If you examine the day-to-day conversations that take place in the business arena (or almost any setting), you’ll discover examples of miscommunication and non-communication occurring in varying degrees. Conversations will contain distortions, deletions, and generalizations. They are part of the fabric of interpersonal communication. And, it’s the distortions, deletions, and generalizations that get in the way of closing more sales…and closing them more quickly.
When a customer says, “This happens every time I place an order with you,” does he really mean that the situation to which he is referring occurs each and every time an order is placed? Or, is “every time” somewhat of a distortion—an exaggeration, perhaps to emphasize his point?
When you ask a prospect how buying decisions are made regarding the service you have to offer, and he says, “I make those decisions,” is that an accurate reflection of the decision process and his decision-making authority? Or, did he perhaps delete the part of the process that requires him to get the CFO to first approve the allocation of funds and then sign-off on the purchase?
When a prospect says, “We’re very happy with our current supplier,” does she mean that she is 100% happy, 100% of the time, with every aspect of the service provided? Or, does she mean that she is generally happy… that there might be an area or two that could stand improvement?
David Sandler suggested that when you interact with your prospects and clients you do so with the mindset that they all lie…all the time. His suggestion isn’t an indictment of their honesty. Rather, it’s a reminder to be on the lookout for the distortions, deletions, and generalizations… and when you encounter them, to challenge the distortions, recover the deleted information, and specify the generalizations. To help you with those tasks, he developed a questioning strategy patterned after the approach psychologists use to “decode” their patient’s declarations
Why pattern a questioning strategy for the sales arena after the psychologist’s approach? Psychologists don’t “tell” their patients very much. Instead, they ask a lot of questions, not only to obtain information, but also to help their patients focus on the underlying issues contributing to their perceived problems. Also through the questioning process, psychologists help their patients make discoveries and view their problems more clearly. Isn’t that exactly what a salesperson should be doing with prospects, especially during the early stages of qualifying and developing an opportunity?
The questions the psychologist asks generally fall into two broad categories. One category of questions is designed to explore the underlying issues that precipitate the distortions, deletions, and generalizations contained in the patient’s statements and explanations. The second category is designed to guide the patient in a particular direction of exploration. Aren’t those ideal strategies for salespeople?
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