It’s no secret when it comes to selling, I believe in processes. Xerox drilled this into me. I learned all sorts of selling processes while working for that company. I learned SPIN selling, Buyer Focused Selling, Professional Selling Skills, (PSS,) and more. When interviewed, I’ve often said you didn’t tie your shoes at Xerox without a process. I’m a big fan of processes and their value, and here’s why:
“When you have a process, you have a way of measuring what you’re doing. When you can measure it, you can fix it.”
Yes, I’m a fan of processes. The problem with processes is they can often be a bit lengthy. My own Customer Centered Selling process is a hefty 22 steps! In fairness, that particular process covers selling from A to Z, and in my mind, I wanted to include it all. Some years ago, after conducting a two-day seminar in Birmingham, Alabama, I was taught a wonderful lesson in another sales process… A much shorter sales process. One of my students was kind enough to give me a ride back to the airport, and while in route, he mentioned he had a process of his own he used when he was selling.
He told me that the 22 steps within Customer Centered Selling process was going to be a lot of help to him, and he was committed to using the process. He also told me he was going to miss the process he had been using because it was “easier to remember because it has only one step.” I went from thinking that this ride can’t end soon enough, to being genuinely curious. I asked him if he had a name for his process and he told me, “I call it the ‘And’ method.” When he saw my puzzled expression, he went on to tell me the details: “It’s really quite simple. You see, when a customer comes in and tells me he’s got a problem, I just say, uh… and?” Make no mistake about it; that simple, one-step method singlehandedly addresses the most difficult move in selling! Customers don’t like to look down the road at the potential impact of the issues they are battling, and 40 years as a sales trainer has taught me this: Salespeople really struggle coming up with questions to get them to do just that. The problem is solved with one harmless “and…?”
For instance, a potential customer might say, “One of my biggest concerns is about who will take care of my family if something happens to me.” We could provide an answer, but it’s probably an answer the customer has heard before, and if he or she was concerned about this, wouldn’t they have fixed it already? The better response would be… “And?” What typically follows is something like this: “Well, I’ve always tended to handle money matters myself. I have a rather large estate, and would not want to create family dysfunction.” The more the customer talks about the issue, the more urgency he or she will feel to address it. Remember, these types of problems articulated by customers aren’t new, but confronting the depth of the problem is. Asking more questions help accomplish this, and the, “And” method, helps you do just that! It’s brilliant on so many levels:
- The foundation of selling is asking questions. It’s a question.
- When asking questions, particularly early in the conversation, it’s important to ask open questions. It’s an open question.
- When asking questions, it’s important to keep your questions short and simple. It’s an open question that is short and simple.
- The most important question that can be asked isn’t the question you’ve written down or memorized. It’s the follow-up question to the challenges and concerns your prospect has just spoken to you about. Their concerns have paved the way to that simple and short open question you can use as follow-up.
Having taught sales for over 35 years, I can tell you, firsthand, that the most challenging aspect of selling is not just getting a prospect to focus on the issues they are considering addressing, but looking further down the road at those issues they are considering addressing. I refer to these types of questions as “Developing Probes,” and these questions have always been the most difficult to teach and implement. That is, until I met my friend in Birmingham, and his trusty, “And” method!
I am not saying the “And” method is right for everyone, in every conversation, but I will say this: It found a home with me, and those I work with. As a matter of fact, I believe it represents one of the most effective questions you can ask, at the most critical time in a conversation that requires selling. So, if you ever find yourself in Birmingham, remember, it’s the home of the simplest sales process ever created, the “And” method, and the home of the greatest barbecue you’ll ever have; Dreamland Bar-B-Cue. This writer will never forget either one!