Below is the text of the sales training workshop presented by Maura Schreier-Fleming for AccountingWEB on Tuesday October 12, 1999. Be sure to check the schedule for upcoming workshops, and join us in the workshop room then!
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] While we're waiting if you have any questions for me, I'd be happy to answer them. I'm in Dallas
and I work with companies who are looking for new ways to sell more and the business skills that that requires.
[Carlos Vaneri] i dont see many people joining the chat are we soposed to be only 6?
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] I really don't know how many people are going to join us.
[Kelly McRae] We dont know how many attendees are going to participate, so we can begin the process
[Kelly McRae] Maura why don't you begin the chat. Thanks
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] I believe Michael was going to introduce me so I will introduce myself. I am an engineer by training
and I I first worked for Mobil. While I was with them I was their first female engineer in the Us
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] I then went to work for Chevron and there I was one of the top 5 salespeople in the country.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] I?m sure many of you thought when you made the career choice of accounting you would be doing
accounting not selling. In an interview in the Dallas Morning News, the President of the American Institute of Certified Public
Accountants, Barry Melancon, said, ?The CPA profession is not just about accounting anymore. It?s about consulting. It?s
about IT, it?s about tax?? He forgot to mention it?s also about selling.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] How many of you think of selling as a daunting task?
[Kelly McRae] I do. It takes time and an effort sometimes I don't have.
[Carlos Vaneri] yuo mean selling as one of our services?
[Mohamed Fathelbab] I have a question, I do corporate retreats and all my business has been through word of mouth and
I'm currenty in the process of wanting to expand beyond "me!" because I'm as busy as I can be? Where do I go for the next
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] When I say selling I mean the way in which your customers decide to use/buy your services.
Mohamed, can we get to that one in a little bit?
[Mohamed Fathelbab] Okay!
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] For those who find the process of conveying to your customers that they should be using your
companies and services, II thought today's class would focus on one part of the processs of selling
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Please excuse my typing! Because selling is a process.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] It really is a process and like most processes, once we master the individual steps, we can master
the process. In today?s class I thought we would look at one of the first steps in selling, opening the sales call. For many people
the idea of selling is pitching products and services to a customer. That?s not SELLING, it?s TELLING!
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Is this something that would help each of you in your jobs?
[Mohamed Fathelbab] Yes!
[Carlos Vaneri] sure!
[Kelly McRae] Yes,
[Nigel Harris] me too
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Good, because one of the first things in sales is meeting customer requirements.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] What I've done is prepared an outline of some material that is part of my strategic questioning class
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] I'll introduce pieces of it, if we want to go off on tangents, fine with me. It's your class.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] And more and more even accountants find themselves in roles where they are selling. And when I
say selling, I mean listening to a customer to hear a need or an opportunity that you can meet with your products or services.
[Nigel Harris] ah listening skills!
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] For many people, even people with the job title Salesperson, starting the sales call is a challenge. I
recommend you prepare for the beginning of a sales call by having a pinball question. This is the first thing we?ll be working on
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game of pinball, pinball is a game of skill and a game
of chance. Just like selling! In pinball the idea was to keep the ball bouncing around the sides of the game and off the flippers so
you could ring the bells, get more points, and play longer. That way you have more fun playing the game.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] That?s just what your opening question should do. You want to keep the conversation going, back
and forth from you to your customer. The more conversation you have going, the more information gathering you?ll get and
you?ll get more out of the sales call. Your objective is to solve problems. Before you can solve problems, before you can
present solutions, you need to identify the problem.
[Kelly McRae] What if there is no problem
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] If there truly is no problem, you really have nothing to sell.
[Kelly McRae] Oh
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] I believe that a great salesperson does his/her job by questioning the customer to find out areas
where ther are either peroblems or areas to be improved.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] So it's not just about problem,s, you are also looking for opportunities.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Most everything can be improved. It's your job to show the customer that the efforts to improve are
worth the costs.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] That's where the listening and questioning come in.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Does that answer make sense?
[Kelly McRae] So far
[Mohamed Fathelbab] yep
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Your goal should be you talking 20% and your customer talking 80%.
[Nigel Harris] As Stephen Covey would say, seek first to understand...
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] We?re going to work on a pinball question so you have them ready for when you call on your
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Yes, and I agree with Covey. TOo many salespeople start talking before they know what the
customers interrests are.
[Carlos Vaneri] how you qualify the prospect? he might be only trying to get info from you and will never buy
[deborah lacey] Hi, may I join you??
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Yes please join.
[Nigel Harris] Welcome Deborah
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Let's talk about qualifying the prospect.
[john kleb] and regarding Carlos, is it okay to give some information to get face time in front of prospect?
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Yes, it's ok to give some info to get face time.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] In fact you must start selling by giving your customer a compelling reason to meet with you..
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] As far as qualifying the prospect, here's what I recommend
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] If you have been in business long enough to determine who your ideal prospect it, figure out what
makes them ideal.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Or, figure out who is the most logical candidate to use your services.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] If you don't have that info, ask your existing customer's why they chose you.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Use that information to find more customers like your existing customers.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Does that answer your question?
[Kelly McRae] Does any one have a written profile of the type of clients you want?
[Scott H. Cytron] I want the ones that will make me the most profitable.
[Carlos Vaneri] not quite. there must be a way to identify who is willig and willing to pay your services
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Scott, do you know which services you offer that are the most profitable to you?
[Mary Thomas] Our firm doesn't have a written profile, but our partners know which direction they want to go.
[Scott H. Cytron] I think those are the ones that have the most long-lasting effects instead of a single project or activity.
Perhaps one that last more than even six to nine months.
[deborah lacey] I'd like to introduce myself. I've recently joined the firm of Wooden & Benson in Towson as Director of
Marketing. Workshop sounds like it going well. I'll just park here for a while and observe.
[john kleb] George, we are discussing what we use to qualify what type of clients we wish to have
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] So your first step would be to add that customers with long term projects are part of the profile of
your ideal customer.
[Carlos Vaneri] lets assume our strategy is , preciselly, to change the profile of our customers base
[Scott H. Cytron] That's a great idea.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Carlos, do you know what you want to change it to?
[john kleb] For educational purposes, let's say we wish to change our client base to those who have significant upside
potential in eBusiness strategies.
[Kelly McRae] Hello Carlos
[Carlos Vaneri] yes. I wolud like to have customers in the midrage market and, so far I only access the very liow end
[john kleb] Maybe a better example, Carlos
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] In either case, what are characteristics of the clients you want.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Do you require a particular location, SIC (Standard Industrial Code) size, revenue...?
[john kleb] Sales of $200k to $5m
[john kleb] Non restaurant or bar
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] THe first step would be to identify who makes up your predetermined criteria.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] There are resource manuals that provide that information.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] You just want to be sure that that criteria you are using will get you what your business needs.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] I assume in John's case there is a reason/reasons for the revenue.
[john kleb] Only the assumption that they are more likely to be able to pay our prices.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Whatever your reason, that's ok.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] ALways good to have customers who can pay!
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] The next step is to refine your search within the revenue requirements you set.
[john kleb] That has not been our criteria before :-)
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Then you are much nicer than me!!!
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] What would be some additional requirements to refine your search for ideal customers who would
then fit your customer profile?
[john kleb] Upward revenue history
[Kelly McRae] Location of client
[Nigel Harris] Perhaps specific trade types
[Carlos Vaneri] industrry sagment
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] I would write these down and in my first contacts with customers incorporate these into my
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] These are all great examples of what you would think about to define who you are looking for.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Anything else?
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Is number of client employees critical for your profile?
[Kelly McRae] No
[john kleb] Could be
[Nigel Harris] ditto
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] If so, just add to your list.
[Nigel Harris] Surely a lot of this is research we should do before seeing a prospect
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] When you introduce yourself at business meetings, you can now say "I work with clients who..... "
and fill in a few of your requirements of your ideal customer.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Nigel, yes. You should know some basics about your customer before you see them.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] That's why it is so important to define who your ideal customer is.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] IF you know who you are looking for, then you set up appointments with customers who at least fit
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Not all customers who fit the profile will buy, but it is highly unlikely that ones that mismatch the
profile will buy.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] You will work hard enough selling that you should always maximize your odds of success and
minimize odds of failure.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Does anyone want to know what I think is basic info you should have before an actual salescall?
[Nigel Harris] yes pleeeease
[Kelly McRae] Well of course
[deborah lacey] Yes
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] You should know how their business performance has been within the last year or lately, what they
actually do, the job title of the perszon you are talking with and most important that they fit your ideal customer profiel.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] I always check the web site of a client before a sales call.
[john kleb] File this one for later in the chat - what do you use to track leads, prospects, etc.? Have you used and web based
options like Upshot or any others we might like to consider.
Once you get to the sales call that's when you open the call with what I call the pinball question to
get more info that you can use .
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] I start every call with a preplanned question that I call my pinball question.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Do you want to learn how to write your own?
[john kleb] Yes
[Kelly McRae] Sure
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] The pinball question has 4 characteristics. If there are any questions about any of these points, just
[deborah lacey] Yes, ofcourse.
[Mohamed Fathelbab] yes
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] A pinball question gets your customer talking about his business.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] When you come into a sales call, your customer has other things to think about. He?s got deadlines,
subordinates, and projects to do. He?s distracted by other stuff and the question gets him to focus on his business. It also gives
him the freedom to talk about whatever he wants.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Your question should be Non coercive
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Don?t you hate it when salespeople say, ?If I could save you money would you buy this? ? That?s
coercive and pushy. Pushy turns people off.
Your questions should Require some thought by the customer
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] You want him/her to get into thinking about his business. You want more than superficial
information. ?How are you doing?? is not a pinball question!
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Your question should be relatively easy to answer -
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Your question should be relatively easy to answer -
[Kelly McRae] Hi Mike
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Don?t make it too hard to communicate with you. Your opening question is not the time to play
stump the customer.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Hi Mike
[john kleb] Uh oh the boss just entered the room :-)
[Mohamed Fathelbab] Hi Mike
[john kleb] Hi Mike
[Michael Platt] Note to self: Check out firewalls in the office you are visiting before going into a chat!
[Nigel Harris] Hi Mike, greetings from AccountingWeb UK!
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Now that you have some idea of what a pinball question is, write your pinball question That you will
open your sales call with.
[Stuart Jones] Sorry to join late. I have just returned from the office. It is 21:40 in the UK. Will try and catch up. Couldn't
resist the opportunity to chat across the Atlantic.
What keeps you up at night?
Not you Stuart - to the prospect
I was puzzled by that question so early on.
[Michael Platt] "What keeps you up at night" is a great question to get into the psyche of your prospect.
[Nigel Harris] And it gets them thinking
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Good for psyche, but not necessarily good for establishing rapport!!!!'
[Michael Platt] Agreed---
[john kleb] I also like to ask the prospect to take me on a tour of their business. People love to show you around.
[Michael Platt] "What are you most proud of here?" works well too
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] John, yes. You can see more things walking around, people open up and talk with you , too.
[john kleb] I like Mike's idea. Is it in the public domain?
[Mohamed Fathelbab] Great questions!!
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] I love Mike's question. Does anyone else have any others?
[Scott H. Cytron] Sorry; I just came back into the conversation. I think you have to walk a fine line between pandering to a
prospective client and not doing enough to show you're interested.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] As a matter of fact, Mike's meets my requirements for a pinball question.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Scott, the opening question is not to pander. It's to get the customer talking about his business so
you can identify opporutunities.
I only worry a bit that Mike's question might cause the prospect some offense because his/her pride should be
[Stuart Jones] I used the question "What keeps you awake at night"for the first time last week and learnt more in 5 minutes
about the prospects wants than I would have done in an hour with aless direct question. It took alot of courage as it
contravenes the English reserve!
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Stuart, I misunderstood.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] I didn't realize you meant What about your business keeps you up at night.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] With that meaning it too was a fabulous opening question.
[Scott H. Cytron] I like the "up at night" scenario. Also good to talk to the ranks, as mentioned, to get a feel for what's going
on in other divisions and perhaps beneath the surface.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] One of my rules for the opening question is that it is 8 words or less.
[Nigel Harris] Arrive early and chat to the receptionist - you get great background info!
[Michael Platt] I also like "with unlimited time and talent, what would you do here that you're not doing now."
[john kleb] What is the company's most significant opportunity today? (8 words)
[Michael Platt] (violating Maura's rule of 8)
Does everyone see that all these questions are open ended questions?
That is part of the reason they are so great.
[john kleb] Follow up with What is the company's most significant opprtunity tomorrow?
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] another great question.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] They're also all stated positively.
[Nigel Harris] Then - what will stop you from exploiting that opportunity?
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Yes. There is in fact a model of questioning that I teach. It's abcd.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] It says first: about, then bad, consequences and desire.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] You just followed the learn about , then ask what's bad format. Good going!
[Nigel Harris] So 3rd is what would happen if..?
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Nigel, absolutely. That addresses the consequences piece.
[Michael Platt] And 4th?
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] THe other questions were also good because they had the word you in them.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] 4th is to create desire. You ask the customer what he wants to see happen as a result of eliminating
the problem or doing something about it.
[Nigel Harris] And that;s where we ride in to the rescue
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] You got it!
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] What to o many salespeople do is they start talking about their products/services too soon.
Maura, in the short time we have remaining, what would be the three action items you can charge the
attendees with to be able to go back and make a difference in their firms?
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] If you don't have an ideal customer profile written, do it.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] If you don't know who your profitable customers are, find out.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] If you don't have a pinball question written, write one and practice it on your customers to hone it
and improve it.
[john kleb] Sorry to leave the conference, but I have a prospect waiting in the lobby. Thanks for the fun.
[Michael Platt] Great! Any other questions for Maura?
[Stuart Jones] I always add "What did you previous accountant do that that you don't want us to repeat". It makes you seem
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Yes. Always a good idea to find out what you should avoid doing to upset the customer!
[Michael Platt] Let me remind everyone that Maura has authored several articles on the site here -- go to Practice Ideas for
some of them
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] I don't know if I get to say goodbye to everyone. I have thoroughly enjoyed this session and hope
you have too.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Let me know if I can help!
[Mohamed Fathelbab] Thank you very much it was fabulous!
[Michael Platt] If you would like to follow up with Maura, go to her website as shown on the schedule above.
[Nigel Harris] Thanks Maura, I will encourage our UK subscribers to join future chats
[Michael Platt] Maura, thank you so much on behalf of everyone!
[Carlos Vaneri] thanks you all
[Stuart Jones] I'm settling down for the evening with a glass of wine. The advice was excellent. Thank you.
[Maura Schreier-Flemi] Stuart, enjoy your wine!
[Michael Platt] Please be sure to check the schedule above for future sessions. Thank you all!