In the world of professional services, sales success is rarely about demonstrating more expertise in your field than the next person. Instead, it’s all about the questions you ask and the listening you do.

A few months after receiving a sales training program and some sales coaching based on the Action Selling system, Gerald Blakely, a Texas-based financial advisor for investment-services company Edward Jones, had this to say:

“My meeting agenda is now based on the system I learned in the sales training course. I use Commitment Objectives to make sure I focus client meetings on what we are really trying to accomplish. And I am more disciplined at asking the right financial questions. That means my clients are doing more talking, and I am doing less.

“When I tie back my recommended solution to the clients’ specific needs—the ones I uncovered by listening—they are much more receptive. Just last night I worked with a client who wants to buy a new home and new furniture. I showed her how we could adjust her investments to produce more income to buy new furniture, make the down payment, and pay her property taxes each year. By thoroughly understanding her needs and including them in my solution, I differentiated myself. She decided to transfer $700,000 from another investment firm to us.”

The client didn’t make that dramatic move because Blakely knew a magic secret about property taxes. She did it because she decided to trust him. In sales, trust is the whole ball game. If a sales training program doesn’t teach how to earn trust, don’t use it.

It’s all about listening

The key to winning and keeping clients for the long haul is a simple but profound secret. It’s not about how well you talk. It’s about how well you listen.

Sales training courses based on the Action Selling system teach that before a customer will buy your product, your service, or your company, the customer first must decide to buy you. Nowhere is this truer than in the professional-services sector. When customers choose among financial advisors, accountants, or attorneys, what are they really deciding to buy? It’s rarely a product or a company, as such. They’re usually buying a person—an advisor they feel they can trust.

The question becomes, how do you earn a client’s trust? Certainly the client must believe you have some baseline level of expertise in your field. But given that, the way to differentiate yourself is to show that you understand the client’s particular needs, that you will always take the trouble to find out what those needs are, and that you see it as your job to find solutions for the client’s needs—not just to peddle your company’s wares.

You can’t do any of that with so-called sales skills that rely on the customer’s infatuation with your golden voice. You can only do it by asking great questions, and listening carefully to the answers, until you and the client both agree that you thoroughly understand the client’s needs. If a sales training program or a sales coaching initiative isn’t hammering that idea home to your reps, then you need a different sales training program.

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).