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Qualifying - The Critical Selling Skill

Selling is not a favourite task for many entrepreneurs and small buSiness owners. We
picture sales people as greedy, unethical, unscrupulous individuals who are determined to
close a sale at any cost. Yet we cannot survive without generating sales so selling skills
are a critical competency we need to acquire.
Selling is an honourable profession and everyone who operates a business should learn
some fundamentals. From my perspective as a small business owner, sales trainer and
consumer, the most important selling skill to learn is how to effectively qualify your
The most common mistake sales people make is to immediately launch into a product
presentation or pitch! when they first meet their prospect. They e"tol the virtues of what
they sell and tell the prospective buyer how good, fast, reliable, ine"pensive or easy to
use their product is. They talk, talk and talk hoping they#ll convince the buyer that their
product is of value.
The problem with this approach is that the pitch! seldom addresses the issues or
concerns of the buyer. $ecause their needs have not been addressed, there is no
compelling reason for them to consider using your machines or to change vendors. %f you
really want to give prospects a reason to buy from you, you need to give them a reason.
&ne of the most effective ways to do this is to ask a few well thought'out questions to
uncover what is important to the prospect. (ere are a few e"amples)
% notice you currently use *Y+ ,ending. (ow long have they been your supplier-!
What do you like most about them-!
%f you could change one aspect about your current arrangement, what would it be-!
What are the most important issues for you-!
What have your e"periences been with .$/ ,ending-!
(ow many0do you sell in an average week1month-!
Who is your primary customer-!
Where have you had the most success with your machine2s3-!
4otice that each of these is an open'ended question which means it begins with who!,
what!, where!, why!, when! or how.! These types of questions encourage the
prospect to open up and share information of what their needs and wants are. .n
important note here is to be cautious you don#t inadvertently turn these open questions in
to closed ones by saying something like5
What are the most important issues for you- Timeliness of service- %ncome-!
This is a very common mistake that now gives the prospect an answer. % don#t know
about you, but selling is hard enough without making it even more difficult. 4ever
assume you know how they are going to answer. .sk your question and wait patiently for
the answer. 6ven if you have been in the industry for ten years or longer and think you#ve
heard it all, don#t make the mistake of assuming you know what the prospect#s needs are.
7et them tell you, rather than you telling them.
&ne of the most important lessons %#ve learned about selling is that people will tell you
.4YT(%48 you want to know. .ll you have to do is ask. 9ost people love to talk about
themselves and want to share information about their current situation, their challenges or
problems, likes and dislikes. $ut, in most cases, they need prompting. This prompting
comes from you in the form of asking the right questions in the proper tone and manner.
%t ama:es me how few sales people actually take the time to learn about their customer
before they launch into their presentation. %n fact, not long ago % was interviewing several
companies for a training initiative % working on. The first two salespeople % met rambled
on at great length about how good their companies were, how long they had been in
business, how they could help me, and so on.
4ot once during these discussions did the sales people ask me what % was looking for.
4ot once during these monologues did they address any of the issues that were floating
through my mind. Finally, after thirty minutes, % called the interviews to a close. From my
perspective, they had ;ust wasted half an hour of my time and, like most people in today#s
business climate, my time is valuable and % simply don#t have enough of it.
%f you really want to begin differentiating yourself from your competitors take the time to
learn about your prospect#s situation. $y doing so, you#ll begin to give them a reason to
do business with you instead of someone else.
List of Basic Skills that Every Successful
Sales Person Should Have
So what skills are needed to be a successful salesperson- %n my e"perience, % am
convinced that techniques and methods of sales are teachable to anyone who has the
desire to learn. (owever, there are a few natural skills that are of great benefit if they
already e"ist within those that want to be successful in sales. Without these, success will
take a longer time but it can still be achieved. %f there is no desire and dedication to
learning or developing these skills, then the selling will be much more difficult and often
very stressful.
Effective Communicator
/ommunication covers a lot of territory. % am not talking about superb orator skills here,
but the ability to speak clearly and in a manner that is easy to understand. Sales is all
about talking to people and getting them to understand what you are trying to
Ability to Listen
.long with speaking, a great salesperson knows when to stop talking and listen. They
never cut someone off while they are talking, because in doing so they would fail to hear
a key element in identifying what that person<s needs might be.
Asks Great Questions
Salespeople are naturally inquisitive and know that in order to isolate what the real need
or desire is in the buyer, they need to ask questions that will lead them to the answer.
They naturally ask questions because they have a desire to help solve their problem.
Problem Solver
.nother natural skill is the desire and ability to solve problems. 8reat salespeople are
always solving problems. The ability to hone in on what the buyer<s problem is and
offering suggestions that will effectively solve the problem with respect to what products
or services you sell, generally results with a sale.
Well Organized
% am not necessarily speaking of your personal surroundings, but more with your thoughts
and methods of planning. Sales people have a keen ability to break things down into
smaller steps and organi:e a plan of action. They know how to analy:e what their goal is
and in what order the steps need to be in in order to reach that goal.
SelfStarter and Self!inis"er
. successful sales person moves forward on their own. They never need anyone to tell
them when it is time to go to work because they know that if they do not work they will
not earn. They are also very persistent to finish what they start. They achieve their goals,
even if they are small ones.
Positive Self #mage
(aving the attitude that they can do ;ust about anything that they put their mind to is
usually very common among sales people. They do not cower from meeting or talking to
people or trying something new. They rarely allow negatives that are either spoken to
them or about them to effect what they are trying to accomplish because they know who
they are and what they are capable of doing.
Well $annered and Courteous
The best sales people are very well mannered. You may not reali:e it, but good manners
is a way of showing respect for others. =eople are attracted to those that respect them and
mutual respect is fundamental in building lasting relationships with people..including
%aturally Persuasive
.nother very common inherent skill with great salespeople is that they are very
persuasive or know how to get what they want. They focus on what they want and they
are persistent to keep chipping away until they get what they want. They almost never
give up or give in.
Person of #ntegrity
. salesperson without integrity will have many struggles which will often include
hopping from ;ob to ;ob. (onesty in sales is so important and it is almost impossible for
this skill to be taught. You or the person you are looking to hire is either a person of
integrity or are not. $e as analytical as possible on the evaluation of this skill.
The Power of One
One $ore Sale Can $ean a Lot $ore $oney
&ne is a very tiny number. (owever, it can have a tremendous impact on your revenues.
(ere are some ideas to consider that can seriously increase your sales)
9ake one more cold call every day. &ne e"tra call a day equals >?@ calls in a
year. (ow many meetings could you set up with this number of calls and how
many of those meetings could you turn into sales- /onsider your current
conversion ratio and think of the impact on your business.
Suggest one additional item to every customer. This is particularly important if
you sell lower priced items or work in a retail environment. Too many sales
people are focused only on getting the initial sale. (owever, almost everyone has
additional items, products, or services that could be beneficial to their customers.
%nvest one day per month developing your skills. 9any of the most successful
people in business invest in themselves. They attend workshops, conferences, and
participate in webinars and tele'seminars on a regular basis. /onsidering that the
ma;ority of people do not invest in developing their skills, you can quickly out'
pace your coworkers and competition.
Aead one book every month. 6"panding your knowledge will help you become
more successful. Aead books related to your industry or that will provide insight
to helping you improve your skill in a specific area.
.sk one more question during each sales call. $efore you starting pitching! your
product or service, ask your prospect one more question. This question might give
you the additional insight you need to more effectively position your product or
=ause for one moment longer than usual before responding to a prospect#s
question or request. Bnown as the pregnant pause, this often prompts the other
person to blurt out something they had not intended to say. The secret behind this
strategy is that most people are uncomfortable with silence and will begin talking
to fill the dead! air space.
8et to the office one hour early. Aemember the e"pression The early bird gets
the worm!. That one e"tra hour first thing in the morning can be the most
productive time of the day. You have a better chance to reach decision'makers,
there are fewer distractions, and you can often achieve more in that ?@ minutes
than in several hours.
.ddress ob;ections one more time before giving up. Too many sales people give
up too soon when faced with ob;ections. %#m not suggesting that you beat your
customer into submission in order to close the sale. (owever, % do recommend
that you tackle each ob;ection one more time before you give up.
Send one more email to the prospect who has been sitting on the fence.
Sometimes, people need that little push and encouragement to move forward. $ut,
in many cases, their time is occupied by other pro;ects and priorities which means
they are not focused on your solution. 8entle reminders are often appreciated
providing you don#t follow up so frequently you appear to be stalking them. 6ven
though they may not be ready to make that particular buying decision, you will
help keep your name in their mind.
.sk for an endorsement or testimonial one more time. 6ndorsements and
testimonials are greatly underutili:ed by most people in business today. Cuite
often we ask a client for a testimonial but because they have other priorities, they
forget. /all them or send an email and politely request the testimonial again.
Suggest one more idea to help a customer improve their business. Schedule a
breakfast meeting or lunch with your customers but instead of trying to sell them
something, focus on learning more about their particular challenges. &ffer
solutions that do not include your products or services and your customers will
begin to see you more as a partner than a supplier.
Send one more thank you card or note. ,ery few sales people make the effort to
thank their customers. You can stand out from the crowd by sending handwritten
notes to thank customers for their most recent order, meeting with you, or sending
an on'time payment. You can also send a note when you see their company
mentioned favorably in the news.
.lthough it is a tiny number, one can make a very powerful impact both on your top line
sales and bottom line profits. &ne e"tra sale every day, week or month, depending on
your business, can make a significant impact on your sales by the end of the year.
The ne"t time you think about giving up on a high'potential prospect, consider the fact
that you might be ;ust one phone call, email, or letter away from making the sale.
How to sk for !eferrals and "et #ore
Asking for &eferrals #s %ot as 'ard As (ou )"ink
What you may not have reali:ed is that you can e"ponentially increase the number of
referrals you get, dramatically increasing your client base, by doing one simple thing '
asking for referrals.
You see, for whatever reason, many small business people don<t bother with referrals.
9aybe they ;ust assume their clients will pass along good words about them. 9aybe they
find asking for referrals uncomfortable. They hope to get referrals, of course, but they
don<t overtly do anything about it. So when a ;ob is done, they ;ust walk away, leaving
half their dinner on the plate.
&n the other side of the table, the client has his or her own concerns D and none of them
have anything to do with helping to grow your business and get you more clients. $ut
assuming that you<ve done good work and the client is satisfied with your performance,
it<s not that they don<t want to help you out5 it<s that it never enters their minds...
unless you ask them.
So do you want to get more clients- Then set aside your sqeamishness and force yourself
to get in the habit of asking for a referral from every satisfied customer.
How to Get Over Your Fear of Asking for Referrals
Aemember that most people like to help other people 2if there is no negative cost
to them3.
Aemind yourself that the worst that can happen is that the client says, E4oE. That<s
not too terrible, is it-
9ake asking for a referral part of your pro;ect routine. With most pro;ects, there<s
a last meeting with the client, a perfect time to ask for a referral.
Ask for a Referral Scripts
Aemember, you<re not making an &scar acceptance speech here. When you ask for a
referral, be sincere and direct. Say something such as,
E%<m really glad that you<re pleased with my work. %<d really appreciate it if you<d pass my
name along to anyone else you know who would be interested in FFFFFFFFFFFFF 2what
you do3. 9ay % leave these e"tra business cards with you-E
7eaving e"tra business cards with a person makes it easier for them to pass your name
and contact information to someone else.
.nother variation on this script is to be even more direct and ask for names when you<re
asking for referrals. For instance, you might say)
E%<m really glad that you<re pleased with my work. %<m always looking for referrals and
wonder if you know anyone else who might be interested in FFFFFFF 2what you do3.E
=ause here and see what they say. Some people will offer some names. Some will say,
EYes, maybe,E and not offer any further information. Some will say, E4oE, but at least you
%f they do offer names, take them down and ask the person if they mind if you contact the
people directly or if they would prefer to pass your information along to them yourself. %f
they don<t offer names, ;ust as in the previous ask for a referral script, ask if you can leave
some additional business cards with them that they can pass them along.
Tips for Asking for Referrals
Aeferrals should always be asked for face'to'face. %t<s not only more respectful of
your clients but more successful. =eople will always be more likely to do
something for someone else if the person is standing right in front of them. 2%t is
acceptable to ask for referrals by email or phone if you work under conditions
where face'to'face are not usual or very difficult. For instance, a website designer
may create a website for a client on the other side of the country.3
%f at all possible, never ask for a referral when presenting a bill.
The time that you<re asking for referrals is also an e"cellent time to ask a client for
a testimonial, a short written endorsement of your company and1or your work that
you can use on your website if you have one and in your other marketing
materials such as brochures. 2Gon<t e"pect anyone to write a testimonial for you
on the spot5 either leave them a printed card or form that they can use or ask them
to email it to you.3
The More You Ask The More You'll Get
Gon<t let your own shyness or fear get in the way of building your business. Aeferrals will
get you more clients. .nd the more referrals you ask for, the more referrals you<ll get '
;ust because the customer knows that you want some. %t<s a small effort for a great
$% Qualities of Successful Sales Peo&le
For my coaching and advising program, % recently developed this list of qualities that
sales people should develop to the best of their ability. (ere they are D please let me
know if you have any to addH
Successful Sales Person 's
I. =rompt
>. (ard working
J. 6thical
K. .lways listening
L. .sking the right questions
?. Sincere
M. /reative
N. Full of empathy
O. =ositive
I@. &rgani:ed
II. .ttentive to detail
I>. Thoroughly prepared
IJ. 8ood humored
IK. Focused
IL. Aesourceful
I?. %nformed about his products
IM. %nformed about his industry
IN. %nformed about his competitors
IO. Thick skinned, resilient
>@. .ggressive
>I. Fle"ible
>>. Cuick thinking
>J. Tough minded
>K. Skilled in writing
>L. Skilled in marketing
>?. Skilled in math
>M. Skilled in reading
>N. Well rounded
>O. 6motionally balanced
J@. Self confident
JI. =assionate about her work
J>. Willing to take risks
JJ. /ompetitive
JK. =atient
JL. =ractical
J?. =ersistent
JM. . strategist
JN. . tactician
JO. /urious
K@. 8enerous
The "olden !ule of Sales !elationshi&s
%n a recent post % suggested relationships are more important than technique in achieving
e"cellence in sales.
Then % started wondering, what e"actly makes a business relationship strong and long
lasting- Sure, we all know healthy business relationships are built on trust and respect,
but what do those words really mean- (ow do trust and respect play out in a business
setting- 7et#s delve into it and see what we can learn.
'n this series of ( of &osts, %#ll try to identify the things that make for a solid and long
lasting business relationship.
&ne thing that distinguishes business relationships from personal relationships is the
mutual e"pectation that both parties are primarily concerned with furthering their own
That being the case, my golden rule! for sales relationships is '
4ever further your interests at the expense of the other party#s.
. couple e"amples of what % mean 0
%t#s &B for a seller to try to upsell a client to a more e"pensive, higher quality product.
%t#s not &B for a seller to try to sell a product he knows won#t work, in order to win a
sales contest.
%t#s &B for a buyer to check prices before placing an order. %t#s not &B for a buyer to
hold a seller responsible for a problem when the buyer knows the seller is not at fault.
The lines aren#t always clear cut. $ut, when a buyer and seller are up front about their
motives and goals, the lines are a lot easier to see. % suppose that brings us to the ne"t
element of strong business relationships 0
!ules of Business !elationshi&s) Part * +
Touch of the Personal
%n business, e"tremes are dangerous. We should all keep that in mind when nurturing
business relationships.
. frosty, all'business attitude ultimately leaves your business partners cold. When a better
deal comes along, partners will be quick to leave you in the cold.
$usiness is no place for soap opera, either. 8et too familiar with your business partners,
and you risk the worst of consequences.
8reat relationship builders take the middle road between the technician and the drama
queen. They get to know people personally, but don#t make friendship the linchpin of
their relationship. Why- $ecause they don#t want to get themselves in a position where
personal considerations influence them to make decisions contrary to their business
This is why purchasing departments rotate buying assignments. %t#s why sales managers
should never become best buds with the newest sales trainee.
Bnowing where to draw the line on familiarity takes ;udgment, a clear understanding of
your priorities, and a measure of e"perience dealing with people.
9ost sales people and buyers learn their lessons the hard way. They don#t know how to
respond when a customer crosses the line. They don#t even know when they#ve crossed
the line.
You can#t learn how to balance friendship and business from a te"tbook. 6very situation
is different. There are many angles to consider, and many ways to go wrong. That#s why
among my areas of concentration in sales coaching, this area is the most important and
most conducive to a coaching approach.
!ules of Business !elationshi&s) Part , +
(ow do you view the business of sales- There are three schools of thought.
&ne says sales is a game, a negotiation, a battle of wits, competitive, adversarial,
calculating, and even cutthroat.
.nother says sales is a partnership, a collaboration, a ;ourney, respectful, and mutually
. third isn#t really sure, content to bounce around between the other two depending on
mood and circumstance.
The gamesmanship mentality is built on withholding information D hence the e"pression,
poker face!.
The collaborative mentality is built on sharing information D hence the e"pression, two
heads are better than one!.
$ecause gamesmanship withholds information, it fosters attitudes of suspicion and
inevitably leaves one party to a transaction feeling like a loser. $ecause a collaborative
mentality shares information, it fosters attitudes of trust and makes both parties to a
transaction feel like winners.
Which mentality do you think is more conducive to building strong, long lasting business
- co..on .istakes /y 0o/-seekers
G6S=%T6 a barrage of online applications from ;ob'seekers through ;ob portals, recruiters
are often left with very few Pworthwhile# applications. 9ost candidates commit seven
cardinal sins and lose out on a good opportunity.
Sin I) .pplication is incomplete
%nstead of keeping recruiters guessing, as is the case often, do your bit and provide all
relevant details. Time'crunched recruiters who are swamped by hundreds of rQsumQs
every day, usually end up spending time on applications that are complete, and which do
not need them to ferret out information.
When creating a profile, register yourself by filling in your details on the ;ob board, then
upload your rQsumQ, and finally, write a cover letter. &n the ;ob board and in the rQsumQ,
it is best to give all the information sought ' from educational qualifications and
particulars about current and previous organisation1s to relevant personal details. The
biggest blunder one can commit is to send the application without contact phone
numbers. We have no way of getting in touch with and are compelled to re;ect the
candidate even if they make the cut,! says =arama $iswas, (A 8eneralist, $&/ %ndia.
While filling in particulars, candidates often omit details regarding salary or location
assuming that those can be discussed at a later stage ' during a telephone or face'to'face
interview. This can leave matters to chance and your fate will depend on how the
recruiter takes it. While many are willing to oversee it and arrange an interview, some
recruiting agencies find this annoying as salary is one of the chief deciding factors.
(ence, even if the application is not re;ected immediately, it may not be the first
preference. .s /indrella ,incent, (A 6"ecutive, =ra"is %nteractive Technologies 7td.,
points out, .ll recruiters have a budget for each position and not knowing whether an
application makes the mark salary'wise, makes it all the more difficult. %f someone is
already drawing more than the allocated salary, then we will obviously not get in touch
with him or her, thereby saving the candidate#s and our time.!
Sin >) 4ot following instructions
For instance, if a recruiter specifies that phone calls are not welcome, it is best to adhere
to it. %t not only ensures that the rQsumQ reaches the right person at the right time with the
right information, but also underlines your willingness to take instructions.
Sin J) 8etting generic
Rob portals give you the option of applying in the quickest manner to all ;obs by clicking
;ust once on .pply! 2may be known by a different name across portals3. This practice,
however, is best avoided. %nstead, use the preview option and edit it to suit the position on
offer. %t is very important to customise the ;ob application. 9any ;ob searchers often
send group e'mails and generic rQsumQs to recruiters. This is the worst mistake one can
make, and cuts a very shabby picture and shows the applicant#s desperation and
lackadaisical attitude. (e or she will, in all probability, never be the first preference,!
shares Sebastian Aodrigue:, 9anager Aesourcing, Gatamatics 8lobal Services 7imited.
. checklist
S Follow all instructions
S Fill in all the required information
S Go a spelling and grammar check
S 8ive contact details
S .dd a covering letter with he sub;ect line mentioning the profile
S .ttach your rQsumQ
Features of a good rQsumQ
S Go not ;ust narrate your duties and responsibilities in the previous organisation1s,
highlight your achievements
S 6mphasise fitment and value addition to the profile advertised
S =ay attention to detail and format it in such a manner that you draw attention to what is
relevant for that particular profile
S 8ive all the required information without running into countless pages
S %deally give as much information as necessary to evoke interest and elicit an interview
Though the details you fill in while registering on a ;ob portal and the rQsumQ you upload
there will be a broad'based one, ensure you customise your application whenever you
apply for a particular position. 8o through the ;ob description, figure out the ;ob
requirements, and accordingly highlight why you are best suited for the profile in terms
of your e"perience and skill set in the cover letter and1or the comments section.
The cardinal rule is to address your application to the right person, mentioning the profile
you are interested in and the Aeference %G1 Rob /ode. /indrella ,incent advises, 6ven if
a candidate thinks he or she fits into more than one of the advertised roles, the position
must be specified. %t will show your focus and area of interest as well as how well you
understand the ;ob specifications. For e"ample, profiles of writers and editors are often
quite similar, so if the candidate leaves it blank, the candidate may not get what he1she
Sometimes, placement agencies place such advertisements and they do not disclose the
name of the organisation. %n such cases it is advisable to get in touch with the recruiting
firm for information on the position and the organisation before sending your application.
Sin K) .pplying in a hurry
&rganisations hire on the basis of what the candidate brings to the table and not on a first'
come'first serve basis. So never rushH Gouble check your application ' details on the ;ob
board, rQsumQ and cover letter before sending them. .pplications and cover letters filled
with typos, accompanied with an unformatted rQsumQs will create a negative impression.
The icing on the cake is of course forgetting to attach the rQsumQ altogether,! says
=arama. Such bloopers give the impression that they are disinterested and casual.
Sin L) 8etting gimmicky
%n a bid to attract a recruiter#s attention, many candidates resort to flashy formatting
including fancy footers, flamboyant language or even a personal pleas in the comments
section. Aecruiters do not spend more than a few seconds perusing a /, and only if it
evokes their interest are they likely to go through it in details. So ensure smart formatting
and the correct choice of words.
Sin ?) 4ot following up
&nline applications also need follow'ups. For instance, if you do not hear from the
recruiter within seven to I@ days, it is best to follow up on your application. (owever,
Sebastian Aodrigue: cautions, Gon#t keep badgering recruiters by calling or mailing
every other day. $e sharp enough to gauge when you have not made the cut and the
recruiters are too courteous to say it directly.!
The key is to be polite and show interest in the position while enquiring about your
application. %n case you do not get any response that acknowledges the receipt of your
application, you can try other means of forwarding your application ' through another ;ob
portal or by directly contacting the appropriate person in the placement consultancy or
the organisation.
Sin M) 4ot blocking current employer
%t is best to keep your ;ob hunt under wraps until you resign.
Firstly, your manager will be displeased if he or she gets to hear of it from any other
source. .lso, your organisation will assume that you are in e"it mode and may leave you
out from business meetings and office events. (ence, staying on in that organisation, till a
good offer comes up, can become very difficult and may even compel you to take up the
first offer that comes your way, even if it is not the kind you wanwt. .lso, remember that
searching for a ;ob from your workplace is a complete no'no. 9ost offices, these days,
have firewalls which not only prevent access to such sites but also log access requests to
those sites and report them to the (A department or the reporting manager.
The situation will grow worse if your ;ob search does not yield immediate and e"pected
results ' you will be hounded by smug questions about the status of your ;ob search and
whether it has yielded any results, which can be e"tremely humiliating. So, be discrete by
blocking your current organisation from viewing your profile online till you get a
concrete offer and are in a position to put in your papers.
8ood luckH