Questions are the Answer: Your Biggest Sales Challenge in 2012?

by Chris Arlen on February 2, 2012

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Image by Håkan Dahlström

What do your customers think? What’s important? Challenging?

If you get these answers you sell more, so we ask customers.

But their answers don’t help. They’re simplistic, obvious, ambiguous. Their answers lack the detail to help you understand their needs. They lack insight to help you develop a solution for their problems.

This isn’t derogatory, it’s reality.

When you ask customers how you can help them, or what they need help with, you’re likely to be disappointed. Their answers are not enough – but they are a starting point.

Questioning is an art, not a science, which is why following a set list of questions fails.

You want actionable questions. Questions that will give you something to work from, a base into the consultative sales process (understanding first, then being understood).

I Wanted to Know So I Asked

Stick with me here as we’re moving from “asking good questions” to “helping me help you”.

I was hunting for ideas to research and write about in this blog.

So I asked a group of owners, executives and sales managers what their biggest challenge was for their sales team in 2012.

Their answers were…a starting point, which led to more questions.

I’m still looking for an answer to that original question. I’m still looking for what you want to read about.

But I’m closer to a workable answer because I’ve reframed a few original answers into more actionable questions.

Specifically, these actionable questions will get me closer to understanding what you want to read about regarding sales. But now I need your help.

What is Your Biggest Sales Challenge in 2012?

So now I’m asking you for the biggest sales challenges you face in 2012.

Tell me which one of the questions below you’d like an answer to and I’ll get started researching and writing about the top vote getter.

But pick from the list of questions below because they’re actionable ones. The resulting articles will hopefully be more specific and useful.

Please let me know your choice in a comment here.

 1) If you can’t speed up the sales cycle, how do you win more when contracts are put out to bid?

2) Why should customers’ buying cycle care about your sales cycle?

3) If customers can buy now, why don’t they?

4) What’s wrong with a long sales cycle?

5) How do I define my target profile? (what does my perfect customer look like?)

6) What are my new business development goals? How do I create them?

7) Where does social media fit in my new business development? Or is it the whole enchilada?

8) How can I identify the decision makers in the buying process?

9) How do I analyze what decision makers’ want?

10) How do I sell to Procurement’s agenda ?

11) How can I influence Procurement prior to the bid process?

Please let me know your choice in a comment here.

Original Answers Leading to Actionable Questions

The answers below spawned the list of actionable questions I’m asking you to choose from. These answers are presented here with permission.

Randall Martin, Vice President Sales and Marketing of Skyline Building Care felt his biggest sales challenge in 2012 is to:

“Decrease the number of days in the sales cycle”.

Dan Wachtler, President and CEO of IPSA International, Inc.  is facing this 2012 sales challenge:

“What should we know and how should we and shouldn’t we use social media given our demographics.”

Robert Beardsley, Regional Vice President, ABM Security Services is looking at the 2012 challenge of:

“The biggest challenge for any sales person in the service industry these next few years will continue to be the identification of the key decision makers.  There has been a huge shift in the decision making process from front line management to back office procurement. Procurement is now driving the bus while everyone else is more or less going along for the ride.”

Remember, please let me know your choice of your biggest 2012 sales challenge in a comment here.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Velez February 2, 2012 at 7:19 pm

1) If you can’t speed up the sales cycle, how do you win more when contracts are put out to bid?

Lynn Dewees February 3, 2012 at 4:30 am

Questions 8,9,10 and 11 are perennials for me. If I were to choose only one, I’d go with #11. An awful lot of my work is bid and it would be nice to have some influence on the development of the bid package and process.

Good article!

Chris Arlen February 3, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Lynn,

Thanks for your comments. Yup, Procurement is a bear.

Chris Arlen February 3, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Bill,

Appreciate your feedback.

Chris Arlen March 22, 2012 at 4:46 am

Lynn,

Here’s an earlier article about selling to Procurement, see if this helps: http://www.revenue-iq.com/procurement-strategy

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