The “gift of gab” is the most overrated sales skill I know. Salespeople who think that success depends primarily on their silver tongues are doomed. Any sales training programs or sales coaching initiatives that encourage this belief are criminal.
The most effective sales skills don’t come into play while you’re talking. They have to do with asking great questions—and then listening carefully to the answers.
When you question customers skillfully instead of just gabbing at them, they recognize and appreciate it. Victor Younger, of Stuart Dean Co., a restoration and maintenance company in Cleveland, Ohio, sent a number of his sales reps to a sales training program based on the Action Selling system. After the program, one rep called on a customer that he had visited several times before. The customer actually asked the rep: “Have you been to a sales training course or something?”
The rep asked the customer what made her think he had received sales training. Her response, Younger says, was humbling but great: “Because you’re letting me talk, and you’re listening more.”
Compete on your sales skills, not on price
Competing on the basis of your questioning skills can help you escape the trap of competing on price. Consider the case of George Hudson, an account executive in the Southeast region for Perfecto Tool & Engineering of Anderson, Ind. After attending a sales training course and getting some sales coaching in Action Selling, Hudson called on one of his existing corporate accounts.
“My customers wanted to combine three orders into one, and then shop for the best price and delivery,” Hudson says. “They were asking for a huge discount. I had been a friend to this client for years, so you might think I’d automatically get the business. But that’s not how it works today.
“My sales training program came in the nick of time. I realized I had to convert this client to an Action Selling type of customer. Mostly by using the questioning process, I landed a $56,941 deal—without discounting a dime.
“This one sale paid for my company’s training and then some,” he says. “Action Selling kicks the competition that isn’t using it.”