The other day I met a delightful lady, Wendy. Wendy is a doctor who consults other doctors on infections. When they can’t figure it out or when they don’t know what they are dealing with, they call on Wendy. It is her job to determine what is killing the patient and to stop it. As she explained to me what she does and how she does it, I realized she applies one of the most effective sales techniques in her job that enables her to be very good at what she does.
What is it? She listens to the patient’s story.
She gets their story out of them by asking what they were doing and when they were doing it. She stated, “If you listen to their story you can uncover what happened and how that led to their infection.”
To get to a patient’s story, you can’t just read their chart, which has all the stats or ask the standard doctor questions: “Where does it hurt?” “How long has this been going on?”
As I reflected back on our conversation, I could not help but wonder how many salespeople who claim to be “consultative” salespeople actually ask questions that uncover the prospect’s story. Embedded in everyone’s story is their past, present and future.
Consultative questions are different than those typically used… Who do you use now? How do you like them? What do you want, how many, and by when? These questions will get you the “specs” needed in order for you to create a quote, but they will never get you to their story. Why do they want to do this? What are they trying to accomplish? What is going to happen if it doesn’t get done right? The answers to these questions are embedded in their story!
Are you asking questions to build a quote, or are you asking questions to hear their story? When their story unfolds in front of you, see how and where you fit in and what you can do to impact their business. Like Wendy, you figure out what is killing them and you stop it.
Here’s the rest of Wendy’s story:
In high school, Wendy listened to her misguided counselor who said she could never be a doctor. Her path led her to technology sales and I’m sure she was a very good consultative salesperson. At age 38, she quit her sales career and went back to school to be a doctor. Her family moved with her to four different towns so she could finish her degree and residency. Most of her work today includes 12-hour days and requires her to be on call every third weekend. She loves every minute of it.
Whether you’re selling microchips or saving someone’s life, the consultative approach starts with the mindset of wanting to help.
What about you? Are you just selling and hoping to win a quote or are you helping because you know you can make a difference?