I ran into an old coworker, whom I consider a good friend, at a coffee shop this Friday morning. He is the VP of Sales with 75 or so direct reports. His company is international with a majority of their revenue occurring in Asia.
He was telling me about sales training he held for the entire sales team. The focus was on negotiating and, more specifically, how to ask the right questions to qualify the opportunity. The Asian sales reps balked at some of the questions based solely on their approach to qualifying. Let’s just say they prefer to take a more passive, unquestioning approach which leads to prayer rug forecasts and lower revenue.
Obviously there are some cultural issues when it comes to qualifying. Anyone who has been to Japan knows that there are certain formalities you have to follow to honor your counterparts. However, I would argue that the qualifying issue is an individual issue. At the risk of sounding overly simple, sales is a difficult profession that requires a skill set that is uncommon to the majority of the population.
The training that my friend provided was not provocative, excessive nor “risky.” It was simply communication made clear by a sound questioning strategy. This approach is the essence of qualifying. It spans cultures. It leads to the important point that if you are attempting to hire stronger salespeople, you must incorporate an assessment to get an x-ray of the salesperson’s abilities. Do they have the right mix of talent and motivation to ask the difficult questions required for successful selling?
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