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Congratulations, you have now completed Step #4
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Chapter 7: Discovery: Game Day
The starter's pistol has sounded and now is the moment of truth, the opportunity to capitalize on all your
preparatory efforts. As you sit face-to-face with your customer, a gold-medal performance is your only
option. The sales arena presents no silver or bronze medals, nor does it allow any false starts. On
game day, Steps #1 through #4 of your Sequential Model are critical prerequisites to a stellar
performance. Chances are your competitor is in the same arena, running the same race, just on a
different day.

Your challenge is to move the customer from a cold, indifferent frame of mind to aroused excitement
about you and your product or service. Remember that salespeople are often viewed as an intrusion, an
interruption to an already busy day. Unless you can change that basic attitude by reducing the initial
tension, you are doomed before you start. The initial moments of a sales call are fraught with
uncertainty, and tension must be minimized. However, a certain level of tension is healthy and normal
as it motivates you to higher levels of performance. Sales entrepreneurs know how to transform nervous
pre-call energy into a winning edge, a confident approach. The winning edge is an attitude of a
champion. Small differences in attitude and ability can translate into enormous differences in results. A
race horse may win by a nose or a PGA golfer by a single stroke, but their winnings may be twice that
of second place. Are they twice as good or talented? Of course not. You and your competitor are both
invited by the customer to compete. You are both on the short list, but only one will emerge victorious,
often winning only by a nose. In sales, it's not your margin of victory that is important but whether you
played the game to win, embracing every possible advantage. Remember, your customer is the ultimate
judge of your performance. At the awards ceremony, the gold medal is presented in the form of an order.
Needs Analysis
Customer satisfaction begins with a careful diagnosis of needs and expectations. You must sensitize
yourself to your customer's issues and focus on what your customer needs to buy, rather than selling
what you need to sell. (One more sale and I win the TV!) Through open and honest conversation you will
discover the needs and expectations of your potential customer and begin to formulate a solution that
differentiates you from your closest competitor. Discovery, then, is asking questions through an
exploratory discussion, listening carefully, and aligning your offerings to exceed your customer's
The key to differentiation is asking intelligent questions, questions your competitors don't ask, or are
afraid to pose. Asking intelligent questions is the essence of an effective needs analysis that reveals the
specifics about a possible solution. However, asking questions is not an isolated event where you show
up to the appointment, introduce yourself, then proceed to inundate your customer with an onslaught of
scripted questions. Think of discovery as a dialogue, a conversation between two people, rather than a
strategic engagement between a salesperson and a customer. Before a customer will open up and
share information that may lead to a sale, you must get acquainted, establish rapport, gain trust, and
break through the mental barriers usually associated with first-time sales calls. You must demonstrate
a genuine interest in the customer to advance the relationship. Granted, it is not easy to break through
initial sales resistance, negative perceptions, and a general attitude of apathy toward salespeople.
Meeting a customer for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience for even a seasoned sales
professional. Usually, the first few minutes of a sales call are the most stressful for both the
salesperson and the customer. The customer's stress comes in the form of uncertainty about the
salesperson's intentions and apprehension about seeing "another sales rep." Sales representatives
experience stress because they often rely on little more than their good looks and the gift of the gab to
carry them through the call. However, thousands of sales entrepreneurs are successful every day,
proving that customers are receptive if you demonstrate a genuine interest through an approach that is
forged from your knowledge, skills, and confidence.

An effective approach requires a method designed to get the customer's attention and interest quickly,
while guiding you through the most sensitive part of the call, the first few minutes. Your greatest ally
throughout the call is the after-effect of the positive first impression you made. A favorable first
impression usually produces a customer who is willing to participate. Customers put tremendous faith
in their perceptions and are quick to prejudge. If you are perceived as professional and effective at the
beginning of the call, you will be perceived as effective during the rest of the call. The customer's
receptivity to you will be decided within the first minute. You never get a second chance to make a first
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The PSIP Method
Let's now explore the PSIP method: Pleasantries, Show-off, Inform, Probe. PSIP represents the four
navigational buoys of an effective opening strategy, designed to help you neutralize initial tension and
make a smooth transition into the needs analysis stage. All four components of PSIP must work in
accord with each other in order to take advantage of this proven approach. A well-executed PSIP
strategy is your springboard into a smooth opening and is a great confidence builder early in the call. It
is a great way to launch into the heart of the sales call, relax the initial tension, stripping away the
stiffness of the call. A strong opening strategy arouses the customer's curiosity and respect, often
setting the tone for the entire call, including telephone calls.

The PSIP method is not reserved for first-time sales calls only. It also works well with existing
customers. Just as the Sequential Model must be applied to every sales situation, PSIP must also be
utilized at every sales call, regardless of your customer's tenure.
Pleasantries. Customers form an opinion about you within 15 seconds, even before you speak. They
evaluate your posture, dress, hygiene, grooming, and attitude.
Pleasantries include two aspects, visual and verbal. First impressions encompass both aspects, and
can be a tremendous asset or a costly liability. Many salespeople make a poor impression without
realizing it by overlooking important details such as proper dress, punctuality, grooming, and overall
professionalism. You can't afford to let any aspect of your approach, visual or verbal, compromise the
impression you communicate to your customer. Be cognizant of the impact of your physical
appearance and how it can affect your customer's evaluation of you. Your visual assets, how you look
to the customer, are something to be proud of. This is an important aspect of nonverbal communication.
Show up on time feeling good, looking good, thinking good, and ready to do business. Emulate the
attitude of a winner, a champion. Customers want to deal with winners, so look like one. The most
important presentation you make is to yourself every morning in the mirror.

Verbal pleasantries means initiating social conversation with the customer using local events, current
events, or global events as possible topics of conversation. Take 15 minutes before you leave the house
or your hotel and peruse the morning paper, perhaps the business section or the sports section. Be
informed. It can be a great ice-breaker and a source of conversation, especially if you're from out of
town. During the pleasantries stage try to keep the conversation social. Encourage your customer to
respond on a personal level rather than on a formal business level. A short, humorous personal story
such as, "You'll never guess what happened to me this morning . . ." identifies you as a real human
being. It can do wonders to help people relax.
Another big advantage of the pleasantries stage is the opportunity it provides to identify your customer's
behavioral style. Ask yourself, "What quadrant is she in?" and "How do I need to adjust?" The
pleasantries stage begins to reveal preferred styles by way of dress and mannerisms. A talkative
response or a quick short answer to your questions will tell you a lot about your customer's style.
Behavioral styles and behavioral flexibility are discussed in detail throughout Chapter 6.

The key to forging a long-term relationship with your customer is to build rapport by way of adjusting to
your customer's preferred behavioral style. By definition, rapport means having something in common, a
link, some way to connect with your customer. Use behavioural flexibility, coupled with appropriate
social conversation, to build rapport. Don't rely on a picture of a sailboat hanging in the office to
stimulate conversation. It can be viewed as a shallow approach to building rapport and I'm sure your
customer is sick of talking about it every time a sales representative comes into the office.

Depending upon the customer's style, the pleasantries stage can be as quick as one minute or as long
as fifteen minutes. Remember, each call is situational. I caution you to safeguard yourself against
conversational drift. Don't let the talkative customer dominate all your time with such topics as religion,
capital punishment, or empty chatter that compromises the objective of the pleasantry stage.

During the pleasantry stage you begin to understand your customer's preferred business style, just as
the customer will have a good feeling about you and your level of confidence. By the way, my previous
point about a customer forming an opinion about you within 15 seconds works both ways. You too
begin to form an impression about your customer early and quickly.

The best advice I can offer for the pleasantries stage is to be yourself, guided by a positive attitude and
the confidence that comes with effective planning and preparation.
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Show-off. The second stage of PSIP is the opportunity to show off your new-found wisdom. Take a
subtle approach. By way of conversation and visual evidence (annual reports, brochures) let the
customer know you've done your homework. This is the point where social conversation (pleasantries)
shifts to business conversation. You have invested some non-selling, janitorial hours in planning and
preparing so now it's time to get a return on that investment. Your return comes in the form of the
customer's appreciation for your obvious commitment and professionalism. As discussed in Chapter 3,
take an, "Oh, by the way" approach to present your information. Take out their annual report and any
brochures that you received prior to the call and refer to them. For example, "Oh, by the way, I noticed
in your annual report some comments about your recent acquisition of ABC Company," or "I noticed in
your brochures you manufacture ten different models." You can even use competitive intelligence to
show off by saying, "I understand your competitors have discontinued manufacturing their . . ." This
demonstrates your knowledge of their industry as well as their business. Powerful stuff. What better
way to get your customers' interest and attention and build credibility than by talking about their
business? The examples of show-off items are endless, but be sure to relate your show-off items to
current, relevant information about their business.

A case in point: My associate and I made a sales call to the head office of a company. We arrived early
for our appointment, and had an opportunity to review some additional literature displayed in their lobby.
Our contact, the VP of Quality and Training, introduced himself and showed us into the boardroom. We
had barely sat down, working through the pleasantries stage, when he asked us, "What do you know
about our company?" With great enthusiasm my associate produced their annual report and a few of
their brochures attained prior to the appointment and then proceeded to talk about their business. We
had done our homework. The customer was impressed with our knowledge. We had earned the right to
proceed with the call and the next hour went very well. His confidence in us led to an introduction to the
VP of Sales and Marketing, a pivotal decisionmaker in the sales process.

The show-off stage has tremendous impact on the outcome of your sales call. I think more and more
customers are going to openly challenge salespeople about the extent of their knowledge. Without the
benefit of planning, you put yourself in a perilous situation, sitting in the customer's office with a look on
your face that resembles a deer caught in the headlights. The show-off stage of PSIP is an excellent
way to differentiate yourself, not to mention the confidence derived from having conversational
knowledge about your potential customer.
Inform. The Inform stage of PSIP provides an opportunity to inform your customer about what you are
selling and the reason for your visit. I refer to this stage as synchronizing the call; advising the customer
of your call objectives. This helps align your call agenda to the customer's buying agenda. Amazingly,
customers are often subjected to long-winded feature dumps, but are never really sure what the
objective is or what the sales representative is trying to accomplish. I have witnessed calls where the
customer and the salesperson are completely out of sync. The expectations of each are totally different.
Perhaps I should have titled this book, Synchronized Selling.
Getting in sync with your customer means asking a few up-front questions to evaluate his or her
understanding of what you represent. Ask, "Have you heard of our company before?" and "Do you know
what we do?" If the customer answers no to either question, give a quick overview of who you are and
what you are selling. Synchronize the call. Don't feature dump them with reams of useless information,
but rather respond with an informative two- to three-minute information statement. Consider this your
corporate infomercial. To add impact to your information statement, include a few key benefits that
previous customers have come to appreciate. This stage of PSIP need not take more than three to five
minutes. Brevity is a virtue.
Probe. The entrepreneurial style of selling places emphasis on probing for needs and expectations,
exploring for an opportunity to satisfy an existing inconvenience or dissatisfaction with a current vendor.
Skillful use of questions is the essence of an effective needs analysis, which of course is the
prerequisite to a creative, tailored solution. Creative solutions drive the relationship. There is a direct
correlation between the success of salespeople and their confidence to ask superior questions. The
challenge is not the ability to ask questions but rather the confidence to ask enough of the right
questions. I have seen countless situations where salespeople make the mistake of asking only a few
scripted questions then launch into an enthusiastic, well-rehearsed feature dump based on what they
think should be of interest to the customer. Rarely do they plan the questions they will ask. Sales
entrepreneurs realize that the questions you ask customers are more important than anything you tell
them. By answering questions, customers state their ideas, thoughts, and needs in their own words. If
they say it, it's true. If you say it, they can doubt you. They quickly sense your presentation (feature
dump) is based on your own self-serving interests, and the reaction is sure to be negative. You must be
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interested, as well as interesting. Imagine the impression you would create on a blind date if you did
most of the talking and didn't ask any questions. It wouldn't make for a very interesting conversation. I
don't think there would be a second date; just as there won't be a second appointment with a potential
Most customers divulge as little as possible, especially during the early stage of the call. Unless you
probe with smart questions, they give you only average information. Dumb questions begets dumb
information, which means you deliver a dumb solution. Dumb information means it's the same
information your competitor received. Your customer will tell you that your solution is dumb by saying,
"Interesting, that's exactly what your competitor told me." Superior questions help you avoid the me-too
presentation, the cookie-cutter syndrome. Customers purchase differences, not similarities. Don't be
caught sitting in your customer's office giving new meaning to the movie Dumb and Dumber.

Unfortunately few salespeople exploit the tremendous benefits that superior questions have on the
selling relationship. The effective use of superior questions moves the selling process forward at a
steady but unpressured pace while achieving your call agenda of discovering precisely what your
customer's needs are. Your objective is to lead your customer to a higher level of thinking. Your
questions should stimulate the customer to go beyond conventional thinking and responses.
Remember, the quality of your questions determines the quality of your solution. If you do not identify
the customers' dominant buying motives”their hot-buttons”your solution will be no better, and no
different than your competitors. Differentiate yourself by asking smart questions and avoid the risk of
being perceived as a commodity, a me-too solution. Probe in a manner that communicates sincerity,
genuine interest, and empathy. You and your customer are engaged in a dialogue, a fluid, seamless
conversation exploring the possibility of a win-win relationship.
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Probe Architecture: Peel the Onion
I use the word architecture because that's what needs to happen: You must design smart questions to
ask. Probes unquestionably persuade more powerfully than any other form of verbal behavior. The
success of a sales call depends more than anything else on how thorough your needs analysis is. The
effort you invest in developing and asking smart questions to uncover customer needs, biases,
perceptions, and fears that are not normally revealed to salespeople will pay off handsomely. The
ultimate prize will go to the one who asks the best questions. I refer to the practice of asking smart
questions as peeling the onion. As with dicing an onion, stupid questions (common questions) may
cause your customer's eyes to glaze over and communicate impatience. The more layers you can peel
away from suspicious, apprehensive customers, the sooner you get to the heart of their needs. Ask
stupid questions and you get useless information, probably the same information your competitor
walked away with. I think Werner Heisberg, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, said it best, "Nature does
not reveal its secrets, it only responds to our method of questioning."

The object is to design probes to encourage your customers to reveal their needs”peel the onion.
Standard practice is to distinguish between open and closed probes, but don't limit yourself to only
these two.
Open probes are used to get the customer talking, to divulge information, and to perhaps reveal
unexpected information. They get the prospect to explain and talk openly about their business and
current situation. Open probes generate a talkative, conversational response. Some authors suggest the
five Ws (who, what, where, when, or why) are good open questions to start with. I disagree. I consider
them closed questions that can often be answered with one- or two-word answers. I offer the following
open probe prompts:
 Tell me about ...
 Explain to me ...
 In what way ...
 Help me understand ...
 Can you elaborate ...
 Share with me ...
 Please tell me how ...
 How else ...
 What do you mean by ...
 What are your thoughts/ideas/experiences/reflections ...
 If you could build or design the perfect _______, what would it look like ... ?

These are excellent, field-tested prompts used to encourage a talkative response. Simply tell your
customer up front that you need to ask questions to better understand their business. Customers love
to talk about their business, their job, and their company. You can't ask too many questions. However,
if your customer becomes impatient with your questioning, simply restate your objective and perhaps
reschedule another appointment. Don't let their anxiousness draw you into a response before you
understand their business. Be patient.
Closed probes are used to get very specific information. They usually limit the response to one-word
answers. Closed probes are less powerful and have an uncanny ability to increase tension. They can be


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