Mr. Prospect, I can do on and on telling you about the value of our product … but here’s the problem. There’s no good way to show you how the product actually works over the telephone. That’s why, with most customers, we set up a meeting, demo or presentation so you can understand how our product will address your specific issues. Would that be valuable?”

“That’s why, with most customers, we set up a meeting, demo or presentation, so you can understand how our product will address your specific issues.”

#116 The prospect’s acceptance of your offer to engage further marks the beginning of your sales effort, not the end.

Closing the call is your opportunity to secure the prospect’s commitment. It also your opportunity to set the prospect’s expectations so that the next step in the sales process is destined to succeed.

“Who else needs to be involved?” If you want to schedule an event on April, for example, let your prospect know that as of right now, you are available on April 9 or 10, or during the following week. This gives your champion an opportunity to target a range of dates, which will eliminate much of the back and forth hassle. Nonetheless, prospects still might say, “No, thanks.” In that case, I would look for a reason to re-engage at some point in the future, rather than persist until the prospect gets upset, and the longer-term opportunity goes down in flames. Actively track their loses because we often learn more from our families than we do from success.

Getting to the right person

#117 While some prospects micromanage every decision, others are more likely to solicit input from, or delegate responsibility to, someone else.

#118 Some of the most exciting sales opportunities begin with someone other than the very important top officer.

Ted targets someone high in the organization, knowing full well that his call is going to be intercepted by their voicemail system. Ted leaves a detailed voicemail message, followed by this request, “Can you, or someone on your staff, please call me back?”

#119 High-level contacts have the authority to make a decision, or the ability to bring together the people who can.

Another risk of calling too high is political fallout. If a high-level executive does like your offering and agrees to take the next step in the sales process, you may face a different challenge – the risk that lower-level people in the organization will resent you for circumventing their authority and going straight to the top.

Calling low in an organization also gives you an opportunity to develop internal champions. It will always be true that internal champions have more credibility than a salesperson who’s just trying to break into an account. Voicemail with senior manager saying, “Mr. Prospect, My name is Tony Simpkins and I’m with Unified Systems Inc. I just got off the phone with Frank in distribution…and I have a question. When you get a chance, could you please call me back?” But then you risk losing the support of a potential influencer, champion or coach.

#120 The greatest risk of calling low is being blocked by someone who doesn’t have the authority to make a decision.

But when you are selling high-end solutions to large corporations, it’s a different story. Very few large decisions are made by a single person. To go back to an earlier example, purchasing a hospital information system is a very strategic decision, one that affects doctors, nurses, patients, employees, hospital administrators and in some cases the entire community. And it’s also true that some people will claim to be the decision maker even though they are not. Most decision makers solicit input from other sources. In doing so, they are influenced by the opinions, biases and recommendations of people around them.

#121 Not everyone can pull the trigger and make a decision, but lots of people can pull the plug on your opportunity to sell.

#122 Key influencers are able to influence opinions and create a very powerful voice in the final decision.

It’s more likely that the person who sits quietly and listens carefully wields the biggest sword.  But as we said before, larger companies have to delegate decision-making authority because the top officer cannot be intimately involved in every purchase. One thing that separates top salespeople from the rest of the masses is their ability to develop internal champions. How do you build internal champions? The answer is , by making your victory in the sale their victory as well. Very few prospects have ever attended a sales-training course. Therefore, they will most likely need your help to sell your solutions internally. One other point, the more authority your champions have, the greater impact they will have on the outcome of a decision.

Some people can assist you in the sale, even if they are not in a position to champion your solution or coach you on how best to proceed. They may know something about your competition , or about the status of the budget. Informant relationships are based on trust. Some sellers attempt to turn anti-champions around by proving that their proposed solution is indeed better. If they are truly anti-champions, direct confrontation just fuels additional debate and disagreement. Better strategy is to neutralize the anti-champion’s negative influence by getting them to agree that both solutions are viable options. Then, once they do agree that my solutions is indeed viable, I work through my internal champions to position my proposal as the best alternative.

#123 The best way to neutralize an anti-champion is to get them to agree that both solutions are viable alternatives.

Until salespeople engage the prospect, it’s impossible to know who’s who in the decision-making process. Identifying the actual decision maker is only part of the puzzle, however. Anyone who doesn’t understand the value of your product or service will ultimately vote against it. That’s why its critical for salespeople to understand how decisions are made and who needs to be involved.

#124 Anyone in an account who doesn’t understand the value of your product or service will ultimately vote against it.

“Are you the right person to talk with about …?”” Who else needs to be involved?” “Who will ultimately sign off on the purchase?” “Is there anyone who might oppose this proposal?” “How do you feel about the proposal that’s on the table?” “ How would you handle this situation if you were in my shoes?”

#125 When making calls, your best coach in an account is the person on the other end of the telephone.

So, Rather than trying to guess who the “right people” are, I recommend that sellers target multiple contacts within their prospect accounts. Cross referencing is a questioning technique that’s designed to validate the accuracy of information you receive. Essentially, you pose the same questions to different contacts in the account and then compare their responses.

#126 When multiple people give the same response, the information you are getting is probably accurate.

Building value in the QBS Presentation

We focus more on strategic aspects of the presentation  – how to leverage curiosity, credibility and momentum to differentiate yourself and your solutions. We want to communicate enough value in our solutions to justify a favorable decision. The three how’s of QBS are : How to buy ( working with your prospects  to establish decision criteria that will lead them to right solution to your product or service , How to sell ( present how to position the value of your offering ) and How it works ( educating about all the features and benefits your solution provides ).

#127 The value you build in the sales presentation is what ultimately justifies a favorable purchase decision.

Initial sales call to the prospects to lead directly into a presentation of value as with some prospects, you may not get a second chance. One on one discussions can help tailor your value messages to the uniqueness of each specific buyer.

#128 When selling to individual buyers, the presentation phase of the sales process tends to be less formal and more relaxed.

By ensuring all involved in making decision to buy product or service get a chance to participate will be focus of this chapter. While you  may have established some good contacts in the account, other people who show up at your presentation may be seeing you for very first time – in which case, they’re likely to see you as just another salesperson who has near zero credibility. Essentially, You want to be ready so you avoid being blindsided in the presentation by something you are not prepared to address such as what various hot buttons are and what questions might be raised. We recommend that you don’t jump ahead in your sales presentation either.

The odds that your audience will be impressed are stacked against you, because only a small fraction of sales presentation every generate value for the attendees.

#129 Just like the initial sales call, sellers begin the presentation with near zero credibility.

Just because you’ve been invited to present doesn’t mean everyone in your audience is ready to listen. And if they aren’t yet ready to listen, then plowing forward with your presentation is not only a bad strategy, it’s a recipe for disaster. Given the hectic pace of today’s business environment, people are bound to have other things on their minds, and if they aren’t thinking about a previous meeting, they’re thinking about their next one. Therefore, breaking the ice or making the prospects focus on what I have to present and stop thinking about everything else should be a priority which involves 4 steps of Introduce the presenter and audience, deliver and interactive opener, what would you like me to accomplish in the presentation and managing audience expectations.

#130 Your champions in the account have a built-in incentive to make you (the presenter) look good.

In addition to introducing you as the presenter, ask your champion to introduce the audience as well. The problem is, it sometimes feels hokey or uncomfortable to ask people to introduce themselves. As people go around the room giving their “name, rank and serial number”, you can interject comments or ask specific questions about their areas of responsibility. This give you an opportunity to bond with people in the audience before the presentation begins. Listen very carefully as the politics of a decision will generally unfold during the pre-presentation banner.

Seller – “To prepare for this presentation, I’ve talked at length with Steve Johnson (VP of sales), and I have become somewhat familiar with your business model. But rather than assume that I already know everything, it might be better to ask, what would you like me to accomplish in this presentation today?” ( Then pause and listen carefully.)

Gain a significant advantage by inviting them to participate in setting the direction for the presentation. Prospects do want to know you are prepared, but they may not be ready to buy into what you think is important or your champion thinks is important. Start of by thanking the audience and let  them know that you understand their time is valuable and that you intend to make their participation a worthwhile experience. This helps to set the tone for your presentation and gives audience a taste of your personality and style.

#131 When prospects identify with you personally, they’re more likely to identify with your prestation and your solutions.

The gives audiences a sense of confidence and reassurance that other companies have tested, utilized and are already benefiting from the solutions you are about to present. Do the unthinkable. I ask, “What would you like me to accomplish in this presentation today ?” What they’d like to accomplish in the presentation is a huge deviation from the “standard” sales pitch. The only question is, do you want to know about any potential obstacles up front, or would you rather be surprised later in the presentation? Doing so demonstrates a great deal of confidence and expertise on your part, and it also lets prospects know that you plan to tailor your presentation to make good use  of their time.

#132 An interactive opener lets prospects know that you plan to tailor your presentation to make good use of their time.

Happiness is the difference between expectations and reality.

#133 Happiness (H) is the difference between expectations(E) and reality (R ). In QBS, we put this into a simple formula: H = R – E.

Seller – “ Because some people in the audience are more familiar with out product than others, we usually start off by overviewing the issues our product solves, and then talk more specifically about how the product works. Would that make sense for this group ?”

Seller- “ Would you rather have a canned sales pitch, or would it make sense to focus on your specific business issues?”

When audience tells that they would rather focus on specific business issues, I automatically earn the right to ask questions that will establish my credibility and uncover their needs. Sellers must establish credibility first in order to uncover needs and communicate the value of their product or service.

#134 The greater your credibility, the more value prospects will attach to the information, ideas and solutions you present.

Too many presenters attempt to “claim” credibility by telling audiences how great their company or product is. QBS does just the opposite. We establish credibility by asking questions. Its recommended to narrow the scope of your questions to demonstrate a higher level of competence and value. The diagnostic questions that are asked at the beginning of the presentation will confirm information that you already have. In some cases, you might find out that the information you collected earlier was incomplete or incorrect. Ask enough diagnostic questions ( 5 or 6 ) to establish your credibility and then move on.

If they do perceive a need, then you have an opportunity to deliver value. If they don’t recognize their own needs, however, they will find very little value in the solutions you present. By uncovering more needs, you will also give yourself the chance to present greater value.

#135 The greater the prospect’s need, the more value you will be able to deliver in the presentation.

Whose agenda should you follow – yours or the audience’s?

#136 Just because you know where you want to go in the presentation, doesn’t mean the rest of your audience will want to go there.

Our success in sales is hinged on getting audiences to buy into a list of issues and if they did not agree that these issues are important, it didn’t matter how robust our product was – they weren’t going to buy.

#137 Telling prospects why an issue is important often causes them to mismatch, telling you why it’s not.

Sellers often have difficulty securing the audience’s buy-in that the issues they plan to cover in the presentation are relevant to their business. In  QBS, we solve this problem by asking instead of telling. Meet key contacts in the account and ask them to share their thoughts, feelings and concerns.

Presenter – “To what extent is  — (Key Issue) — important? “ makes the audience come alive. By giving them an opportunity to participate in defining the problems that need to be addressed, your audience develops a sense of ownership with respect to your presentation.

#138 When presentation audience helps to define the problem, it’s easier to get them to buy into your solution.

“to what extent” also expands the discussion by allowing you to probe further and uncover the implications of these issues. It prevents your question from sounding too rhetorical. To get audiences to buy in, try making your agenda their agenda.

Presenter – “If something were to corrupt your data, to what extent would that be a problem?”

Audience – “That would be a huge problem!”

Presenter – “When you said corrupting your data would be  huge problem, what did you mean?“

This would help you complete a flipchart, and asking, “Is there anything else you would like me to add to this agenda?” With a mutual agenda, you get to present issues that are important to you, and audience gets to hear about issues that are important to them. This is much better than announcing, “This is what I plan to cover today”.

#139 The mutual agenda is your strategic roadmap for building value in the phase II sales presentation.

Get audiences excited about the solutions you present.

It’s time to knock the prospect’s socks off by showing how your solutions can address their specific business and personal needs. By compiling each of the issues you plan to cover onto a mutual agenda, you will expand the prospect’s needs and in doing so, increase their sense of urgency for finding a solution. If your mutual agenda is comprehensive enough to include something for everyone, don’t be surprised if your audience ends up arguing about the different reasons, they like your product or service. That’s OK!

How can you give presentations that audiences will remember ? By using stories, anecdotes and parables that support your value proposition. Your competitors in the account will have an opportunity to present their solutions to the same audience at some point in the process. Your value messages need to stay fresh in the prospect’s mind or your probability of success will be significantly reduced. It’s valuable to cite stories about prospects who suffered consequences because they elected not to purchase your solution. Some prospects are motivated by reward and some by aversion and hence value proposition should include both gold medals and German shepherds. Your warranty is the best in the industry ( gold medal ), which will prevent those nagging support problems they’re experiencing with current system (German Shepherd).

The truth is, it’s difficult to get the prospect’s attention, and it’s sometimes even harder to keep it. How can you hold the audience’s attention throughout your presentation? One way to ask confirmation Questions to maintain emotional connection. e.g. “Does that make sense?” “Are you with me?” Confirmation Questions not only solicit the audience’s feedback on key points, they also help recapture the audience’s time and attention for material you’re about to cover.

#140 If you take the time to say it, then take the time to explain it.

#141 How your sales presentation ends is important because the last impression typically leaves a lasting impression.

If the buyer is on emotional high after your presentation, you should ask for the order – they might just say, “Yes”. Decision makers, Influencers and executive sponsors all have to weigh the alternatives and come to a decision. With larger sales, the end of a presentation is typically not a good time to ask for the order or to ask questions like “So what do you think?” as this won’t tell you what audience really thought of your presentation or help you know what to do next. But if you want to move prospects forward in the sales process, you might try asking a question that will tell you where you stand in the opportunity.

“That’s pretty much what we had planned to cover today. The question now is, do you like it?” This is a refreshing change from “same old same old”. If the prospect responds favorably and acknowledges that they do “like” what they heard in your presentation, this allows you to easily transition the opportunity into the third phase of the QBS sales process. If prospects like the solution just presented, they will want more information about details of purchase – starting with how much it costs.

Phase III is moment of truth where sellers will find out if prospect wishes to continue the relationship. We suggest asking transition questions that will make transition from Phase II to Phase III automatic.

Salesperson – “Would you like me to prepare a detailed proposal that outlines the cost of our solutions?”

Why wouldn’t they want to know how much it costs? It is recommended to always ask questions because it helps transition your conversation without the usual awkwardness. Preparing a detailed proposal often creates the need for additional events. Besides securing additional events, the best time to cost-justify a purchase is right after the presentation when the value of your offering is fresh in the mind of your prospects. Price should be on table in Phase III because you want to know if price is going to be an obstacle in the sale.

#142 Rather than avoid a discussion about price, QBS recommends using price to transition the sale into Phase III.

Closing more sales …faster

With larger, more strategic sales, however, closing is significantly more complex. When multiple players are involved in a buying decision, it’s more difficult to secure the consensus needed to pull the trigger on a decision. To close sales, you must succeed in bringing all the decision makers together that favors your product or service. Many of us have experienced nervous butterflies that appear on day of big wedding. It’s understandable then that our prospects may be nervous about making a commitment to purchase our product. While most people love to buy, they don’t want to be sold. Closing shouldn’t be one-sided affair and decision to buy should be a win-win situation.

#143 Closing isn’t something you do to somebody; rather, it’s a mutual experience you have with them.

The key to closing sales is getting buyers to value your product so much that they will want to move forward with a purchase. Asking for the order is another one of those moments or truth in the sales process where the seller finds out whether their efforts will result in successful sale or missed opportunity. Hope is not a method when it comes to closing sales either.

#144 Giving away too much isn’t mutually beneficial. Sellers have to know when to add value … and when to stop.

Instead of identifying obstacles in the sale and then addressing the outstanding deficiencies, too many sellers try to close by asking questions like, “What else can I do?”

#145 Success in selling hinges on your ability to close and more on your ability to get prospects ready to be closed.

The following are pre-requisites to closing sales – A recognized need, a viable solution, value must justify the cost, sense of urgency and authority to buy. Prospects will only buy your product or service if they recognize a need for it. Solution is an opportunity to match the benefits of your product or service against the prospect’s specific need.  Value must justify the cost to purchase your product or service and perceived value of your solution must exceed its costs. Creating a sense of urgency requires an emotional commitment. Qualifying an opportunity is critical to your success which includes who will make actual buying decision.

When prospective buyers recognize the existence of a need and the viability of your solution, they have the authority to make a decision and urgency to move forward, and the value of your product or service is great enough to justify its cost, then closing sales is a breeze. Instead of beating potential buyers over the head in the hopes of closing a sale, we base out strategy on mutual benefit and the prevention of conflict. Does your buyer like the proposed solution? How does it compare to other solutions? When do they plan to make a decision? How much are they willing to pay? What are their outstanding concerns? Having a complete and accurate status of your prospect opportunities also reduces your risk.

#146 Soliciting feedback is important, but its even more important to solicit complete and accurate feedback.

Experience has taught them to play it close to the vest, so they are reluctant to share their thoughts, feeling or concerns. “ You will miss 10 percent of the shots you never take. “ The fear of receiving a negative response causes many salespeople to gravitate to the idea that, “If I don’t ask for the order, the prospect can’t say no”. Asking for the order isn’t the end of the closing process, it’s the beginning.  Being upfront reduces your risk because you can only overcome those problems and objections that you know about.

“Mr. Prospect, are you ready to make a decision?” or “ Is there anything that would prevent you from moving forward on this proposal?” Asking for someone’s opinion is a terrific way to solicit feedback.

Seller – “Ms. Prospect, what are your thoughts about …?” “ How do you feel about the current status of …” “Since you have a great deal of experience, how would you handle …?” “Mr. Prospect, can I ask you something  — off the record? How does your management really feel about the proposal we submitted?”

#147 It’s amazing how many people will suddenly open up when their comments are considered “off the record”.

“ The price in your proposal seems a little high.” We believe that in order to successfully handle objection, you must first understand the prospect’s expectations by saying “Really, how much did you expect to pay?”

“If our roles were reversed, what would you be doing differently?” Rather than directly asking prospects if they are ready to move forward, you would ask them to choose between two viable alternatives. If the prospect chooses either option, they are essentially telling you that they are ready to move forward.

Larger commitments comes with greater risk and is an emotional hurdle. One way to avoid this is by asking questions that cause prospects to focus on smaller components of the larger sale.” Have you thought about how you would furnish this house?” Impending event close to create a sense of urgency that gives the prospect a reason to move forward. “ If there was a problem, one that would negatively impact your decision, would you be willing to share it with me?”

“Mr. Prospect, can I ask your advice on something?” I’m supposed to have a conference call with my sales manager tomorrow. I was originally forecasting this opportunity to close in September, but I would rather be accurate than optimistic. Do you think September is still a reasonable target, or should I tell my boss something different?”

A sale represents a mutual exchange of value.

#148 Salespeople who expend effort and provide value should expect to get something in return.

“Ms. Prospect, if we do this or that … would you be willing to agree to move forward with a purchase?” After we do this or that … what happens next?” “Mr. Champion, if we do this or that … would you be willing to recommend our solution to the rest of the committee?”

#149  Just because your product or service adds value doesn’t mean every deal is worth chasing.

The next time one of your customers asks for something, rather than dig your heels in and say no, let them know the conditions that would make their request mutually beneficial. You want the sale to crescendo and then peak just as prospects are getting ready to make their decision. You want them to be in touch with their own needs and register value in the solutions that were presented. You want them to feel a sense of urgency. Hence, You want them to summarize needs and reiterate value.

#150 Effectively representing a product or service requires salespeople to represent its value prior to closing.

Salespeople sometimes fail to recognize is that just because something has already covered doesn’t mean prospects always remember the point. If The information that justifies your solution fades, then the pre-requisites for closing that were once satisfied may no longer be intact. How long does it take for someone in your audience to forget significant portion of what they’ve heard? Two or three days or perhaps only two or three hours?

#151 Half-life impacts sales results because it causes information that was once fully intact to fade over time.

One of keys to closing more sales is reiteration – helping prospects revisit both the problems you solve and the value you bring to the table. Needs are what originally motivates prospects to investigate potential solutions, and needs will ultimately motivate them to buy.

#152 As a prospects hot buttons get hotter; the corresponding value of your solutions will increase significantly.

In addition to revisiting the prospect’s needs, you should also reiterate the value of your product or service. When giving a quote reserve the bottom for second quote. How much it would cost if the prospect ignores current problems, and the existing problem persists or becomes irreversible. With little effort on your part, you can help prospects realize that not buying your product or service might be the most expensive option.

#153 For prospects who have pressing needs, not buying your product or service might be the most expensive option.

The larger the purchase, the greater the risk. Provide analytical support to justify the cost of the decision, and emotional resistance to make prospects feel more comfortable so that they make a favorable buying decision.

#154 Spending a few minutes to make customers feel special is more significant than spending hours to make them feel average.

What prospects really need is a friend with whom they can empathize with the challenges of the decision, rather than caring only about the status of the sale. “I understand this is difficult. How can I help?” Sincere empathy is very reassuring to a prospect who is about to make a decision. The Herd Theory is a powerful strategy for engaging new prospects in productive sales conversation. It’s also a good technique for making prospects feel comfortable at the end of the sales process. By giving potential buyers the sense that other customers have already blazed the trail of success, you increase your own credibility while reducing the prospect’s risk. In large corporate sales, you probably wont have the luxury of personally engaging every person who will influence the decision. That’s why its so important to develop internal champions.

#155 A champion who understand how to sell your product or service is worth their weight in commission checks.

“How do you compare our solution to other alternatives?”

#156 In today’s business culture, there is an overwhelming demand for proven sales talent, but there is an underwhelming infrastructure for teaching salespeople how to succeed.

Salespeople will receive impressive results when they implement the Conversational Layering Model, the Herd Theory, Lukewarm sales calls and Mutual Agenda.

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