Sales quiz answers

Sales quiz answers

1. "A good sales person can sell anything"

No. Our research shows this is not strictly true. Sellers involved in low-value sales might well move from selling one product to another, proving very successful at both. However, if those sellers were to move to selling high-value, complex solutions it's very unlikely they'd be a success.

As many have found to their cost, the skills needed to succeed in long-cycle complex sales are very different to those needed in simple ones. The good news is Huthwaite has researched and developed best practice skills models in both areas, so can provide your sellers with the skills they need, whatever your selling situation.

2. "More sales meetings equals more orders"

No. Again, this may be true in simple, low-value sales. However, research shows that in high-value sales the sales person has to take time to understand the customer’s needs then lead the customer through a diagnostic and solution-focussed process. These types of meetings require planning and preparation, a skilled interaction and time for reflection afterwards.

Particularly in times of economic downturn we see many companies falling into the trap of hitting the 'more' button, upping activity and chasing everything to try and keep the orders flowing. Effective companies work smarter not harder, carefully qualifying prospects and then rigorously planning and executing a winning strategy. By focussing more resources onto fewer, but more winnable opportunities, effective companies secure the revenue stream to survive in hard times.

3. "Start at the top"

No. It might be tempting to go straight to the decision maker, but one thing that Huthwaite noticed when observing really effective sellers was that they did not rush to the top. Instead, they spent time elsewhere in the organisation, where the problems their solution solved would be found, to fully understand the issues before approaching the top.

Senior people are hard pressed for time and do not suffer fools gladly. As a seller, when you get to the top, it’s crucial you engage these people by showing you fully understand the relevant issues they are facing, how your solution meets their needs and by demonstrating the benefits you can bring. Effective sellers do their homework, avoid meeting senior people too soon and time their approach for when they are best equipped to maximise their impact.

4. "Closed questions are equally as important as open questions"

Yes. It is often stated that open questions are more important than closed, yet our research could find no correlation whatsoever between open questions and successful sales meetings. The 40,000 calls we've observed had a mix of both open and closed questions and differing balances between them.

In reality the responses to open questions were not always a flow of information. In fact 10% of open questions received a simple closed answer. What is more, 60% of closed questions received a lengthy answer! So, whilst open and closed questions can assist the process of the interaction, the real effectiveness behind sales questions lies not in the structure of the question but in its content and context.

5. "Always be closing"

No. Sometimes called 'The ABC of selling' and another technique that is regularly advocated, despite the fact it is not what we see effective sellers doing. In fact, in high-value sales, premature attempts to close can actually lose business.

Skilled sellers recognise they must explore customer needs in depth, demonstrate their capability to meet those needs and show a clear business case for their solution before they try to close. And when they do eventually conclude the meeting, skilled sellers follow a simple process. Firstly they check there were no issues they had missed, they then remind the customer of the key benefits and payoffs in the solution before proposing an appropriate commitment from the customer.

The research threw up another interesting fact; in longer sales with several meetings, skilled sellers still use this process, not asking for the order at the end of each meeting (it's too soon) but proposing a customer action to help progress the sale forward.

6. "First Impressions Count"

No. It's often said "Most people know if they are going to do business with you in the first 60 seconds". That might be true on the high street or retail park but in larger, complex sales, our research found no correlation between call openings and successful outcomes. Even where the reception is at first guarded, as a customer realises that the seller has solutions beneficial to their business, the relationship then tends to warm.

This is not to say that sellers can open carelessly. It’s important to establish the reason for the discussion, expectations from the meeting, timings and to position the questioning process. Don’t forget, some customers will be expecting a talking brochure.

7. "Sales people are born, not made"

No. This is an example of findings based on dated research being wrongly applied to today's sales situations. Some early studies in the 1940s and 50s showed a high level of extroverts amongst sellers. In those days almost everything was sold face-to-face and natural personality traits like confidence and tenacity did help sellers succeed 'on the doorstep'. Today, almost all that level of selling has been replaced by e-commerce and call centres. Now, field sales people are almost exclusively involved in more complex sales with decision-making teams, long cycles and high-value solutions.

Customers in such sales need to feel reassured that solutions are appropriate and they are in a safe pair of hands. They’re looking for empathy, trust and integrity. These sales are not simple transactions but the beginning of a relationship, and sellers have to recognise this and act accordingly.

Observation shows that in today’s world, many successful sales people do not fit the old extrovert stereotype at all and are just as likely to be quiet and considered as outgoing and gregarious. In fact research quoted by Dan Pink in his book “To sell is human” has found that it is ambiverts (those who are a mixture of extrovert and introvert) that make the most effective salespeople.

8. "Objections are a sign of customer interest"

No. Let's consider this statement in a bit more detail. You've made an unskilled or poorly executed sales pitch, so unsurprisingly the customer sees flaws in your solution and objects. You then rationalise this away, telling yourself they wouldn't bother to object if they weren't interested. Nonsense! How can a customer telling you why they don't want your solution be a good thing? Even if the objection does give you a deeper insight into what the customer wants, for you it's much too late to do anything about it – you've already presented your solution.

Objections stem from the seller offering an unsuitable solution before fully understanding the customer’s needs. The proposed solution either does not meet the customer's needs or doesn't, in the customer's eyes, have sufficient value. Our research also shows that in sales calls with more questions, particularly questions that explore needs and value, there are fewer objections. In fact one study showed skilled sellers typically getting only 10% of the objections experienced by their less effective colleagues.

Many sales training models include an often substantial piece on 'objection handling', At Huthwaite, we believe 'objection prevention' is a far more effective strategy.

9. "When presenting your solution, avoid showing the customer everything it can do for them"

Yes. How often do you find a sale running smoothly until the presentation, which uncovers a raft of previously unvoiced objections? Our research shows, particularly when the presentation is late-cycle and/or has a high technical content, this is all too often the case. Why?

In high-value long-cycle sales the customer will have a range of needs, of differing size and importance, which they want to satisfy. Your solution may be equally complex, meeting all the needs the customer has and potentially many more. However, by late-cycle the customer is clear what needs they want to satisfy and is looking for you to demonstrate how you will help them. Many sellers do that, but then go on to demonstrate all the other good things they can do, things the customer doesn't need, or sees no value in. The result – objections.

Our research shows that skilled sellers restrict the presentation to satisfying those needs the customer has told them they have, only moving on to 'other stuff', having first confirmed the customer has an interest in it.

10. "At the end of the sales process, push hard for the close if the customer starts to hesitate"

No. It's very tempting, as a sales process reaches its conclusion, to dive for the line but our research shows, for the customer, this is a crucial point in their decision-making process. Often, as the decision draws near, the customer begins to reflect on the risks attached to any particular solution, in effect asking themselves the question; what if it goes wrong? These concerns, if unresolved, will often turn the sale against you, guiding the customer to the lowest risk decision, often to do nothing or perhaps to select the cheapest (but often inferior) proposal.

At this stage, pressuring the customer to make the decision, or dismissing or minimising their concerns, are intuitive but counter-productive behaviours. Skilled sellers avoid this, instead working with the customer to recognise and resolve their concerns.