New sales lead – Determining your prospect’s needs to gain trust

Jill, one of my sales rep clients called the other day and asked…

“I get calls from prospects once or twice a week saying they are “interested” in learning more about my services. The problem is that I tend to freeze up on these calls, because I don’t always know which direction to take.

I either start giving an overview of my services or I jump into asking the prospect questions about their interests, timeline and specs. Unfortunately, sometimes neither tactic works. The prospect either gets impatient with my questions or bored with what I have to say. How can I get a better handle on these conversations so that they lead to sales?

I told Jill that I had faced a similar dilemma a number of years ago when I was a novice sales professional. I was working for a company bogged down with too many potential sales leads and not enough time to handle the high volume of inbound calls assigned to me.

To solve this dilemma, I developed a one-single-question technique that would help me quickly cut through (in less than thirty seconds) the static. When a customer or prospect called with a general inquiry, I would ask them:

“So that I can be attentive to what’s important to you, what is prompting your call?”

I still, to this very day, advise my valued sales training clients this vital one-single-question technique for beginning a sales lead conversation.

Don’t overwhelm the sales lead – Bad “fishing” questions

Before I started asking this question, I was just like Jill. A sales lead or prospect would call and I would immediately start asking uncomfortable (annoying) questions like:

  1. What is your timeline?
  2. What are the specifications?
  3. What kind of company do you work for?
  4. What is your position?
  5. Who is your current vendor?
  6. What quantity are you buying?
  7. What is your budget?

I usually got about four questions in before I soon realized that the prospect was getting annoyed. Yikes!

Don’t get me wrong. These are important questions! But I asked them too soon. My mistake was that I overwhelmed the prospect. I was “fishing” with my questions — trying to…

  • Get as much information as I could.
  • Figure out if they were worth talking to.
  • Determine if I was wasting my time.

These “fishing” questions did nothing to motivate my prospects.

An open-ended question like “What is prompting your interest?” gets right to the heart of the issues. Asking this question will instantly let you know your prospect’s frustrations, goals, problems, and hopes for the future.

Alleviate business pain – Don’t start your “Sales Talk” too soon

Often, salespeople make a different mistake than I did, when faced with a prospect that wants to hear more. As soon as the prospect asks about their products or services, the salesperson launches into a five-minute “spiel” on what they offer. Now, you might be shaking your head and saying, “Paul, what are you talking about? The prospect said he wants to hear what we do.”

The truth of the matter is —The prospect does not really want to hear about your products and services. Not right now, anyway. At this point, you need to connect with the prospect to determine what type of business pain they are experiencing and how you can help alleviate that pain.

Become your customer’s trusted, strategic partner

By simply asking your customer or prospect,“What’s prompting your interest?” You will not only learn whether or not there is a real sales opportunity, you will also gain a vital window into your customer’s motivations, their frustrations — their pains. It allows you to quickly and easily understand where the customer is coming from and to isolate the issue that is causing them to reach out to you, their trusted salesperson — their strategic partner!

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Paul Cherry

For over two decades, sales expert and author PAUL CHERRY has helped B2B sales professionals close more deals in all major industries. As a recognized thought leader in customer engagement strategies, Paul Cherry has been featured in more than 250 publications, including Investor’s Business Daily, Selling Power, Inc., Sales & Marketing Management, The Kiplinger Letter, and Salesforce.

Performance Based Results

Paul Cherry is the president of Performance Based Results. PBR delivers intense, customized sales team training programs and sales management coaching to companies throughout North America. Paul has worked with more than 1,200 organizations, including 175 of the Fortune 500, plus more than a thousand entrepreneurial, small to mid-sized, cutting-edge businesses looking to dominate their niche markets. Clients typically get 7 times their return-on-investment (ROI) or better.

Questions That Sell

Paul Cherry’s top-rated bestseller, Questions That Sell: The Powerful Process for Discovering What Your Customer Really Wants (AMACOM) has been listed on BookAuthority’s “100 Best Sales Books of All Time” and has been published in four languages. He is also the author of Questions That Get Results (Wiley) and The Ultimate Sales Pro (HarperCollins Leadership).