Sales and marketing strategies and plans are really just the 'how- to have a conversation that develops a trusted contact'. At least they should be. For most companies, the question that their sales and marketing strategy is missing is: What do we need to learn about who we think we bring the most value to? Why is their issue important to them, and how can we help?
For marketers, we are so super smart that we can use all sorts of analytics to make all sorts of assumptions to answer these questions. But if we were really smart, we would think more like sales people and start asking the right questions.
Why don't (sales) people ask more questions?
This question was asked on a LinkedIn group of over 87,000 sales and marketing executives. With over 100 comments, I was about to stop following the conversational debate when it started to cycle and repeat itself. Then I read Arjun's Curious Juice post "Secret to Sales Success" this morning, and I had to share his post to the group with this comment, 'This is the emotional reason why.'
Most sales people know they should ask questions, but they don't because many don't know what questions to ask. They don't know what questions to ask because they don't understand why they are asking them (if it's not to sell something as soon as possible).
This can lead to sales people asking questions with no goal in mind, no direction for the conversation except to demo their solution. They do it because they are told- 'you should ask a lot of questions to qualify the target customer.'
Are we on a shooting range, or are we trying to connect to people in a real way?
My point is this, why are you asking questions is more important than the fact that you are asking one. As Arjun said, you have to ask better questions. But how?
You might be like I was and your first thought is; "oh right! That's why I hate sales people, they are always trying to manipulate the conversation and get me to do or buy something." (Unfortunately there are more bad sales people than there are good ones.) The really great sales people ask questions to understand their prospect/customer better and thereby understand their want or need best. Then you know if you can really help them. Then you are a trusted advisor who understands them and acts in their best interest. Then you can develop customer evangelists that social media case studies are made of, but no one can seem to really understand.
If there is one thing sales people hear a lot, it's that basic sales rule of 'two ears, one mouth, use in proportion." They hear it a lot, but I wonder how many really understand?
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply." ~Steven Covey
Most sales people don't ask questions to understand more about who they are talking to. It's too bad, because this is the real key to being able to be a trusted contact.
What if your sales AND marketing people (or just you) could listen with the intent to understand the needs, wants and mindsets of your customers or clients and then ask the right questions that establishes them as trusted contacts? (hint: I gave you the answer to this one already- sometimes I can not help myself.)
What would that do to your sales and marketing ROI? How would that change your start-up or product development? You get what you focus on. If you want more customers, then focus on understanding them.
And yes, there is one hitch, as Gary Vaynderchuk said at his keynote at Inbound2012- those who care the most about the customer, wins. I am so thankful someone else said it. Why? We all know that the internet has changed the way people buy.
Your buyer's BS detectors are now finely tuned personalized search engines with social media alarm bells that they carry with them everywhere. (SEO, Social, Mobile).