The new sales manager, Larry, slid his pencil across the table to Tom and said: “Sell me this pencil!” Tom thought for a minute, looked at each of us, rolled it back to Larry and said, “I don’t sell pencils, Larry. I sell software!” Larry smiled and said, “You are wrong, Tom! You now sell nothing!” I didn’t sell pencils either, but I learned how to very quickly.
Like Tom, most of the sales team failed Larry’s pencil test. We focused on the trying to sell features of the pencil, instead of trying to find out what motivated Larry to buy a pencil.
After all, it was just a common, ordinary, everyday pencil. It wasn’t a complex piece of software.
The best piece of sales advice I ever received was to sell the problem you solve; the benefit you provide, not the product you offer.
Great Salespeople Know How to Sell a Pencil
The product is irrelevant if your solution does not solve your prospect’s problems. Remember people buy solutions to their problems. Great salespeople know how to uncover a problem and provide a solution. Remember it’s not just a “pencil” it’s a solution to a writing problem. If you can sell a pencil correctly, you can sell anything.
The Secret to Selling a Pencil.
The secret to selling starts with understanding the entire sales process. Just because it is a simple pencil doesn’t mean you can skip straight to the close.
Don’t Forget to Qualify!
There are five stages of the sales process, In my opinion, qualifying your prospect is the most important and will be the focus of the rest of this post. In case you have forgotten, the five stages of the sales process are:
- Overcome objections
I look at qualifying as a way to eliminate people that are not a good fit for the product or service. The way I like to determine this is to ask open-ended questions.
Notice I didn’t say pitch my product, there is a difference. I am willing to bet 90% of salespeople when asked to sell a pencil, start pitching, instead of asking a single question.
If you want to be great in sales, spend more time asking questions and less time pitching your product.
16 Qualifying Questions You Probably Never Thought to Ask When Asked to Sell a Pencil:
- How often do you use a pencil?
- What type of pencils do you normally use?
- What do you mainly use a pencil for?
- Do you ever use your pencil to draw?
- Do you prefer hard or soft lead?
- Do you use any other writing devices besides pencils?
- Would different color lead benefit you and your organization?
- How important is a sharp tip, a flexible base and a sturdy eraser to you?
- If I could save you time by selling you a pencil that you never had to sharpen, would that be a benefit to you?
- Is a comfortable grip important to you?
- Are crisp, clean lines and precision important to you?
- Would you like your next pencil to be environmentally friendly?
- Are there any features you would like to see on your next pencil that your current pencil does not have?
- What are the biggest challenges you face with your current pencil?
- Have you tried other pencil vendors? If so what did you like and what didn’t you like about their pencils?
- Is there anyone else involved in making the decision to buy this pencil that should be present?
Each of these questions is designed to elicit a response, uncover a need and qualify your pencil prospect to make sure they are a good fit. Once you properly qualify your prospect, you can move to the presentation stage of the sales process.
How many sales opportunities have you lost or how much time have you wasted by not properly qualifying your sales prospects?
If you don’t qualify your prospects correctly, chances are your sales career will be short lived, like Tom’s was.