For sales success, buyer does most of the talking

Vel S. Casler
Standard-Examiner contributor

The Professional Sales Program at Weber State makes a sharp distinction between just sales and professional sales. We teach that to be a professional and achieve long-term success you must always maintain a high ethical standard and take good care of the customer.

In addition, we teach a much researched and proven advanced sales technique, that when followed, sets our graduates apart from the competition, giving them a much higher probability of obtaining success. In many cases, at the end of this proven sales process, instead of having to worry about overcoming objections, the customer’s biggest concern becomes how quickly they can get the product.

Our graduates go forth as true professionals who are fully trained to sell. It does not matter whether the product is an industrial pump, insurance or corporate jets. All they need to learn is the specifics of the particular product or service and they will be almost immediately effective in selling it. We teach our students that good selling depends more on good planning than almost any other single factor.

A number of years ago IBM and Xerox sponsored the largest research study ever undertaken to analyze sales success. This massive research study was conducted by Huthwaite Inc. which, by the time the study was concluded, had painstakingly analyzed over 35,000 sales calls. The purpose of the study was to determine if there were any special skills that make someone successful in large sales. They discovered that there are indeed special skills that lead to success.

After all of the data was analyzed, the special skills became crystal clear. The research team discovered that the successful calls had nothing to do with how handsome or beautiful the salesperson was or how smooth a talker they were or any of the other mythical characteristics that were perceived to make up a successful salesperson. They were quite surprised to discover that the secret to successful sales calls was that the buyer did most of the talking. The way they got the buyer to talk was, of course, by asking questions — not just any questions but specific meaningful questions that in most cases, were predetermined before they ever met with the prospect. These were not random questions but questions asked in a well thought out, carefully planned sequence.

By contrast, they discovered that in the unsuccessful calls, the salesperson spent most, if not all of their time, telling the prospect about their product’s features, advantages, and benefits rather than asking questions to uncover the prospect’s real needs. They learned a valuable axiom: Telling is Not Selling.

A significant discovery made in the research study was that the kinds of questions to ask and the sequence in which to ask them is critical and teachable. Once IBM and Xerox implemented this training to their sales force, they were rewarded with some dramatic results. In the first 1,000 people they trained, using these techniques, there was an average 17 percent increase in sales volume compared to an untrained control group. All of the Weber State Professional Sales graduates are fully trained in these techniques, taking advantage of the amazing findings of the largest sales success research ever conducted.

Casler is a professor of professional sales at Weber State University.

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