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Deliver value to Sales People through good questions

Posted by Philip Kreindler on 07-Mar-2016 09:00:00

Good_Sales_Questions.pngNormally I put a few questions at the end of my weekly articles so you can ask yourself if there are ways of working that will improve your sales performance. But this whole piece is about how you should use questions to help deliver value to Sales People in Opportunity Reviews.

Delivering value in Opportunity Reviews

I don’t often use the term Opportunity Review because in the past they were all too often perceived by Sales People as interrogation, not as a positive experience. They should be a way to deliver value to the Sales Person who owns the opportunity. We call these positive and useful reviews Opportunity Pit Stops. But it’s not the name that matters; it’s how effectively they help Sales People close or advance a deal.

There are several important elements to a good Opportunity Pit Stop. You should invite the right people. The Opportunity Roadmap should be prepared well, with stampers against uncertain information rather than wishful thinking. You should set a reasonable time for the review and manage that time effectively. And you should make sure the Opportunity Owner knows they should use the review to get help and support from everyone attending – and make sure they know it is not a control mechanism.

But the real key to a good review is asking the right questions.

Here is what you should be asking

These are the questions used very successfully by one of my clients, a large software development company. As always, you should develop questions that suit your business and your Sales Process but I hope these will give you a good idea of the sort of questions you should be asking in a positive Opportunity Review.

1) Does the customer see our solution as a way to help achieve a corporate goal?

There is no point in persuading the evaluation team that your solution is the best if the C-suite is never going to sign it off because it does not contribute to achieving a corporate goal. You might need to help your contacts connect the dots and sell internally.

2) What advantages and disadvantages do we have compared with the competition?

If you don’t know the competition and their strengths and weaknesses you won’t know how to beat them.

3) How have we demonstrated our ability to deliver the solution?

It’s always better to show than tell. For instance, the software development company mentioned above, brainstorms all the risks associated with a particular project then presents the risk assessment to the customer. This is far more convincing than just talking about their Project Management and delivery skills.

4) What factors could delay the customer’s decision?

A project that gets delayed is often a project that will never happen. You need to make sure the project is real. A proper RFP is a clear indication of real intent, but not a guarantee the project will go ahead.

5) Are there other projects competing for the same budget?

This is closely linked to the question above.

6) Which of our documents is the customer using to sell internally?

The more the better! A customised Deal One Pager is the ideal internal selling document.

7) Who else do we need to build relationships with?

The better you understand the Buying Centre and the stronger your links with everyone in it the better your chances of winning.

8) Are there key stakeholders with strong links to the competition?

This is vital intelligence. Too strong a link with the competition might lead you to make a NO GO decision.

9) Is our solution part of a bigger project?

It’s vital to see the bigger picture; there may be significant opportunities – or threats – if there is a bigger project. And you have to discover who else is involved internally.

10) Who outside the Buying Centre could benefit from our solution?

The incumbent ERP vendor at one of our clients recently discovered that Finance was not included in the Buying Centre for a CRM pitch. By expanding the Buying Centre to include Finance, they were able to change the decision criteria in their favour.

11) Are you assessing the influence of your supporters and opponents correctly?

This comes back to the problem of death by falling in love that I have mentioned before. Don’t depend too much on a supporter and make sure you are trying to influence your detractors.

12) What has your Coach done for you?

Is your Coach really acting in your best interests? Have you asked him or her to validate your analysis of the Buying Centre?

13) Who is coaching the competition?

This is another vital bit of intelligence; your Coach should be able to help you to find this out. Knowing who is coaching who should help sharpen your competitive strategy.

14) Which influential people are against us and why?

This is a question that really needs no explanation.

15) What are the 5 most compelling reasons to choose us?

For this particular opportunity, it is important to narrow them down to a few that are directly related to the customer’s business goals and decision criteria.

16) What actions are required to win the deal?

This is really a way to summarise the answers to the questions above and draw up an action plan that will help the opportunity owner to progress the opportunity effectively through the Sales Process.

Of course some of these questions may not be as important to your business as to my clients, but I think most of them will be relevant to most businesses. You should fine-tune them to your own business and to each customer and each opportunity.

Ask yourself

  • Do Opportunity Reviews in your business focus on supporting the Sales Person to advance the sale and win?

  • Do you have a checklist of good questions?

  • How could you make your Opportunity Reviews better and more positive?

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