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To succeed at selling: Questions and probes

Posted by 104Inc.com on October 20, 2008

Seeks information to understand situations, needs, and desired potential benefits.

To succeed at selling, you need to sell to customers’ needs. How do you find out about these needs? Research the industries your customers are in. Then confirm the information you gather by asking questions. Studies show that asking questions is the most powerful way to persuade.



1. Do your homework.
Know as much as possible about your customer’s industry, the products and services they provide, the challenges they face, and the business needs they’re striving to achieve–before you walk in the door. Locate this information through:



  • Online or offline databases
  • The Internet or your company’s intranet.
  • Newspapers, magazines, journals, trade publications, annual reports, and other sources of business data.
  • Business directories.
  • Professional organizations.
  • People within the organization who report to the customer. These “gatekeepers” can include receptionists, assistants, or junior people from associated departments.

Think about the information that will help you learn more about your customer’s situation and needs. For example:

  • What is the customer’s buying criteria? (Criteria might include service, price, and quality.)
  • Is there a problem or concern that needs to be addressed? How critical is it? In which area(s) does it have the biggest effect?
  • What are the customer’s time frames for making a purchasing decision?
  • Is the customer considering any of your competitors? Which ones? Why?

Anticipate problems your customer might be experiencing. Before you meet with the customer, identify how your products and services can solve those problems.
2. Ask questions.
Ask questions to clarify the customer’s situation and needs. There are four types of questions that are critical.
Basic Fact Questions. The answers to these questions reveal specific information about the buyer and his or her business.


  • How many operations like this does your organization have around the world?
  • How many people are employed at this plant?
  • What are your plans for growth over the next five years?

By doing your homework, you can answer many basic fact questions. Be selective about the number of these questions you ask customers. People are busy and, in many cases, don’t have time to educate you on the basic facts about their business. Seek only clarification of information that is not obvious or readily understood.

Problem Questions. These questions surface problems that the customer is experiencing. Their purpose is to help you:

  • Better understand the customer’s concerns or dissatisfaction with the current product or service.
  • Identify how your products and services might solve the problem.


  • What problems are you experiencing with your present system?
  • Why do you think the process is so inefficient?
  • What quality or reliability problems are you experiencing?

Consequence Questions. Often, asking problem questions will get the customer interested in your product or service. Sometimes, however, you need to increase the size of the problem in the customer’s mind to promote interest. Asking about the consequences of problems “builds the pain” of the customer’s current situation.


  • How will the problems you’re experiencing with your present system affect productivity?
  • To what extent do your process inefficiencies translate into opportunities for your competition?
  • What kind of turnover or training costs are you incurring because of your situation?

Asking hypothetical questions drives home the need for a solution–especially in the minds of your customers. If they didn’t recognize the extent to which a problem could damage individuals or the organization, they will now.

Benefit Questions. These questions surface the usefulness or benefit of implementing your product or service. By asking questions that let customers tell you the value of your solution, you ultimately allow them to convince themselves of the need for your product or service.


  • How would it help to have online diagnostics?
  • What advantages would you gain from a software package that requires very little training to use effectively?
  • Is there any other benefit of eliminating this problem?

The key to successful sales calls is preparation. When planning your next sales call, write down questions that you need to ask your customer. Consider each category–basic fact, problem, consequence, and benefit–and plan your call around asking those types of questions.


Keep in mind that when making a purchasing decision, a customer must answer the question, “Is the problem big enough to justify this solution?” Therefore, you must ask several problem and consequence questions. This will raise awareness in the customer’s mind that the current situation and needs are serious enough to warrant buying your solution.


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Leading Through Vision and Values: Communicates the importance of the vision and values

Posted by 104Inc.com on October 17, 2008

An organization’s vision and values are meaningless if people don’t understand and accept them. Before committing to new behaviors, associates must accept the importance of the values to the organization’s and their personal success. To promote this level of understanding and commitment, leaders must be able to communicate the vision and values powerfully and passionately.

1. Show why the values are important.
Associates who understand how their organization’s values contribute to their and the organization’s success are more likely to be motivated by the values. For example, associates are more likely to commit to the value of developing organizational talent if they realize that keeping people’s skills up to date will benefit their own careers and give the organization a significant advantage over competitors.

a) Link the values to strategic objectives.
Explain the significance of the values by linking them to your organization’s strategic objectives. These objectives should include the vision and critical success factors-issues that affect an organization’s ability to compete in the marketplace. Whereas the vision gives a broad-brush view of the desired future, critical success factors focus on a few key areas that are important to achieving the vision and giving the organization a competitive advantage.

Like measures of physical health (blood pressure, cholesterol level, and percentage of body fat) that indicate how your body is functioning, critical success factors reveal how your organization is performing. Examples of critical success factors are customer retention, cycle time reduction, market expansion, and employee retention.
Give associates a powerful rationale for living the organization’s values by explaining how the values contribute to the critical success factors. The following table shows this link.
Value Critical Success Factor
Customer Service Increase the customer retention rate
Quality of Work Life Attract and retain high-caliber associates
Continuous Improvement Increase speed to market of products and services

b) Link the values to individual aspirations.
Not only do organizations have goals and objectives, but each associate has unique aspirations and interests. For associates to commit to the organization’s values and principles, they need to see how the vision and values will help support their beliefs and realize their personal aspirations. For example, if associates value honesty in their own actions, they will find it easy to commit to the value of integrity and will be honest with customers and coworkers. Also, associates who value self-improvement will easily commit to the value of continuous learning and welcome training opportunities.

Associates must feel that the organization’s vision and values resonate “with their own deepest feelings about what is right and worth doing” (Nanus, 1992). To gain this level of commitment, encourage associates to make their personal aspirations and beliefs specific. Then show the link to the organization’s vision and values.

2. Communicate powerfully.
What would have been Abraham Lincoln’s legacy without the Gettysburg Address? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s without his “I Have a Dream” speech? What made these talks memorable? The power of their communication.

Powerful communication enhances associates’ appreciation of and commitment to the vision and values of their organization. Your words and communication style should help associates understand the meaning and importance of the vision and values. Use the following guidelines to boost the power and impact of your written and oral communications.

a) Speak in a language associates understand.
When talking about the vision and values, use simple language and terminology that you can tailor to associates’ experiences. For example, if you’re explaining the importance of customer service to the information systems department, use a phrase like “customer interface.” However, “quality delivery” might ring truer with the shipping department. In addition, vary your descriptions of the vision and values to suit certain educational levels or geographic locations

b) Say it and say it again.
Communicating the vision and values is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Discussing the vision and values frequently with associates helps guide their daily actions and decisions. It also sends a consistent message: The vision and values are a way of work life, not just fads or clichés.

c) Use a variety of communications media.
There are many ways to communicate and explain the vision and values. Examples include:

Formal speeches.
Kickoff events and celebrations.
Informal conversations (one-on-one, with a group over lunch, etc.).
Posters and plaques.
Job aids (laminated cards).
Internal newsletters.
Marketing materials (brochures, advertisements, business cards, annual reports).
Bulletin boards (hanging or electronic).
Memoranda (paper or e-mail).
You can use a combination of these communication vehicles, depending on which ones are the most accessible and have the greatest impact.

d) Provide examples of living the values.
Slogans and symbols can be extremely effective ways of enhancing employees’ understanding of the vision and values. A major auto manufacturer’s popular slogan became a powerful rallying cry that focused on the commitment and efforts of its employees. Since the slogan’s debut, several of the manufacturer’s cars have been the best-selling cars in their class.
But by themselves, slogans and symbols can become empty promises that leave employees skeptical. Leaders must back up slogans and symbols with actions. One way is to recognize how the values are coming alive in the organization.

Instead of long essays in newsletters or posters praising the virtues of teamwork, publish stories and pictures showcasing teams’ successes. Show how living the values improved their bottom-line results.
Instead of giving everyone in the organization mugs and pins advertising the vision and values, make these items available to people who want to recognize a coworker’s efforts. The message thus changes from a gimmicky new program to an ongoing process that rewards living the values.
Instead of developing communications with a group of media experts, involve employees. For example, an employee group could write and produce your company’s newsletter.
Instead of filing customer compliments, publicize them. Help associates see how acting consistently with the values can enhance customer satisfaction.
Instead of recognizing associates with the usual “Employee of the Month” awards, name awards after the values and present them to people who exemplified them.

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Posted in Advertising, Business, motivation, Online Business, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Free Advertising Community: Very Exciting Thing For Any Small Business Owner!

Posted by 104Inc.com on October 14, 2008


Image by finishing-school via Flickr

I’m a small business owner in Southern California and a member of 104inc.com community, since I became a member of 104inc the traffic to my website and to my physical store has doubled. This of course is a very exciting thing for any small business owner so I wanted to share this online community/network with the rest of you.

One service you should be aware of in particular is the incredible geo-targeting traffic service at:


You know the importance of drawing visitors to your website. You also know that not just any visitors will do — they must be people who are genuinely interested in what you are offering, in other words they must be targeted! It is with these goals in mind that they designed and perfected a Free Geo- targeted service at all of their thousands of 104 branded websites:

examples of some of the 104 Branded websites could be found if you visit http://104inc.com and click the “more 104’s” tab on the top left of the screen.

“I just signed up with the service last month and I must say that I LOVE it! I have been trying so hard to find marketing services that get RESULTS! I can see why everybody should register for your marketing products. Your marketing concept and program are really one of the best I have seen. Thanks again!”
George Y

Get Started Today …
Visit: http://104Business.com and click register on the top right of the screen and create a free profile

When you take advantage of the 104inc.com services here’s what you’ll be getting:




The free geo-targeting service is simply the most direct and sure-fire way to receive more of what you need to make your business a success: TARGETED VISITORS THAT YIELD ACTUAL SALES!


I hope you enjoy the free advertising tools and services visit 104ad.com main site If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact them through the “contact us” feature on their site:  They always contact me within 24 hours.

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