Thirty Sales Questions to Consider

1. What is the purpose of your company? (One sentence please)

2. What are three words that describe the company?

3. What are some companies that you would like to emulate?

4. What are the most compelling aspects of your product/service, etc.?

5. What business and consumer trends will affect your business going forward?

6. What are the most important drivers for your customer/client?

7. What are the advantages for someone to buy from you versus your competition?

8. Describe what your company will look like as a company five years from now.

9. What is important about the history and background of the owners?

10. Describe the perfect prospect for your products and services. Tell me their average age, kinds of restaurant they visit, vacation spots, what do we need to know about them has “people” that you think is important?

11. If I make the statement, “I’d like my company to be more? What would be your response?”

12. If I make the statement, “I’d like my company to be less? What would be your response?”

13. What is the number one goal you have for my company for the coming year?

14. What do you believe the greatest obstacle to your future success to be?

15. What do you believe is the greatest immediate opportunity for your company?

16. What do you think the greatest long-term opportunity to be?

17. What do you personally have to do, change, commit to in order to meet your goals and those opportunities?

18. Have you made a commitment to this project or are you still analyzing it?

19. What are the key criteria in choosing (insert whatever you are selling)?

20. How soon do you expect to begin or to purchase or whatever action it is you want them to take?

21. Are you making the decision to move ahead or will you have to seek other approvals?

22. Who else will be involved in the decision?

23. What would be the consequence of not (taking whatever action you want them to take)?

24. How will you know when the results have met your expectations? How will you measure that?

25. What if this fails (if you are providing a service this is a good question)?

26. How do we keep it from failing?

27. Have you considered what you are willing to spend to meet your goals?

28. Have resources already been allocated?

29. Who else in your organization could benefit from this same thing?

30. Are you pleased with our conversation and have I said anything that surprised you?

The Greatest Life Insurance Salesman in the World

I grew up in a small town on the Ohio River called East Liverpool.  It is located in Ohio at the junction of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. When I was growing up it had a population of about 22,000. Today the population has dropped to just over 13,000. However, some very unique and notable people have come from my town. I want to tell you about one of them who learned the meaning of providing value for his clients so well that he went on to become the greatest life insurance salesman ever.

His name was Ben Feldman (1912 – 1993) and over his 50 year career selling insurance for one company, his sales volume exceeded $1.8 billion, with over a third of it coming after he turned 65. And, he did it by selling out of his office in East Liverpool and not some major financial capital city
like New York.

Now you might be thinking to yourself that Ben must have been some kind of superstar, good looking, fast talking, kind of man – but you’d be wrong. Ben was a short, stout, balding and spoke slowly with a distinct lisp. He never finished high school. He was so shy that years later when he was asked to speak at insurance industry meetings, he would only agree if a screen was erected between him and the audience.

But, he was a legend when it came to making a point to know every business owner in his region. He did his homework first and learned all he could about his potential customers so that by the time he met with them (often on a “cold call”) he was ready with the right Value Development Questions. He didn’t always sell right away but he never gave up. I once heard him say that for years he didn’t stop working for the day until he made at least one sale – no matter how late it got.

One of favorite stories about Ben is about a prominent real estate developer. Ben tried for weeks to get in to see the busy man but was always unsuccessful. One day, Ben stopped in cold and handed the developer’s assistant an envelope with five $100 bills and asked her to give it to her boss. He told her “If I don’t have a good idea for him, he can keep the money.” He got in and sold a $14 million policy. Years later when Ben realized the man needed additional insurance due to the unprecedented growth of his company; he was once again stymied by the man’s insistence that he was too busy to take a physical. Undaunted, Ben rented a fully equipped mobile hospital van, hired a doctor and sent them to the industrialist. Rumor is that the man ended up with over $50 million in coverage.

In 1992, New York Life marked Ben’s 50th year with the company by proclaiming “Feldman’s February”, a national sales competition. Ben took this as a personal challenge. The winner of the contest (at 80 years old) was Ben Feldman.

Ben was famous for his sayings that he used to inspire both clients and himself.  My favorite is:

“Doing something costs something. Doing nothing costs something. And quite often, doing nothing costs a lot more.”

Ben Feldman died in 1993 at 81. A few years before his death he was asked about the largest policy that he had ever written. “I can’t say. I haven’t written it yet.”

Listen First – Sell Later ™ – It’s All About the Relationship

I was writing a chapter for a book the other night
when a visual photograph of how I learned the value of relationships in
business came flooding into my mind. I couldn’t help but smile at the
memory and I thought I’d briefly share it with you here.

3mI was a
brand new Major Account Sales Executive for 3M Company. 
I had already
been with the company a couple of years and had broken all the sales
records for people in my position. So, I was promoted and expected to
now call on major accounts. However, I was primarily assigned accounts
where we had never had any business which meant that I had to go out
and find new customers – only in larger companies with more gatekeepers
and bureaucracy.

One of the accounts I was expected to "open" was
a steel company headquartered near my home town. It turned out there
was one man whose primary job was to manage the copier equipment and
supply program for the entire country. His name was Frank. Did you ever
meet someone and instantly know there was going to be mutual loathing
between the two of you? That was Frank and I. And, it took us both
about 10 seconds to make our determination.

To me, Frank was
someone who plods though life all wrapped up in habit, routine and
insignificant details. And, since I was very driven (probably called
Type A at the time); I found everything Frank did to be frustrating. I
would ask him a question and I’d wait for the answer. And, I’d wait.
Frank would usually pull a pipe out of a holster he carried on his belt
and begin the process of filling and lighting it. Since that took at
least 5 minutes, I was on to the next question since I assumed he
forgot the first one. And, just about the time I was on my fourth or
fifth question without an answer, Frank would respond to the first
question which led to more frustration and loathing for the man. And,
so it went each time I paid a call on Frank. I was getting nowhere and
I dreaded having to go see him.

Then one day, I stopped at a drug
store near his office. This was back when I smoked and I was going to
get a pack of cigarettes. While at the cash register, I saw a display
of corn cob pipes. They were inexpensive so I picked one out and then
picked out a bag of pipe tobacco that looked familiar to me. I stuck
them in my suit pockets and made a resolution that when Frank went to
light up, I’d do the same. Maybe if we had pipe smoking in common he’d
find me more acceptable.

And, so the meeting began as before.
Only, this time I pulled out my pipe and tobacco when Frank went for
his. It was the most animation I had seen from the man in months. He
said, "I didn’t know you smoked a pipe." I told him, "I hadn’t been for
long." And, then I asked him about the tobacco I had picked out and if
he liked it. He went out to tell me more about tobacco and pipes than
anyone, in my mind, would want to ever know – over the next 2 hours! It
turned out he blended his own tobacco and he told me mine was junk with
perfume added to make it smell good. He had me dump it and gave me some
of his private blend. And, so we smoked pipes and we talked and we got
to know each other.

Over the next few months we found out we had
a lot more in common than we did in differences. It turned out we had
both grown up in the same little Ohio town that I had left years before
but he had lived there his whole life. When we started comparing notes
we found out we knew a lot of the same people and that my younger
brother had dated his daughter for a while. (I was worried when I heard
that but it turned out fine.) We started meeting for lunch. He always
had lunch at his desk so on the days we had a meeting scheduled, he
packed a sandwich for me. One day down the road, after a few pipes,
sandwiches and meetings, Frank said something like, and "I guess we
ought to talk about copiers." And, so we talked and he bought. I
finished the year as one of the Top Ten Ranked Sales Executives in the
United States for 3M. Frank and his companies business was one of the
major factors.

It’s all about the relationship. I had figured out
that if I wanted to communicate with Frank and have any kind of
business relationship, which was the whole idea, I was going to have to
learn how to communicate with him the way he was comfortable. Talking
at a 1,000 words a minute and interrogating him before he liked and
trusted me was never going to work with Frank. It isn’t going to work
very often with any of your clients either.

The next time you’re
having a problem establishing a relationship with someone, think about
Frank and pipe smoking. Find some common ground. Focus on them not your
services or products. Don’t interrogate people. Learn to match the pace
and tone of their speech. If they speak slowly softly and you speak
fast and loudly – slow down and lower the volume. Put them at ease and
get them talking about themselves and things of commonality. Most
people like to talk about what they do in their spare time and their
families. People have to "buy you" before they buy anything from you.

It really is all about the relationship!

The Poole Consulting Group