Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Tim Shanahan

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Why Great Salespeople Are Like Curious Children

Tags: Qualifying skills, asking the right questions

Child: "Can I have ice cream for dinner?"

Parent: "No."

Child: "Why?"

Parent: "Because ice cream isn’t good for you."

Child: "Why?"

Parent: "Because it has no nutritional value."

Child: "Why?"

Parent: "Umm … I guess because its makers wanted to make sure it was tasty."

Child: "Why?"

Parent: "So, they could sell more of it."

Child: "Why?"

If you’re a parent, you know this scene all too well. And if you’re an honest parent, you know that at times all those incessant questions can be downright annoying.

But you also know that asking those questions is a critical part of the child’s developmental process. Children have no built-in knowledge base, so asking questions – and getting answers – is the way in which they begin to make sense of the world around them.

It’s similar to great selling, actually – minus the “annoying” part.

Great salespeople always ask the extra question. They know that the more knowledge they can gather about the customer’s situation, the better they can serve him or her.

6463827_xxl kid hand raised-1

Ask, Then Listen

It’s not enough, though, to just fire away with question after question. Great salespeople listen – really listen – to the answers their customers give.

That may sound simple, but if you’ve ever watched a locker room interview after a big game, you’ll see how often people who are paid to ask questions – sportswriters – fail to do this.

Locker room interviews don’t always produce thoughtful questions.

Reporter: “Johnny, tell us about your game-winning hit.”

Player: “Well, I was just looking for a pitch to drive. But I really think the key was the week I spent in a sweat lodge before the game. That really cleared my mind.”

Reporter: “Uh huh. So, what are your thoughts about tomorrow’s matchup?”

We exaggerate here to make a point. But often writers are so intent on getting through their list of questions (and getting back to the press box to file a story before deadline) that they fail to listen to answers that, if they followed up on them, would give them a much better story.

What’s the Customer Really Saying?

At PrecisionLender, our software is designed to help bankers have these better conversations with borrowers by supplying them with insights from our virtual insights coach, Andi®. So, consider this hypothetical situation …

Let’s say you’re trying to win a deal with a borrower for a $3,000,000 commercial real estate loan. But the borrower says he’s planning to go with a competitor bank that’s offering a rate that’s 50 basis points lower.

Some bankers throw up their hands right then. The deal doesn’t meet their target so, then, oh well.

But great bankers start asking questions. “What can you tell me about this deal?”

Perhaps then you find out how, exactly, the competitor bank is offering such a low rate. Maybe it’s because part of the loan is guaranteed. That could be the end of the story. But the great banker channels his inner annoying child and asks about the guarantee: Who’s providing it? What are the details?

In this hypothetical scenario, the guarantor is the borrower’s father-in-law. Again, this could be the end of the line. But the great banker – unlike the mediocre sportswriter – is listening to the answer, and he detects that the borrower is less than thrilled at the prospect of “owing one” to his father-in-law. So, the great banker asks more questions and finds out that the borrower would be more than willing to cut a few months off the length of the loan if it means he can get the same low rate and not have to rely on his father-in-law’s guarantee.

By asking questions and listening to the answers, the great banker has gathered enough information to turn the tables and win another deal for his bank.

With this approach, the only people truly annoyed are the bankers working for the competition.

 

About Tim

As SVP of Enterprise Client Success for PrecisionLender, Tim’s significant career experience in commercial banking makes him uniquely qualified to partner with bank executives to increase revenue and profitability, as well as improve the customer experience and colleague experience. Prior to joining PrecisionLender, Tim spent over 10 years at Citizens Bank (NYSE: CFG) in various line and support roles, including National Sales Director - Franchise Finance, Chief Operating Officer - Commercial Finance, Director of Commercial Banking Strategy and Growth, and Head of Commercial Excellence. In addition, Tim served as Director of Credit Product Management for BMO Harris Bank.