On average, account executives selling software with a small or average annual contract value conduct two to three new meetings each day. Over the course of a year, that’s upwards of 600 appointments. We see most account executives make one crucial mistake as they approach these meetings.
But first, let me say that most modern salespeople recognize that buyers have more power than ever before. Fueled by the growth of the internet and freedom of information, customers are more informed than they’ve ever been. Sales teams have risen to the occasion as the increase in consultative and Challenger selling can attest. These trends reveal how much the modern seller needs to do right by their customers.
But the crucial mistake that we see comes down to this: Modern salespeople view themselves as doctors, not therapists.
When you walk into the doctor’s office, you have no idea what you need. Yes, you have a symptom or two, and maybe you went to WebMD to research your problems, but you’re walking in entirely uninformed. The doctor will ask a few questions, check you out, give a diagnosis with a solution, and you take the doctor’s word as truth.
Most modern sales professionals live in this mindset.
In reality, we’re more like therapists. Their job starts and ends with questions. Questions are the only tool they have. They ask, you answer. They read your body language and ask second-level questions. They interpret what you mean when you’re not clear, and ask a different way to gain clarity.
The best therapists get their patients thinking about things they didn’t consider before. They help connect dots in areas that once seemed scattered. They provide a solution by leading the patient to the answers, not necessarily prescribing them.
This is the philosophy that should guide the modern sales professional.
If you agree, I challenge you to think about your discovery process and the conversations you have. Are you a therapist or are you a doctor? Because like it or not, the buyer will prefer the former.
Ask yourself these questions:
Do you build rapport quickly? Does the prospect trust you?
When you listen to recordings of your calls, who’s doing the most talking? Like any good therapist, you should talk less. Try getting to 30% you, 70% your prospect.
Do you get responses like: “That’s a great question”; “I hadn’t thought about it that way”; and “How do your other clients solve the problem?”
Do you understand their business as well as the prospect does? And can you recite their hopes, dreams, and fears?
If you’re not a therapist yet, you can be. As you approach discovery calls, work on these skills one at a time until you’ve mastered them.
Never come into a call cold if you can help it. Use the tools your company provides to learn as much about the business and your specific prospect as possible. By preparing, you spend less time on basic surface-level questions and gain credibility quicker. Rapportive and Mattermark are two tools we use that can help you get started.
2) Asking good second-level questions.
Second-level questions allow you to peel the layers of your prospect’s problem, and both parties gain value. Often, they start with “why?”. Here are some examples:
Why is that a challenge?
If you don’t make a change now, what will happen?
Why does this align with the business’s strategic objectives?
Why haven’t you done X or Y in the past?
Learning about the prospect doesn’t stop after the first call. Try to go deeper with each step in the process, learning a bit at a time.
3) Taking a human approach to problem-solving in sales.
Consider how you act outside of work with family, friends, or a significant other. When they bring a problem to you, how quickly do you propose a solution? How do they usually react to that?
Work on asking better questions and delaying your diagnosis in everyday conversations. You aren’t trying to merely sell to your family and friends, you are trying to help them. This mentality should bleed over into your job.
In those roughly 600 meetings each year, use this repetition to your advantage. Build your therapist muscles and focus on how your questions are affecting your prospects. Not only will your prospects appreciate you more, but you’ll close more deals in the process.
Originally published Aug 10, 2016 12:00:00 PM, updated October 30 2019