Asked and Answered – practically an instinct. Someone asks us a question, so we answer it.

In sales, this could be hurting you.

Now – what the heck am I talking about. Let me illustrate

I have a MacBook Air – that super thin laptop from Apple. People see me use it when I give presentations, or when I work from a coffee shop. Sometimes, they ask me about it, and more often than not, the question sounds like this:

“So – is that a good computer?”

It is a logical question, borne from natural curiosity. However, if you are a salesperson, and the same question comes up about your product or service, you can’t just answer it. Why not?

Structurally, it is a yes / no question. However, if you answer yes or no at the wrong time – even with elaboration, you leave out a whole lot.

Before we get into that, let me address a concern you might be having – customers don’t usually ask questions like “is your product good”. That’s true, but they ask questions that have the same effect, like:

  • Can you tell me about your product?
  • How can your product help our organization?
  • What makes your product better for us than our other choices?

If you answer questions like these when they are first asked, – before your needs analysis –  you assume that you know what the customer needs. So what should you do instead?

Simply put, the answer to ALL of these questions is the same:

“It depends”

You will use different words, but that is the gist of it.

  • How can you know what a prospect wants to know about your product until you know what they want to use it for?
  • How can you know how your product can help their organization until you better understand their organization?
  • How can you know how your solution compare to other competing solutions – for them – until you understand how they will use it?

Until you understand their needs, you can’t talk about how your product will help (benefits), you can only talk about what your product is (features) – which is much less compelling.

I love my MacBook Air. It is thin and light which is great for me since I use public transportation and fly a lot, so it doesn’t take up much room and is easier to carry.

I really like Apple because I work alone, and I have a better chance of solving my computer issues on a Mac than I would on a PC.

But the MacBook Air is expensive; may not be OK in a PC driven enterprise; may not have the right software for all people; and compared to other Macs – it has less “horsepower” for the money.

So it is good for me and my needs. I can’t know if it is good for the guy in the coffee shop until I know more about his needs. Truth be told, at the coffee shop I just say yes and get back to work (or whatever it is I am doing) – but in sales, you must understand the customers needs before you answer, so that your answer can be more compelling than a generic features list.


Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!