What is the worst thing you could hear during a sales call on a customer who has known you for a while?

Here’s a scenario that would be high on my list: You ask an insightful question about the customer’s business needs, and the customer says, “I didn’t know you cared.”

Then again, I can think of something far worse: failing to correct that impression immediately.

In sales training programs and sales coaching initiatives based on Action Selling, we teach that most of the real selling you do during a sales call takes place while you are asking questions, not while you’re presenting your products. This means that a lot of the behaviors you probably think of as “sales skills” are useless or even counterproductive. That calls for a pretty radical change in behavior for some veteran salespeople.

Suppose you call on a familiar customer and begin to ask insightful questions about the customer’s business that don’t obviously pertain to the product you’re trying to sell. How surprised would the customer be to discover that you’re interested?

“I didn’t know you cared” is a reaction that some veteran salespeople fear they will hear from customers if they begin to practice what they learn in our sales training courses. While conducting sales coaching sessions, I have been asked, “What are my long-time customers going to think if I start asking them all these questions?”

Want loyalty? You have to care

It’s a fear that can cripple salespeople’s ability to change their behavior, even when they realize that a sales training program is showing them a far better way to sell. They know they are being offered a more effective toolkit of sales skills, but they worry that existing customers will find it odd if they pull out the new tools: “Will they think I have been replaced by a space alien?”

That fear has to be faced and overcome if salespeople want to win genuine loyalty from their customers. Customers grant loyalty only to salespeople whom they view as trusted business partners. Customers will never regard you as a trusted partner unless they know that you understand their needs—and that you care about their success.

The way to understand key needs, and to demonstrate that you care, is to ask great questions and listen closely to the answers. No questions? No loyalty.

Fortunately, overcoming this particular fear is usually pretty easy because the fear is baseless. Customers certainly may be surprised at the change in your behavior, but they won’t be alarmed or put off. Think about it. If you discovered that someone actually cared about you and your problems, would you assume they had gone crazy? Or would you think, “Hey, there’s more to this person than I thought?”

For information about how to improve sales skills and make sales training pay huge dividends, contact Action Selling at (800) 232-3485.

Duane Sparks

About Duane Sparks

Duane Sparks is founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source of practical and leading-edge information about the art and science of selling.  He has created Action Selling sales training products and learning systems that transform sales organizations.  Duane is author of these best-selling books: Action Selling, Selling Your Price, Questions (the Answer to Sales), Masters of Loyalty (How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force), and Sales Strategy from the Inside Out (How complex selling really works).

Discover how the best sales training process can make spectacular improvements in sales skills. Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional (Even If You Think You are One).