Testing and challenging assumptions when selling
By Mark Blezard
This is a sales skill that we often forget or fail to recognize altogether.
We are referring to the ability to test and challenge assumptions in your dealings with customers, which involves identifying assumptions (what your client might be starting to deduce, rightly or wrongly), testing their implications, and challenging their validity.
The two key competencies are:
1) Understanding the implications of a customer assumption during the sales process
2) Probing and questioning identified assumptions with the customer to gain clarity
The way we assess this skill at Sales Skills Audit comes from analysing how and when a sales executive questions information divulged by their prospect. For example, a customer may decide to buy from you fairly early on in the sales process. This is good, right? Well not necessarily if you haven’t questioned what they are ordering and why they think it is the right fit. Failing to challenge and test this decision may lead to mis-selling or missing a much larger, more suitable, order.
Then of course there are clients with preconceived, negative assumptions about your product. They might welcome you and play ball for the whole pitch but if you fail to reveal the negative assumption the sale will finish with a puzzling “no thanks.”
So, never skim over the Qualifying process when with a client and prepare a good bank of probing questions in advance. Share your ‘question bank’ with your peers, build upon it.