Book #1: Secrets of QBS
A sound business development strategy is critical for companies who want to compete in today’s increasingly competitive global economy. But many of the old-school paradigms of selling no longer apply.
In a strategic sale, companies cannot offer valuable solutions until the prospective buyer recognizes the existence of a need. Whose job is it to uncover needs? The salesperson’s, of course. But, just because salespeople want to ask questions, doesn’t mean prospects and customers will openly share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Likewise, just because you have a good “story” to tell, doesn’t necessarily mean your target audience will want to hear it.
What is it that makes prospective buyers want to engage in a productive conversation about their needs and your solutions? That’s what you will learn in Tom Freese’s first book, Secrets of Question Based Selling.
Have you ever noticed that companies all over the world spend millions of dollars telling salespeople what to say, but they spend almost nothing teaching them what to ask? It’s true. Sales organizations invest in training salespeople how to position the value of their product or service, but they just assume salespeople already know how to ask the right questions.
In sales, questions are important. Sellers ask questions to identify new prospect opportunities, qualify accounts, and uncover needs. They also ask questions to find out who the decision-makers are within key target accounts, and to know how best to position their solutions. Questions also help to smoke out any objections and to find out what else needs to occur to close a transaction. Questions have always been the cornerstone of the sales process—but just because a salesperson wants to ask questions doesn’t necessarily mean prospects and customers will “want to” share important information with you.
When I first started in sales, I wanted to learn how to sell. More importantly, I wanted to learn how to outsell the competition. Therefore, I read every sales book I could find. I also listened to countless audio-cassette tapes and attended many different training programs in the hopes of mastering the strategic sale. When I got out into the territory, however, it became obvious that prospects weren’t nearly as excited about answering my sales questions as I was about asking them. That’s because every salesperson who called was asking the same old sales questions, and prospects didn’t want to be bothered. I faced a similar problem getting prospects interested in listening to my sales presentation. Just because I had a great story to tell didn’t mean prospects wanted to hear it. Once again, every salesperson who called claimed to have a great story.
Traditional sales methods were not helping to differentiate my product or my message. Prospects were less receptive than I had hoped, and the more sales calls I made, the more frustrated I became. To prospects, I was just another salesperson trying to get into their pockets. Even though I had not been selling for very long (at that point), it was clearly time for a new approach—something that would break down the traditional barriers to engage more prospects in more productive sales conversation.
Whether it was out of entrepreneurial instinct or desperation, I started to experiment with different techniques. Some worked quite well. Others failed miserably. When I found something that worked, I wanted to understand why it worked, so I could repeat my success. Likewise, when something failed, I wanted to understand why it failed, so I could avoid making the same mistake in the future. Over time, I compiled a battery of what-to-do’s and what-not-to-do’s that would forever alter the course of modern sales methods and training. Finally in 1996, I packaged this system into a strategic sales methodology called Question Based Selling.
Question Based Selling is a common sense approach to sales based on the theory that what a salesperson asks…and how they ask, is more important than what they will ever say. This principle makes sense because in order to present solutions, you must first uncover a need. How do you find out what your prospects need? By asking questions. But not just any questions. To be effective in sales, you must ask questions in a way that causes prospective customers to “want to” respond.
While Secrets of Question Based Selling is ultimately about selling, your title need not be “salesperson” to benefit from this book. Consultants, architects, lawyers, accountants, recruiters, advertisers, public relations executives, and brokers all must sell to create and maintain clients. Small business owners and entrepreneurs must sell to stay in business. Even corporate managers have to sell their ideas to other managers, and to their subordinate teams. The truth is…everybody sells something.
For me, QBS represents the culmination of a 17-year journey—one that has helped me realize that strategic questions are more than just staples of everyday conversation. Perhaps this marks the beginning of a new journey for you as well; not only as a motivated reader, but as a student of the question-based sale. Congratulations on taking the first step. I wish you the best!
Thomas A. Freese
President, QBS Research, Inc.