Dakota Supply Group, based in Fargo, N.D., is a major Midwest distributor for a wide variety of mechanical, electrical, and communications products. When president Tom Rosendahl introduced sales training programs and sales coaching based on the Action Selling ® system, he began to see the impact quickly.

In one case, a 30-year veteran salesperson called on a longtime client and began to ask the kinds of questions he had learned in the sales training course. The customer’s response: “I didn’t know you cared.” In other words, Rosendahl says, “The customer thought that the rep was only interested in what business he could get.”

Some salespeople fear that customers will find it weird if they begin acting differently, so they resist changing their behavior. But this salesperson learned that customers actually like to work with someone who cares.

‘Sales skills’ aren’t what you think

Even veteran salespeople tend to think that their core sales skills come into play mainly when they are presenting their products. Wrong. In our sales training programs and sales coaching initiatives, we teach that most of the actual selling you do during a sales call takes place while you are asking questions, not while you’re presenting. That demands a pretty radical change in behavior for some veteran salespeople.

If you called on a familiar customer and began to ask insightful questions about the customer’s business that didn’t obviously pertain to the product you’re trying to sell, how surprised would the customer be to discover that you’re interested? So surprised that you’d be afraid to try it?

That fear has to be overcome if you want to win genuine loyalty from 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.

As Dakota Supply Group’s Rosendahl puts it, the old saying is true: “Customers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

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