The purpose of LAUNCH is to create a relationship, an emotional connection with the customer that adds value, so the customer won’t feel like she’s being “sold.”You want to partner with the customer. You want to add a capability with your product or service that she doesn’t have. You want her to look to you and your company for advice and guidance. LAUNCH creates a stress-free conversational environment for you and,more importantly,the customer.
So why are you here at the customer’s place of business? I’m sure you think you know why you’re there, but the customer may not know why you’re there.So everyone will know for sure why you’re there, you need to start asking a lot of questions. This is the iterative phase of LAUNCH: Listen-Ask and then Listen-Ask again and again and again. You want every single pertinent question answered thoroughly, but keep in mind that the “right” answers to the wrong questions destroy the entire meeting. Ask the right questions and you’ll add value to the conversation; you’ll gain identity as a partner, instead of being viewed as a vendor.
Those who consider themselves sales closers will tell you to ask, ask, ask and keep asking for the order. There’s an entire school of thought that sees closing as the sales process itself. If you’re only concerned about closing the sale, though, you’ll inhibit yourself from selling the customer additional products/services that just might be in her interest; why cut yourself off the pass?
The more depth and detail, the longer the meeting will last, because you’ve grabbed her interest so thoroughly with your questions that she’s no longer looking at the clock—congratulations, you created a Meeting Extender. Meeting Extenders are fabulous for a number of reasons: more time to talk with the customer and engage her more fully in the sales process, which gets you closer to the sale.
So now let’s examine what questions to ask; you want to control the sales process while allowing the customer to feel she’s in control. Your questions should start with,“How do you feel about . . .?” Or, “How have you dealt with . . . in the past?” Or,“If you had—(fill in the blank)—how would that improve what you offer?”
You must discover what the customer’s overall objective is, so now you want to ask,“If we work together, how will that get you closer to your objective? Please be as specific as you possibly can about what you’re trying to achieve.”
You must add value for the customer. “If you enhanced your offering by . . . how would that help you compete with . . .?”
There will always be objections or issues with what’s being offered. Don’t attempt to skirt them;face them head on, in fact, don’t wait for the customer to bring them up—preempt her, do it first.“I understand . . . may be an issue for you, please explain how you feel about it and why. If I were to . . . would that solve the issue for you?” You must get her to prioritize her issues. You may not be able to address them all, but dealing with whatever issues you can, will help build the roadmap to the sale.
If the customer says no, for heaven’s sake, don’t get defensive—she’ll sense that like a dog sensing fear. Getting defensive is the fastest way to get thrown out on your behind. If you’re listening properly,the empathetic response is to say the following: “I completely understand why you feel that way; however, if you would take a moment to look at it this way—(fill in the blank)—would that change your perspective?” Or, “I can’t disagree with your assessment at this point; however, if you would allow me to further explain . . . I believe you may see it from a different perspective.”
Always acknowledge what she said by repeating it in the form of another question;“I believe what I heard you say was . . .is that correct?”You want to confirm you understood what she said!
Keep in mind that doubt is not an objection; it just means the customer needs more information. She’s just expressed doubt about your solution; now you want to say “It seems as though there’s a misunderstanding about—(fill in the blank); but what if we approach it from this perspective . . . (fill in the blank)?” If you clarify the doubt, it’ll be gone.
Another important area to discover, one that salespeople too often don’t bother to go after, is funding for the purchase and the timeline involved. You must be specific and direct!You must know how much money has been allocated and if additional funds have been set aside for future spending.
To research private companies, and the decision makers you must reach,use Hoovers, Dunn &Bradstreet, and maybe Thomas Register. Data.com (formerly Jigsaw), now owned by Salesforce.com, is also an option. In addition, you at least should be a premium subscriber to LinkedIn; it’s a valuable resource. Spoke is also available, but I don’t recommend it.
Public company information is easy to find in a host of different ways, such as your broker’s site, or any other site that provides financial information.
It’s best to use a permission disclaimer to ask difficult questions:“If you would allow me, may I ask, “I understand you have just lost . . . how does that affect your ability to . . .?”
Ask for forgiveness for those things you don’t understand:“Please forgive me, but I must have missed something, why do you (don’t you) . . .?”
There are no foolish questions, so don’t be the ridiculous fool by not asking.
Keep asking questions until you get everything you need. However, it’s important the questions are asked somewhat differently each time, so as not to short-circuit the customer’s mind.
If it’s appropriate, ask for a company tour. This is vitally important if it’s a manufacturing company, or such as a pharmaceutical company that repackages its products. It’s always great to see what they do first hand—without a doubt you’ll get the chance to ask a lot more questions.
If you’re aware that you’re up against competitors,don’t be afraid to ask for sensitive inside information. You may be surprised, they just might give it to you. Even if they don’t, there was no harm in asking. You displayed a sharp perspective.Try this: “It’ll really help me, help you, if you can tell me whom we’re competing against. What’s your initial impression of where we stand juxtaposition to them?” Make sure you bring up price, delivery, and quality regarding the competitor’s offering, in as much detail as you possibly can, especially re how the competitor performed previously, for obvious reasons.
If you have a colleague with you and it’s a team sale, here’s a little used tactic: after the meeting has progressed, turn to your colleague and rephrase some of the questions you asked the customer; this will suddenly place you in the customer’s camp, enabling you to be seen in a positive light by the customer.