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Karl Schaphorst & Associates, LLC | Serving both Omaha, NE & Des Moines, IA

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A patient visits the psychiatrist because he is having trouble sleeping at night. Each session, the trained psychiatrist asks a series of questions that slowly uncover the reason for the insomnia. After a half-dozen meetings, the real issue surfaces from the depths of the subconscious and a plan is put it place to address the issue and the patient is enjoying restful nights again. Now, if the patient knew upfront what the real issue was that caused the sleepless nights, then there would be no need for the psychiatrist. But the issue that the patient brought to the psychiatrist in the beginning was not the real issue and it took a trained professional to find it. It is no different in the profession of selling. Often times, the professional salesperson must act like a psychiatrist if he/she is to reach a level of high performance.
Just as a doctor uses a scalpel to cut away healthy tissue in order to get at the disease, so does the sales professional use questions to knife through surface issues to uncover what is really important to the prospect. Below are two example dialogs. The first shows what typically happens when questions are not used effectively:
Sales: “Tell me about the service you have received.”
Prospect: “Well, it’s okay, but it has been annoyingly slow and the timing has been off.”
Sales: “Service is our strength and we have dozens of examples of how we have exceeded the expectations of our customers. Some of the initiatives implemented were . . .”

In the example above, the issue brought forth above by the prospect is service. Immediately the salesperson, who can proficiently address the service issue, begins to sell how service can be improved. However, is service really the prospect’s issue?

In the second example, we will see what happens when questions are used effectively:

Sales: “Tell me about the service you have received.”
Prospect: “Well, it’s okay, but it has been annoyingly slow and the timing has been off.”
Sales: “Tell me more about what you mean when you say “annoyingly slow.”
Prospect: “I mean that we couldn’t get our system back up fast enough.”
Sales: “What did you do?”
Prospect: “We tried to fix it.
Sales: “And were you able to?”
Prospect: “No. In fact we damaged it even more in our attempt.”
Sales: “So how much has this cost you?”
Prospect: “The repairs, the cost to fix it are nothing. It cost me one of our biggest orders for the quarter since we were unable to deliver and it has put me on notice with our investors.
Sales: “Wow. This is a big deal. Suppose I could provide a solution that would prevent this issue from happening again, what would that mean to you.”
Prospect: “If you could do that for me, you would have my business!”

The issue that the prospect offered up to the sales professional at the beginning was slow and untimely service. But that was not the real issue. In the second example, after patient and professional questioning, the real issue of lost business and dissatisfied owners surfaced and now the sales professional can present a solution that addresses what really is important to the prospect. So, which salesperson get the order? Always remember, the issues your prospects bring to you are never the real issues.

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