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How Getting Fired Saved My Sales Life [Guest Post by Matthew North]

Matthew North has genuine sales experience to share with us here. It's about the lazy attitude towards training displayed by many companies. That their focus is on making sales by whatever means—and if it grinds the salesperson's soul into dust, who cares...and the shift you can make so the process of selling can become much easier for you.

Let's join Matthew North as he describes the trainwreck of an experience that lead to his personal shift in selling...

~Jason

matthew north afraid of selling fired sales

This is a guest post by ex-sales pro turned writer Matthew North. You can follow him on Facebook for more posts like this and see if he'll write for you.

Let's talk about getting you in front of a trove of qualified people whose wallets are wide open, ready and waiting to buy from you.

I'm reporting from experience of being on the front lines. As a former sales guy, I became desperate to connect with people who actually wanted to speak with me. I grew tired of being the marauder of phone books and telephone directories. Sick of calling fax machines and the dominion of secretaries.

But things were good. So it never occurred to me why some people were easier to sell to than others. You just had your good days, then your bad days. And besides, the sales were easy. People kept buying, so I kept selling—which was fine until we ran out of leads.

I didn't suspect anything at first. Fewer people than usual called me back, and a couple of proposals fell through. No problem. I was going through a downswing, and soon I'd be on my way up again.

Things continued like this for a while. Each sale we lost would expand the pressure on the company to keep itself standing. Consultants of many different hats and titles were called in to doctor the cause. None of this mattered. The business had been kicked and dragged around towards bankruptcy.

But we had a plan: a list of old recycled leads. These people had shown interest at some point, and it was my job to close them. Just as I started calling, secretary commandos paraglided in to subvert me. "James? Is that who you want? Well, he doesn't work here anymore." "Brian is in meetings all week. Why don't you leave your number and he'll call you back if he's interested." "I don't really see why I should put you through unless can you tell me what this is all about." A whole calendar worth of presentations, gone. Management roared with criticism. They then gave me an opportunity (as they called it) to either meet target, or get out.

All this would culminate on a Wednesday morning. I was pulled by the neck to a small room; inside, my manager had waited. He closed the door, and handed me an envelope. I knew what was coming. He looked at me. I looked at him. We both stared. They then kicked me out, to a street that was laden with garbage. "Send him back where you found him," I heard them saying.

Over the next few months, everyone watched as our former employers went out the back door, and left behind a death knell of lawsuits and press releases addressed to anyone who'd read them.

Matthew North: Lessons Learned

It didn't matter how many dials I made, how polished my pitch was, or what kind of jokes I told: nothing had made a difference. Prospects had turned into brick walls.
A decade later, things are now clear: once the walk-in buyers were gone, it left only the "Not interested" punters behind. There was no real finesse to what we were doing, no process. We chased, and they ran, that was about it.

So if my company was wrong about selling, what's trick or sneaky shortcut to making huge bags of money?

Mature thinkers know that nothing worthwhile is easy or guaranteed. So there is no a magic close that will force someone to buy, or a pitch so persuasive it sells itself. To seek the easy answers is a misunderstanding of what sales is really about. We cannot force people to do anything.

Instead, give people what they want, listen, and see things from their point of view. Because it's the customer's situation that determines if they buy. We don't call the plumber if our taps aren't leaking; we don't want to shoot the breeze with the cable guy. We engage with companies because we want something, and it's the same for why people will buy from you.

Don't listen to the marketer's jingle of awareness to transaction (which is from the businesses' perspective.) What is going on in your prospect's world? There will always be some unsatisfied need or want if a sale is possible. And if you can't help someone get what they want, it doesn't matter about your prices, how good your product is, or anything else.

What all of this means is that you do not make sales; you find sales. The opportunity of a sale being made is either there or it isn't. And yes, everyone has a fishing story or two of turning somebody around—but how often does that happen? Selling is not alchemy.

When people buy from a salesperson, it's because they were thinking about buying already. The salesperson was just kind of 'there,' handing over what they wanted. In practice, this means there are two distinct, yet concurrent parts to any good sales conversation: qualification, and what happens after. When we talk of simply finding the buyers (qualification), it's the first and most important step of the sale - not the close, nor your glossy sales kits, but who you speak to that matters the most.

This was a guest post by ex-sales pro turned writer Matthew North. You can follow him on Facebook for more posts like this and see if he'll write for you. For a live interview with Matthew North on SalesTactics, click here.

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Qualify Not Close: Make Selling Easier On You

Qualify Not Close. You see a ton of emphasis on The Close in traditional sales training. Get that prospect in there, and BAM! Hit them over the head with The Close. Kill 'em like a squirrel in a deadfall trap.

Killer, huh?

You want to be a killer?

What if word starts getting around that you're a killer when it comes to sales? That this is the attitude you bring to the sales conversation?

Why You Should Qualify Not Close

It may work for appliances and cars—people stupidly buy vehicles, a long term, large financial investment, as if they're deciding what brand of orange juice they like—but in a real, senior B2B selling situation you're likely to get "niced out the door" by the prospects you're hoping to "kill."

Let me ask you this: What matters more...what you say, or what they say?

If you answered, "What I say," you're in error.

If they say it, it's true. If you say it, you have to defend it.

Even if it was exactly the same thing!

Closing without Qualifying is exhausting.

shouting qualify not close

It's mud wrestling that prospect to the ground and pinning them there...in the mud.

It's getting hit with objections, trying to come up with the memorized rebuttal, and overcome the issue.

It's presenting to those who are not necessarily a fit to even see your offer. And the fast-tiring struggle that comes with that.

So while you may have a book in your hands that promises to teach you The Secrets of Closing, what it's really teaching you is how to get tired out trying to force square pegs into round holes. Can you do it? Sometimes. But man, is it exhausting.

Qualify Not Close To Use Your Energy Well

I don't know about you, but I don't have the energy for that.

I don't have the energy to support the case for what I offer entirely on the force of my personality, or my confidence.

If they say it, it's true. If you say it, you have to defend it.

I'd much rather get the prospect to say it.

I'd much rather get the prospect to tell me exactly why they're a fit for this offer.

I'd much rather get the prospect to close themselves.

And the way to do that is by Qualifying heavily up front.

Before any kind of dog and pony show. Before any attempt at a Close.

Put your effort into Qualifying, and you'll have a much easier time Closing. You'll have a lot more energy left over, too.

Even another well-known sales trainer, who really pushes the Closing thing, says this: Fill your funnel to the point where it's overflowing.

OK, he didn't use such nice language, but that was the point. Fill your funnel so that you have so many leads—you can do what?

Pick and choose.

Select those who are most likely to say, "Yes!" to your offer.

Qualify.

Yep, that's qualifying.

Behind the big bang of The Close, which is what everyone thinks and says they want, is Qualifying...which is what they truly need.

Hmm...give them what they say they want...they said it, so it's true...but sneak in what they really need...I have to admit that's good selling.

>> Jason Kanigan is a sales trainer and business strategist. To book a consultation with Jason to discuss your Qualification issues, click here. <<

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Qualifying Questions Explained

Qualifying questions are powerful things.

They can let you blow past that beginning dance of "tell me what you want vs tell me what you've got" buyer and seller often do.

Qualifying is a step frequently ignored by newbies in favor of fancy closes or techniques to "bust past the gatekeeper." But professionals know qualification is the key to sales success.

Qualifying QuestionsWhat is our aim in asking qualifying questions? When do we apply them?

The old features and benefits school of selling says to present early and often, to anyone paying the remotest bit of attention.

Where does that plan lead us?

Presenting to a ton of unqualified prospects. People who have no need, no budget, nor the personality fit to work with us. Exhaustion. Frustration. Disappointment.

Even the newbie eventually comes around to the realization that a better system is needed...if only to safeguard themselves.

Then people often want a list of qualifying questions.

This too is an error. No list of questions will cover all situations. The questions will change depending on your prospect's situation.

Begin generally, then zero in.

Use a question like, "When you started this business, what were your hopes and goals?" This will get your prospect instantly involved. They'll probably even enter reverie, an emotional state, and have the realization that they are off course--and now they are open to change.

The Purpose of Qualifying Questions

The purpose of qualifying questions is to separate those prospects we should be talking to from those we shouldn't.

Qualification needs to happen at the beginning of the conversation, not later on.

We shouldn't be talking to a lot of people. Most people who we encounter.

Most don't have the need or want for our offer.

They don't have the budget--which we also know means a problem the size worth your time to fix.

And they don't have the personality fit for you to work with. They'll hurt you.

Begin with open-ended, top-level questions.

Then start developing your style. I also commonly talk about "putting on your Sherlock Holmes hat."

This is what I mean. You're qualifying, you're digging.

What is the situation this person is in? Sure, they came to you asking for a website. OK, you could do the dumb thing and throw a quote at them. Where's that going to get you? All you did was turn yourself into a commodity. Your price is up against the other bids they're getting but you didn't bother to find out about, and your price is also being used as a BARGAINING TOOL against other bidders.

What Qualifying Questions Look Like

Instead, put on that Sherlock Holmes hat and start poking around.

"I'm glad you came to me about this. ...Let me ask you a few questions about where you're at to find out if we're a fit."

Now's your chance to ask qualifying questions about their situation.

"Why do you want a website?"

"Why now? What changed?"

"How many designers have you approached?" (Yes, this question is completely legit...and most often goes unasked because of Scaredy Cat-ness; yet, why wouldn't you want to know what you're up against...it only takes a moment to ask...and follow up with

"Just...off the record, if you don't mind sharing with me...what kind of a range have you seen in prices so far?"

Imagine if you knew that.

One or more of your competitors does. Because they had the guts to be brave for a moment and ask. If there's pushback, "I want to make sure I'm not way out of the ballpark." You're doing them a favor.

Developing Your Skill With Qualifying Questions

This is a skill that is developed. People are not born being "natural salespeople."

The question is: Are you willing to COMMIT?

Experts commit YEARS (not just one or two years, but many and some decades) to the study and practice of selling.

We are still learning.

My Kindle library and bookshelves are full of sales books. We talk sales. There is no End to this stuff.

Do you think you're going to pick up a clipboard with questions on it and become an instant top seller?

It's going to take around three years before you start naturally applying this stuff. Six months to get the idea, three years to make it a part of you. From the heart, not needing a script. You have to LIVE it.

I remember a salesperson with about a year's experience asking me, "You say you don't want everyone's business, for everyone to become a customer, but you don't really mean it, right?"

That alone showed me where this person was at in their development.

Qualifying is mindset.

Those qualifying questions about the website project above were not fancy ways of pre-selling the customer.

They were to find out what was really going on.

Imagine some different answers:

Q: "Why do you want a website?"

A: "Well, it just seems like everyone has one nowadays..." (trails off)

I'm looking at this guy. He just lost my interest. There's no fuel here for the sale...I'm going to dig a little more, but...

Q: "Uh, so your reason for wanting a website now is...everyone else has one so you think you should too?"

A: "Well, yeah..."

Q: "So why now? What changed?"

A: (eagerly) "Oh, my boss told me to get some quotes."

Uh huh.

See, I just discovered a few things with these qualifying questions. One, he's not the decision maker. People love to pretend they're top dog. If you don't ask, don't get confirmation, they'll string you along and then--whoops--at the end, suddenly inform you they have to take it up the ladder.

To a different person or persons.

Who you don't know anything about.

Preferences, decision making styles, what they want to see, favorite or most hated colors, nothing.

And you think your quote is going to work. Ha ha.

Two, he's just getting quotes. I have to ask another question to find out if/when they'll be making a decision. Deliberate vagueness on his part will tell me they're just goofing around and not to spend time on it.

Qualifying Questions With Different Answers

Now let's imagine a different set of answers.

Q: "Why do you want a website?"

A: "We need to grow, to get more customers!"

Q: "So why now? What changed?"

A: "I just read this Hubspot case study on a swimming pool company--how they reached so many more people with a website and blog--and we're a swimming pool company! We've been doing it by phone and a store and service vans all these years; I freak out when I think of all the customers we've been missing out on!"

Ah ha. Now we've got something.

What have I learned? The guy is a relative newbie online, but excited about the possibilities. He's probably seen Hubspot's pricing (I'll confirm) which ain't cheap, and that has likely anchored him to a decent price level. If not, I can refer him back to Hubspot's pricing to do the job for me. He has a personal, emotional reason for making change. And he knows WHY he wants to make that change.

I will ask more qualifying questions and work on customizing that presentation of the solution so he sees my solution as the ONLY one that's a true fit for him. This is worth my time to pursue.

Qualifying is not about making people buy. It's about discovering who is worth spending more time and energy on.

>> Jason Kanigan is a worldwide sales trainer and copywriter. To learn more about effective qualifying questions, get the Sales On Fire program. The advanced training module has an entire section devoted to prospect qualification. <<