Tag Archives: tips for asking questions

Close like a pro!

Of all critical skills in selling, the ability to gain commitment and to “close” prospects is key. But closing can bring images of sleezy characters in plaid jackets forcing decisions on people.

deal check by stuart miles

Today, top sellers know better. They know that closing is more than simply “reeking of commission breath” and pouncing on a “weakened and confused victim.”

If you can close correctly, you will reduce your selling cycles and increase customer satisfaction. But what does it look like to be a “great closer”? What exactly is the skill of closing? Let me offer a perspective that can answer these questions and increase your own closing skills.

First, I want to be transparent about my own bias. Here it is. I believe that although closing involves some very real “moments of truth” that need to happen before a sale is made, I also believe that closing is much more about a process than it is about a specific question – or answer.

More than the old “ABC’s” (always be closing), a great closer knows exactly where a prospect is in the decision-making process and can do two things: (1) ask the right questions, and; (2) test for commitment. Let’s take a look at each component.

Close with the right questions, not the right answers

Before you can assume a sale is made, it’s critical to know how to manage a sales process using powerful questions. What are the “right questions”? The right questions are the ones that map to your prospect’s buying process and help provide clarity and completion — for both you and for your prospect.

For example, before you move too quickly and start talking about your great solution, your awesome company or your unique career opportunity, be sure you have asked complete and detailed questions that help your prospect identify and clarify the needs or problems that your product or position can address. In a way, your first “close” happens when you have successfully identified the key factors that will drive your prospect to decide to make a change or purchase a product.

And don’t be afraid of asking tough questions – questions that may even surface objections. You actually want to identify key concerns or objections as a natural part of your selling/recruiting process. Getting the concerns on the table and addressing them – sooner than later – is a key “closing technique” that will help you ensure you are helping your prospect make an important and informed decision.

Close by testing for commitment

Another key closing skill to master is the ability to test for commitment. Throughout the listeningmeeting or call, great sellers know how to continually check in with prospects. They don’t make assumptions about interest – they are direct and clear in asking.

For example, after making a pitch about how a product or solution might address a prospect’s needs/concerns, great sellers always pause to check in. You can say, “Does that address your concerns?” Or, “What other questions do you have at this point? These types of questions are great “closing techniques”.

In the world of recruiting, it’s also important to test for commitment by asking about other companies or positions the prospect or candidate might be considering. So many recruiters find out too late (“no call, no show”) that the rock star prospect has just accepted a position with the biggest competitor.

Another very simple way to test for commitment is to ask! That’s right — ask for the business! I’m amazed at how many recruiters forget this step – particularly when screening active candidates. They don’t take a moment to close, using the simple question, “Is this a position you’d like to move forward with?” Or, “Based on what you’ve heard so far, would you have any hesitation about taking the next step in the process?”

By checking for commitment to the process, you are using great “closing skills”. You might be worried that you are sounding too “pushy” or “salesy” by testing in this manner. But know that great sellers – and great recruiters – know the importance of ensuring the commitment is there instead of making assumptions about interest.

Closing involves being aware of what is important to both you and your prospect during each encounter. Don’t be afraid to ask questions all throughout the decision-making process and continually test for commitment. Ask for what you want! Be clear, respectful and concise. When you pay attention to these two, key competencies you will enhance your skill as a great closer!

Happy selling!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Recruit more prospects with this proven sales technique

In the “old days” of selling, it was all about product knowledge. And, by the way, the sales person usually had the advantage — knowing more about the product than the buyer. For example, remember the days when you didn’t know how much car dealers were paying for cars? Or how much profit they were making? Or even the history of ownership? That’s why they always said, “Buyer beware“!

success ladder by samuiblue

But today’s great sales professionals know that their success depends less on their product knowledge and more on their ability to understand their buyers. Today’s buyers are highly informed and have access to as much — if not more — product information than sellers. In a way, it’s now, “Seller beware“.

In the current sales literature, much has been written about sales success being tied to the ability to map your sales process with how your buyers buy. So here’s a question for you:

As a recruiter, when was the last time you thought about mapping your recruiting process to how your prospects and candidates make decisions about careers?

If you want to enhance the candidate experience AND increase your own recruiting productivity, here are 3 tips that can help.

#1: Pay attention to the steps your prospects go through in making a career decision

Make it a point to talk with your prospects and candidates about how they will make their decision when it comes to career changes. Be sure you have a clear picture of the steps they will go through before considering a move.

In order to uncover this important decision-making process, you must ask great discovery questions. Resolve to ask more (and better!) questions about how your prospects and candidates will make their decisions. If you are unsure of what questions to ask, or have not developed a set of power questions, consider getting some great training to help you accelerate your success.

#2: Become more flexible

A sure “deal-killer” (especially with your passive candidates) is relying too much on your own needs and “script”. We’ve heard many, many recruiters focus entirely on their need to gather information (think: check-off boxes). This type of interview is anything but customer-centric and easily misses the mark when it comes to aligning with what your prospects need when it comes to making an important decision – like a career decision.

Instead of being rigid and staying on your own “script”, try becoming more aware of the importance of getting in tune with where your prospect or candidate might be in the decision-making process. Drop the need to “always be closing” or forge ahead with incorrect assumptions about interest — just to try and close job postings. Use great questioning and listening skills to ensure you are moving at the right pace.

If you move too quickly or don’t pay attention to what your prospect needs in order to be comfortable, you run the real risk of either losing the prospect all together – or unnecessarily lengthening the time it takes to move your prospect forward.

#3: Become a coach and adviser

Try to be more aware of your role as someone who can actually add value and help your prospect process an important decision. Make a conscious decision to step out of “recruiting mode” and pay attention to what is going to help your prospect minimize risk and maximize the ability to achieve career or personal goals.

Put yourself in their shoes and think of the things that they might be looking for. Some examples might be:

  • Doing work that is interesting or challenging
  • Having a great deal of autonomy
  • Working with a great team
  • Developing new skills or building greater competence with existing skills
  • Making a difference – being able to see the positive impact of your work on others (or in your community)

The point is to shift from thinking like a “sales person pushing a product” to thinking like a buyer with specific goals, needs, and fears. How can you help them think through their decision? How can you add value without appearing selfish or pushy? When you can answer these questions, you are well on your way to becoming more of a trusted advisor than a recruiter who simply need to fill an open position.

So the next time you are interviewing a prospect or candidate, stop being a recruiter and become a buyer instead!

Happy selling!

Image courtesy of samouiblue/ freedigitalphotos.net

Can’t get your prospect’s attention? Two words that can help

Want to know how to get prospects to return your calls or listen to your voice mail? The answer might surprise you. Even sound simple. Perhaps it’s “hidden in plain sight”, but the answer is, “show value”.

texting debspoons

But sometimes it’s hard to remember to “show value” or even to know how to “show value”. The temptation in sales – and in recruiting – is to talk too much or to sell too hard (especially early on a call).

Considering the fact that your prospecting success depends entirely on the ability to “show value” I’d like to share three tips related to this important skill.

Tip #1: Value = relevance

Start by thinking of what is important and relevant to your prospect. Do they care about your “great company” or “great opportunity”? No. They care about their problems and their career goals.

To be of value, you need to be sure you are speaking in your prospects “language”. Keep your initial questions and comments focused on the things that are relevant to your prospect.

How do you know what’s relevant? Ask questions to help you understand what factors are important when considering a career move or new opportunity. Do your homework and be ready to share what you know about your prospect or your prospect’s company or industry.

Tip #2: Value = testimonials

You might even want to gather some key testimonials from others (similar to your prospect) who have made great career changes with your help. It’s natural to want to minimize risk when it comes to making a big decision like a career move. You show value when you share short, powerful stories your prospect can connect with.

A word of caution: Be careful not to talk too long or overdo it with testimonials. The temptation might be to shift the focus to you and to begin to ramble. You might be very excited to talk about others who have benefited from your expertise and in the process lose sight of the proper balance between questioning and listening.

If you talk too much, you diminish value quickly.

Tip #3: Value = advising

Have you ever thought of yourself as a trusted advisor instead of a recruiter? Another tip for adding value is related to positioning yourself as someone who can help a person process a big decision.

The “lowest level” of sales is simply pushing products. The highest level of sales is acting as a trusted advisor. To add value, you need to offer insight and ask great questions that help your prospect think differently about their career or career move.

The best way to add value is to be seen as a resource and advisor to your prospects. What have you learned that might be of value? Perhaps you can offer some best practices. Or maybe some mistakes that people tend to make that you can help your prospect avoid when making an important decision.

Again, when you help your prospect think differently about something you add value. Be sure you can ask powerful questions and listen carefully to drive the value-added conversation.

So the next time you become discouraged because of low conversion rates with your prospects, ask yourself, “Am I adding value?”

Happy selling!

Image courtesy of debspoons/freeditigalphotos.net

3 tips to help you avoid the “features vs. benefits” fatal error

confusion by stuart milesTo be effective in sales — and in recruiting — you must know the difference between features and benefits. Features are the physical characteristics of products (what products do, how they work, what they look like), whereas benefits are what features do for customers.

In my case, (selling telecommunications equipment to large businesses) my product features included things like conference call capability, paging, and on-site administration. I learned it was foolish to try and “sell features” to my customers, They didn’t care about any of my product features (no matter how cool they were!) as much as they wanted to know how they could benefit from the features of my products.

My customers wanted to be able to be more productive or communicate more efficiently. Bluntly stated, “features didn’t sell anything”. My customers wanted to know how I could help them either expand their customer base (make more money) or reduce costs (save money).

It is plain and simple. Customers buy benefits.

In recruiting, it’s tempting to “sell features”. We’ve heard recruiters make the common error of selling the “wonderful company or perfect opportunity” as if these fabulous ‘features’ are enough to sway a savvy passive candidate.

So the question for you is, “Are you selling features or benefits?” In this post, I’d like to provide three specific guidelines to help you keep from making this costly error.

One size does not fit all when it comes to benefits

Remember that people buy things because they perceive a benefit – either helping them move toward something that is pleasing or desirable, or helping them eliminate or reduce something that is undesirable. However, some sales people and recruiters make the mistake of thinking that everyone is after the same benefit.

Stated another way, they can make the mistake that everyone values the same thing. But be careful. Benefits to some people (e.g., growth opportunities or working with a great team) might not be as important or desirable to others.

So, the first thing to remember when it comes to benefits is that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”. Don’t assume you know the benefits and value of all your features. That’s like assuming you know what everybody wants. Instead, use great questioning and listening skills to help your prospects articulate benefit statements in their own words. The key phrase here is “in their own words” (not yours!).

No matter what you’ve heard from others about the great benefits of your company or opportunity, resist the temptation to put any words in your prospect’s mouth. If you are a corporate recruiter, the temptation might be to rely on what your marketing department says about the “features” of working at your company (e.g., Fortune 500 company or community involvement). However, as stated earlier, be careful that you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everyone is looking for the same thing in a company or opportunity.

Features:benefits is not 1:1

In general, you don’t need to provide one benefit for each feature. Again, it depends a lot on your buyer or prospect. If you are working with a prospect who seems highly interested in the fact (think: feature) that your company hires from within – and doesn’t seem too interested in other features (e.g., team environment or working stable hours) –then be sure to spend lots of time demonstrating how your prospect might benefit from the “promote from within” feature.

In this case, you wouldn’t want to make the mistake of just providing one benefit and moving on. Each of your features can have several benefits. When you add benefits to features that are important to your prospect, you develop and intensify the value of your offering to your prospect.

For example if you are a Fortune 500 company (a single feature), you may have lots of benefits, such as:

  • Career advancement opportunities
  • Training and development that is paid for by the company
  • Job stability
  • Secure retirement plans
  • Affordable health care

On the flip side, many features can have the same benefits. For example, features like …

  • Fortune 500 company
  • Expanding offices internationally
  • Steady growth in profits

…can all have the same benefit (e.g., growth opportunities for career advancement).

You get the idea. Again, it’s important to start with what’s important to your prospect and then develop value, using the benefits that correspond to the features that might be important.

As a rule, however, try not to have more features than benefits. In other words, if you can’t state a clear benefit about a specific feature, don’t present the feature. Again, people don’t care about features. They care about what they can do for them. Features are there to provide benefit to your prospect. Feature overload (hoping for a “hit”) is not good selling practice.

Want to be customer-focused? Count benefits, not features

Finally, a good way to ensure that you are being “customer-focused” instead of “product-centric” is to do an audit of your presentations. How many features do you talk about? Benefits?

Bottom line: the more benefits you include in your presentations, the more you are customer-focused. Benefits are about your customer. Features are about you.

Happy selling!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles freedigitalphotos.net

3 communication tips for your conversation playbook

One of the mistakes we’ve heard recruiters make is that they miss opportunities to influence prospects and candidates because they don’t have a good “conversation playbook.” The temptation is to default to asking the same questions over and over, without any thought of change or improvement. But without a good playbook, recruiters can lose their “power position when it comes to selling” and be vulnerable to objections — especially salary objections.

people skills David Castillo Dominici

If you “do what you’ve always done … you’ll get what you always got…”. Perhaps that is OK with you. But I’d like to suggest that the beginning of the new year is a great time to resolve to develop and master some great new communication skills — especially those that have the potential to increase your productivity (help you get more information in less time) and even decrease your time to find/fill.

Here are three tips you can put in your conversation playbook — tips to help you enhance your ability to influence, using some great communication skills.

Tip #1: Begin your calls by clearly communicating your purpose and benefit statement

Get in the habit of clearly stating the purpose of your call in terms of a “benefit statement” for your prospect. We’ve heard many recruiters simply start “pitching positions” or rambling about opportunities without being clear about what it is they want to accomplish on the call.

Resolve to begin your call with a clear statement of purpose — as well as a benefit statement. An example might be, “I’d like to spend about 5 minutes learning what’s important to you when it comes to making a career move. And then, let’s decide together if it’s worth scheduling a follow-up call. By getting a good list of what’s important to you, my hope is that I won’t waste your time sharing lots of details that might not be important to you.”

Tip #2: Get in the habit of checking in

Sometimes we can get ahead of ourselves — or make assumptions — during our calls. Another great communication technique is to do frequent check-in’s with prospects and candidates. These check-in’s don’t have to be long or complicated. Simple, short questions are fine.

Using our example from Tip #1 above, you can end your call opening statement with something like, “….how does that sound to you?”

Check-in’s also have another, more subtle purpose. They actually give the other person some sense of control or power. They have a chance to “weigh in” and feel like the next step in the call is under their control (their “yes” or “no” to your question). For  many prospects, the desire to feel like they have some control on the call is important and may help you more quickly build rapport.

Check-in’s can be used during calls as well — not just to confirm next steps. For example, after you share some information or answer a question you can check in with a simple question, “Does that make sense?” Or, “Does that answer your question?

You can also use this type of check-in to uncover possible concerns or objections by asking, “What other concerns do you have at this point?” Sometimes we can be surprised by hidden concerns simply because we’ve missed key opportunities to simply “check in” with this easy question.

When you combine your opening purpose/benefit statement with a check-in question, you quickly establish your credibility, gain alignment, and start your call off with a “best communication practice.”

Tip #3:  Ask impactful, qualifying questions

In our experience listening to many, many recruiter calls, we have noticed the tendency to spend too much time asking what we consider “throw-away” or unnecessary questions. We have helped recruiters do a thorough “question audit” to be sure they are maximizing their time asking impact questions, not “fact-finding” questions.

One simple step is to look over your questions and remove the ones that don’t give you insight or key information about your prospect. For example, try doing a little more homework or research prior to your call so you don’t waste time asking questions that you can easily find answers to from resumes, Facebook or LinkedIn profiles, etc.

Replace the tired, worn out “fact-finding” questions with a few key power questions. For example, one great power question is one that helps you quickly discover the “pain points” or key factors that would help drive a career move.

Your prospects — especially your passive candidates — will be more likely to engage with you when you show you’ve done your homework and can ask insightful, powerful questions that quickly help you both understand what’s important.

Make this year a great year! Start by communicating with influence — using these three tips. For more information — or help in developing your skills — check out our recruiter sales skill training.

To YOUR success in the new year!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net