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Having conducted hundreds of field accompaniment programs over the last three decades with sales professionals of all standards and numerous SME business owners, I feel strongly about the ‘sales conversation’ challenges that too often prevent positive outcomes for both parties. 
Time and time again, I have witnessed clear opportunities for both parties to win, and the final outcome is no sale is made. 
Regardless of experience, salary level or seniority, sales people tend to fall victim to similar issues and errors, which affect sales results. These issues cause sales meetings to be much more challenging than they need to be, leading to a lack of conversational flow and alignment, which in turn leads to failed sales opportunities. 
Over the past few years, numerous studies have been conducted about sales effectiveness. HBR concluded that less than 10% of sales meetings result in any type of commitment. In a 2015 study, Forrester reported that buyers only see value in on average 1 in 8 sales meetings they attend. 
How is it that so many of us find the second oldest profession in the world so hard to execute consistently? I believe there are three crucial elements to successful sales conversations. 
You are sitting in front of your customer because they have a problem or a range of problems that are critical for them to solve in the short, medium and long term and they are not certain they can solve on their own. The conversation must principally focus on these problems and not your product. I would go as far as to say that your product or service, in this context, has limited relevance. 
Think about their real reasons for buying and craft the conversation accordingly. It is not what you sell that matters, but ‘why they buy’. They want confidence that you can successfully address these issues and provide them with an enhancement or transformation that delivers positive change for them. 
Sales people who focus on their product or service, in my experience, fail to sell consistently. Those who focus on solving problems and helping their customers succeed are the only ones who are able to achieve consistent results. 
In every sales meeting, there is an invisible spotlight that falls on you every time you speak of your product or service, and falls upon the customer whenever you talk about their business requirements. In my experience, if you have the spotlight on you for more than 20% of the sales meeting, you significantly diminish the chances of a successful outcome. 
In order to buy from you, your customer needs to feel confident that you understand them and they need to trust you. One of the main ways we demonstrate that we understand our customers by asking powerful questions. 
Powerful questions close the credibility gap and quickly get you to the heart of your prospects’ deepest reasons for wanting to buy. They lead to more open, contextualised and honest conversations and prepare the ground for true collaboration. Yes, successful sales people are successful collaborators! 
It is important that a sales conversation is not an interrogation and that is why we use powerful questions. For example, when visiting your next new prospect, try these two powerful questions near the beginning of the meeting and watch how far it propels the conversation forward. 
“What problem must you solve in the short term?” 
“What is going to happen if you don’t get this solved?” 
I use four different types of questions. 
I. Rapport Building Questions – show them I have done my homework and that I care about understanding them and helping them to succeed 
II. Qualifying Questions – establish whether they are likely to buy and whether the business is attractive to me 
III. Diagnostic Questions – understand the nature and depth of the problem/challenge they want to solve and the result they want to enable 
IV. Usage Scenario Questions – demonstrate how I have provided solutions for similar problems in the past and explore how it might work for them 
Remember to listen helpfully, checking in, and showing you understand what is being said. 
The one who knows how to use questions effectively, understands the customer better and guides the conversation. These are the consistent sales performers. 
Today, more than ever before, your customers can achieve a level of knowledge about your product or industry that can make them feel as though they are sufficiently informed to make buying decisions. Technology has made them feel powerfully informed. 
In addition, markets are more competitive, so they have more and more choice, but as a result of globalisation and the rate of technological change, businesses and markets are also more complex. 
To use a Steve Jobs quote, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show them”. They may think they do, but you as a sales person must become an expert in your field and develop the skill to use disruptive insights to change the way they think. 
Challenge yourself to come up with three insights that you know that your customers does not. In there are some gems that will help you to have much more successful sales conversations. 
Here is the key distinction. Most sales people share valuable information with their customers. It fails to resonate with them. Why? Because… 
Valuable information changes the way your customer sees your world. 
However, successful sales people share valuable insights; 
Valuable insights change the way your customers see ‘their’ world. 
This is the key difference, and if you are able to do this, to change the way the customer sees their own world in which they operate, you position yourself as a strategic resource, as opposed to a problem solver, and leap frog your competition. 
Do these three things and your conversion rates will increase significantly, your sales cycle will reduce noticeably and you will find a new level of enjoyment in selling that you didn’t think was possible. 
As a Speaker, Sales Trainer and Accredited Master Coach (CSA), Glen Williamson is passionate about helping SME business owners and sales professionals of all levels reach new height of sales performance delivery.  
Taking his 30 years of experience in sales and business development, Glen founded GWC Sales Training in 2011 to deliver consultancy and training for clients across a wide range of sectors including logistics, financial services and oil and gas. 
Meeting the needs of our increasingly complex and competitive business environment, Glen’s “Master The Sales Conversation Masterclass”, and Complete Target Account Selling Program create interactive opportunities to embed new ideas and techniques for consistent, predictable sales success. 
Glen believes that sales is a collaborative process, part of who we are and how we survive, and at its core, should be a desire to ‘help’, not ‘sell’. 
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