Okay, seems some of your are still using your time with buyers or high level decision makers asking questions that are what I call Detail Oriented Questions. Stop It, Now! That is if you want to win more b2b sales opportunities. If you don’t care about your sales success then continue doing it.
So why am I on your case about this type of question? Well, two reasons come quickly to mind.
- You should not act like a regular sales person when meeting with a true high level decision maker. It is time there to have more of a discussion about success stories, current industry trends, or best practices to improve the enterprise.
- Detail oriented questions only help one person – YOU and not the person you are asking. In fact, you are creating a negative experience for yourself with a key person – because all the other sales people who call on this person ask the same useless questions that provide no thought or aha’s for the decision maker.
So what do you do to gather information about a prospect or customers. Here are a four suggestions…
- Ask Other People at Lower Levels
This should be a no-brainer. Ask others in the organization like other sales people to learn about a company. Ask the Executive Assistant these questions and listen actively to their answers. Use clarification questions to gain a full understanding of issues they reveal. If it has to do with supply chain ask shipping and receiving clerks about their process. If the warehouse manager would be a better source that the top decision maker.
- Do Your Own Research on the Web or other Sources
The web is full of information – including the customer or prospects website. It can possess many answers about the potential customer and it usually has a list of locations, manufacturing facilities and even warehouses for distribution. Also, I have found these sites to have a listing of the key leaders including photos and bios for your information. Their are many business related research sites you can join and get excellent information about the potential customer including subsidiaries, major competitors, and brand names carried – not to mention revenues and other financial data.
- Hire a Researcher to Find Information
If you don’t like to surf the web or your time is too valuable to do the research yourself, then hire someone to do the research for you. This is particularly handy when you only sale to major public companies as your time is better spent making the connections to get the highest level you can within the organization – relative to what you sell. Also, if you have a college with a business school you can find college students who actually enjoy doing the research and will find a huge amount of information – including industry trends and market trends to incorporate into your discussions with the top level executives. And, finally there are local consultants who specialize in research for their customers who will get you valuable information for use with your potential customer.
- If a Current Customer, Review Your Own Files
This is a goldmine assuming customer databases or files have been maintained over the years. These sources will give you insight and background into how the relationship began, who were the early players, how much change has taken place during the years, and what are the trends in what they have been purchasing. Dig into to this information as it is invaluable in my experience. Also, if you are inheriting an account from a former sales person then this is how you become familiar with all the past history – both good and bad as well as potential strengths and weaknesses of the relationship.
There you have a list of things you can do to find information to use and answer those pesky old details you need to know.
Now it is okay in my opinion to use verification questions to gain agreement with the top level decision maker. This type of question is used to show you have done your homework and you are curious if it is both correct and has anything changed recently. By asking this question, you can find out about plant closings or openings ( reduced business or increased business opportunities) as well as other strategy type happenings within the closed doors of the executive suite.
In conclusion, find the answers to detail information from other sources than the decision maker. Use verification questions to show you have done your homework and are different from the thundering herd of sales people who waste their time. And, remember if you make the mistake of asking detail oriented questions of a decision maker, you lower your probability of b2b sales success with this decision maker.