GUIDES: Demonstrates presence to make the Customer feel respected

GUIDES: Demonstrates presence to make the Customer feel respected

“What’s going wrong with your Customer calls, Sanjay?” asked Manjit

“Nothing I can think of Sir” said Sanjay “Except that after going virtual post Covid, Customers seem keen to close the calls early. I can sense a general level of impatience”

Manjit, headed Service Quality for Koryfi Investment Solutions and routinely coached the Relationship Managers in improving their call effectiveness

“But Sanjay, your Customer call ratings have been dropping even before we went totally virtual” said Manjit “Anyway, let’s look at what’s happening now”

“Information gathering has become difficult Sir” said Sanjay “Our entire effort is to help guide the Customer towards what could be the best suited investment option. It used to be easy when we were making calls in person. I would sip the nth cup of tea and let the conversation develop slowly, gently taking it in the direction we want it to go. But now on a virtual call, I ask the Customer a series of questions. Most of the time, the Customer gets impatient after the first few questions and wants to either hang up or postpone the conversation. May be something to do with the digital medium”

“That may not be the real reason Sanjay” said Manjit “I watched replays of your recent call recordings. What seems to be happening is, I think, you’re getting so obsessed with collecting information, that you are questioning relentlessly. Like you are a trial lawyer examining a witness. If you want to guide the Customer your questions mustn’t sound like questioning”

“I don’t get it Sir” said Sanjay “I’m as friendly as I have always been. Please tell me what I can do to improve”

“It’s like this” said Manjit “3 things are pretty critical. One, Clarity which includes your voice quality, speed at which you talk and how easy you are to understand. You are fine there. Two is your Response Quality, things like how well you grasp the Customer situation, whether your explanations are lucid and how confident you are. I think you are quite ok on that score too. Third and most important one is your info gathering style. Or what I call the art of questioning. When you’re on a digital medium, things get a little impersonal. So, unless you take extra care, your questioning may come across as intrusive and insensitive to Customer’s feelings”

“What should I do differently Sir?” asked Sanjay

“Just watch the replay of your last call Sanjay” said Manjit “At 13.04 minutes, the Customer wants to know if he can add futures to his portfolio. You responded after a few seconds delay with a question – “What investment goal do you wish to achieve through investments in futures?” You can sense Customer frustration at that point. The Customer ended the call, saying ‘I will call back when both of us can talk leisurely’ .

Manjit continued – “If you want your questions to create a participative conversation that makes the Customer feel respected and guides him to a best fit solution, you need to do just 3 simple things. First, continuously let him know you are present. Second offer non verbal cues and confirmation. Third even in a virtual context provide some physical confirmation of how you are taking every word of the Customer in all seriousness so that the Customer feels inclined to respond to your questions”

“Thank you so much Sir” said Sanjay “I will pin these pointers to my workstation. Next week please tell me how much I’ve improved”

“You will do well Sanjay, this just needs mindful practice. You can, if you try” said Manjit “We will stay in touch”

One thing that Resilient Sales Professionals Excel At.

Sales maestros excel at creating great sales conversations. They make creative use of the two building blocks of all productive conversations – Listening and asking questions. Listen first and ask questions is a fundamental they learn early and perfect over time. They are outstanding in the fine art of using questions to propel conversations forward towards mutually valuable results.

But Asking questions ≠‘Questioning’

Learn to listen like a homicide detective, young salespeople are told. But that shouldn’t be extended to questioning in sales. Questions in a sales conversations cannot be intrusive or pressure laden. In sales, questioning is seen as a constructive conversation tool that gently guides the Customers towards understanding their own needs with greater clarity and reach a buying decision.

Maintaining presence involves using the following three tools - verbal, non-verbal and physical confirmations, that help guide the conversation along towards the larger purpose. These tools when used with well placed open questions, can create excellent rapport. Thereafter your sales questions will no longer sound like ‘questioning’

Possible solution for the story situation – Sanjay can hone his sales conversation skills and demonstrate a presence that makes the Customer feel respected using the 3 Tools of Mindful Sales Questioning (See Anchor Practice below)

Anchor Practice: 3 Tools of Mindful Sales Questioning, that guide sales conversations

Here are 3 tools that go into building holistic sales questioning skills

1. Verbal confirmation – This manifests as questions that lets the Customer know that you are continuously aware of and empathetic towards his ideas, views and feelings. Making room for meaningful pauses, active listening, use of prompters such as "Yes, yes", "Interesting" "Please go on" and picking up Customer's key words and reframing them as questions are great ways to nurture a conversation and encourage a Customer to open up. While not every one of these are direct questions, they serve the larger conversational purpose of exchanging information

Tip for Virtual: Slow the conversation down deliberately by asking sharp, short questions – need to do even more in virtual – as the customer may appear to be in a ‘deliberate hurry‘ on the virtual medium. This underlines presence

2. Non verbal confirmation – Maintaining a positive body language, retaining eye contact and smiling encourage conversational flow and create a conducive contact climate for asking questions to move the sale process forward

Tip for Virtual: Establish eye contact by smiling and looking into the lens of your webcam instead of looking at the other person on your computer screen. Ensure your head is on level with the webcam so that your full face is visible

3. Physical confirmation – Making notes signals to the listener that she or he is being taken seriously and disposes her/him to respond readily to questions

Tip for Virtual: Visualize everything as in the physical world. Take brief notes if needed. Don’t do any other work on your computer . Use phone text to confer with colleagues if needed. Avoid overdoing it as it can be caught on the screen. Good preparation will minimize the need for this.

Pause to reflect:  "In sales, questioning is seen as a constructive conversation tool that gently guides the Customers towards understanding their own needs with greater clarity and reach a buying decision".

Action Question:  What are 3 ways in which you can use the Tools of mindful Sales Questioning to guide the Customer conversation in your next Customer call?

Related Readings: Mercuri Insight Document on Understanding Customer Needs … The power of Questions

Takeaway Quote:  “Selling is nothing more than asking questions and waiting for an answer” – Jack White

About the series:   This is the 80th in a series of 100 Posts that seek to build your Sales Resilience ... as an individual salesperson, as a sales team, and as a sales organization. Because a Resilient India needs Resilient Sales.


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What if your well-meaning sales questions get perceived as 'questioning'? The impersonality of digital adds to the challenge. So what's your answer?

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78. STEERS: Leverages questions to navigate win-win sales conversations

What is the well-kept secret of great sales conversations? And how does it work?

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