As sales executives, it’s easy to spend all of your time focused on the number, while neglecting the process that will get you there. But, the smartest sales leaders know that “providing the how” and developing a process for consistently coaching their reps is one of the fastest paths to meeting revenue goals.

Two of the most overlooked essential skills are listening and questioning. While these may seem like easy skills to master, they’re often the reason why many opportunities don’t move forward.

The Importance of Listening Skills

Ask buyers what their biggest complaint is about salespeople and they’ll often say it’s that they don’t listen. This grievance often comes from interactions with too many reps who focus too much on what they’re selling and not the problems they’re solving. We call that situation the Seller Deficit Disorder, there are five symptoms:

  • Your potential buyers don’t think you understand their pain
  • You have limited access within the buyer’s organization
  • Your solution is perceived as too expensive
  • Your prospect has difficulty distinguishing between competitive offerings
  • The value you provide is not clearly articulated

Ineffective listening is at the core of this disorder. The best salespeople always take the time to listen to their prospects and build a comprehensive understanding of their business. Once sales reps take the time to listen, they can start using the prospect’s answers to frame the customer conversation.

Remember, great salespeople should always be listening for two things – quantified business pain or the triggers that give them openings to ask more probing questions. Effective listening gives you the right to move the conversation forward. Probing questions can seem forced if you don’t relate them to the current conversation.

The Importance of Questioning Skills

Deals are won and lost on discovery. If your reps don’t have the ability to ask great questions, they’ll never be able to uncover the business pain that leads to higher level sales conversations. A great discovery process enables the salesperson to effectively understand what a prospect is trying to accomplish, and helps the salesperson lead them to what’s required to get there. How do you structure a great discovery process? Here’s some best practices to share with your sellers:

Start Broad And Keep It Specific

Begin the conversation by warming up your prospects by learning more about their organization and their specific processes.

Move To The Positive

After building an understanding of the organization’s processes, move on to what’s working well and what they want to build on.

Pivot To The Negative

Then dig into what’s not working or what could be functioning better. This is the business need your solution should be focused on solving.

Identify The Key Stakeholders

Ask about other people within the organization that are involved in these areas and how their processes would be affected by any potential solutions.

Keep The Conversation Going

Continue building on the investigation into the business issues. Learn more about what’s causing the problems, who’s involved, what’s been tried before and what success would look like.

How Sales Reps Get The Most Value From Mastering These Skills

Using listening and questioning during the sales discovery conversation helps salespeople ensure they’re only pursuing qualified opportunities. As they go through the sales discovery process, these conversations get them access to other people within the organization and gives them a comprehensive look at the different perspectives that play into the business need.

Establish Your Credibility

Successful sales reps will use the information they gather during the process to build their credibility. By actively listening and questioning, salespeople can use the information their prospects are giving them to align the solutions they’re selling with the organization’s biggest business challenges. The credibility empowers the sales reps to continue their sales conversation.

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