The Sales Training Series: Who Is This Customer Really?

A lot of salespeople are good at organizing. Some are even good at sales strategy. But very few know how to use those sales skills to devise an effective, repeatable plan for gaining commitment from customers—a plan that begins to take shape before you make your first sales call.

If you can’t answer these questions before the call, uncover the answers during the call.

The more you know about your client’s business before the call, the better equipped you are to ask excellent questions that uncover needs your products can address and that tell you how to present them in the form of a solution. Before making a sales call, do some digging (on Web sites, for example) to answer the questions on the prep list below. If you can’t answer them all before the call, at least you’ll know what information you need to dig for during the call.

Questions to Organize for the Call:

What does the company do?
What does it currently buy from vendors similar to yours?
What are its key business issues (problems and opportunities)?
What does your individual customer do (the person upon whom you’re calling)?
What might be his or her personal stake in a solution you could provide?

Questions to Strategize for the Call:

Who is my competition for this sale?
How is my company or my product better?
What needs are most likely to exist for my solutions?
Why will this customer buy? That is, what are the personal, emotional issues underlying the business needs?
What is the time frame for the customer’s buying decision?
Who makes the ultimate buying decision?
How will the decision be made (e.g., in consultation with a group of stakeholders)?

Questions to Shape a Game Plan for the Call:

What commitment do I intend to gain as a result of this call? (A buying decision? A future meeting with all of the decision-makers? Preferred-vendor status?)
What are the key sales questions I need to ask?
What ultimately will cause this person or company to buy from me?

If you can answer all of those questions, you’re ready to make a professional sales call. If you don’t have all the answers yet, these are questions to ask during the call. Either way, you will be well organized, you will have a strategy, and you’ll have a solid game plan. When those pieces are in place, your chances of gaining commitment from the customer increase dramatically.

In The Field:

“I’ve seen a definite improvement in the professionalism of my sales force since implementing the skills taught in the Action Selling Sales Training Program,” says Richard Grey, regional vice president of Rochester Midland Corp. The Rochester, N.Y., company sells specialty chemicals to a variety of markets through 33 branch offices in major U.S. cities.

“Preparing for sales calls is far easier with the logical, step-by-step process of Action Selling,” Grey says. “It’s easy for our salespeople to remember and use. And the pre-call process that the program teaches reinforces the Action Selling techniques with every sales call.”

Action Selling helps salespeople prepare the sales strategies and tactics needed to close more sales consistently. “It has been very valuable to Rochester Midland,” Grey says.

About The Author:

Duane Sparks is owner of, a sales training company that has trained and developed more than 200,000 salespeople in the Action Selling Sales Management Process. To improve the call preparation of your sales force, visit or call 1-800-232-3485.

Author's Bio: 

Author: Duane Sparks

In a 30-year career as a salesperson and sales manager, Duane has sold products ranging from office equipment to insurance. He was the top salesperson at every company he ever worked for. He developed Action Selling while owner of one of the largest computer marketers in the United States. Even in the roaring computer business of the 1980's, his company grew six times faster than the industry norm, differentiating itself not by the products offered but by the way it sold them. Duane founded The Sales Board in 1990 to teach the skills of Action Selling to others.

The Sales Board provides effective sales training programs teaching selling skills that transfer to the field.

With Action Selling, You Will Learn How To:

- Set the right kind of objectives for sales calls
- Sell yourself before you sell anything else
- Ask the best sales questions and position your solution
- Sell your company as the best match for your customer
- Sell your product as the best solution to agreed upon needs
- Ask for a commitment smoothly and effectively
- Repeat the sales process and improve continuously

Please visit our sales training site or call 1-800-232-3485.