The most crucial step to the sales process – Fact Finding

By: Matt Wells,

Sales reps have a great tendency to do the least amount of Fact Finding when it comes to renewal accounts (especially if they have had the account for three or more years). Fact Finding is where increases come from. So why would a rep not do Fact Finding with a renewal when that is where increases come from?

Let’s see if this sounds familiar:

Rep walks into a renewal account office,

Rep: “Hi Mr. Jones, yes it is that time a year again to go over your YP advertising.”

Client: “What did I do last year?”

Rep: “Well let’s take a look at that. Here is the program you did last year.”

Client: “How much did I spend on that last year?”

Rep: “Well, it looks like you got a really good discount last year, so it will go up a little this year.”

Client; “How much is it going up?”

Rep: “Well with your continued discount this year, it will only be $3,000 this year.”

Client: “Wow, then I am really going to have to cut back this year!”

If this sounds in the least bit familiar, read on.

The most crucial step to the sales process is Fact Finding. Unfortunately, this is also the number one most ignored step by sales reps. If Fact Finding is done properly, the sale will occur. This is the step where rapport and trust is build with the client.

We have all been trained on the basics of Fact Finding – finding information in the eight areas of interest in order to build a program for the client. So, lets look beyond the basics to see how we can enhance what we already know and do.

Sales reps have a tendency to “interview” the client during Fact Finding for their own purposes – to gain enough information to build a program they think they can sell. Granted, we need information to build a program, but clients in today’s markets don’t want to be interviewed for the reps purposes, they want to have a discussion about their business. We keep trying to gain information to make the client fit into our book. If we pull back a little, and talk only about their business in an easy conversation, then the client will not only give us the information for a program but will also give us the vital information needed to make the sale. By being mentally on the client’s agenda rather than their own, the reps will ask questions about the client and how they DO business which will give the rep the information needed to make the sale – rather than just build a program. The ultimate key is to LISTEN! The sales reps get so involved with their own agenda and what they need to do (wrapped up in their own narcissism) that they stop listening to the client. The client will tell the rep how to sell them if they are truly and honestly LISTENING!

For new business, ask questions about how the client’s business got started.

  • How do they handle different and difficult situations (gives the rep insights on how to present by using the same problem solving method)?
  • What are the client’s determining factors when it comes to choosing YP (or any marketing)?
  • What do the client’s customers say about the client’s business when the customers are out and about town?
  • What has the client done (or what do they do) to develop the reputation they have?
  • What plans do they have to maintain and/or enhance their image and how? What have they done to be one of the premier businesses in their industry?
  • What is their overall business philosophy (again, helps build a method to the presentation that fits the client)?
  • What are their customer service practices and policies (this way the rep can make sure they give the client the same customer service)?
  • What are the primary questions potential customers ask when they call – and what are their answers to those questions?

These are just a few questions that have a different style from our well known “so, who do you feel are your competitors Mr. Jones?” These questions are designed to get insight to make sales. We can always gather information to create a program.

If the dialog in the first part of this article sounds remotely familiar, then one big question has to be asked – why do the reps allow it to happen? If this is familiar, then CHANGE IT! Fact Finding will take care of that. When the client asks about what they did last year, simply defer it by saying something like

“we will get to that in just a minute Mr. Jones, but with all the business owners I have been talking to, all of them have made some significant changes in their businesses in order to survive and even thrive in today’s markets. What changes have you made?”

If your rep has a renewal account for more than three years, they will get complacent with that client and assume the sale every year and therefore hope to go in each year and take an order. When the order doesn’t happen right on the spot, the rep panics and forgets how to sell. All reps with long term clients can walk into the client and say:

“Hi Lisa. You know we have been working together on YP for the last six years and I would like to try something different this year. The last thing I want to do is assume that I know all about your business and the changes you have made simply because of our long time relationship. To make sure I never take you for granted, would you mind if we take ten minutes and completely review your business from top to bottom?”

This type of Fact Finding with renewal accounts will be the key to finding areas of enhancement for the client whether it be increasing size(s) or increasing headings, etc.

This is a touch of the tip of the iceberg for affective Fact Finding but hope there is enough material here to help your reps in the field. At the very least, this is designed to make you think. Let us know if you would like more information