Tough Questions

Tough Questions

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at

Hard questions that have one common answer: More sales.

Where are you? Not geographically, but in business.
How are you positioned?
How do others perceive you?

When your best customers see your ad or promotion, what do they think? What do you want them to think? Do you get the same answer? I doubt it.

When your best customers see your ad or promotion, what do they say? What do you want them to say? Do you get the same answer? I doubt it.

When your best customers see your ad or promotion, what do they do? What do you want them to do? Do you get the same answer? I doubt it.

The best way to understand your position in your marketplace is to evaluate yourself. So ask yourself tough questions like the ones I just asked. The answers will tell you what you need to know, so when you come calling to sell, people will ask you in and buy. Better yet, people will call you in time of need.

The answers to the questions below are the keys to your position in your marketplace – how others perceive you. Here’s a quick clue: If you’re fighting price, customers don’t perceive much difference between you and the people you’re up against.

A word of caution: These questions require thought, a strategy, and hard work to implement. But the reward will be more sales than you can handle.

  1. What is your “duck”? (The duck is what sets the Peabody hotel apart from all other hotels.) What are you best at? What are you known for? Every magazine publishes a “best of” issue. What “best of” award could you win? The unfortunate answer is probably NONE. This would be a good way to become known for something other than your product and your price. Success question: What is your BEST one-of-a-kind feature? What are you known for? What would you like to be known for? What is your strategy to get known for something?
  2. How electronic are you? What online services do you offer that creates a value package for your customer? What could you be doing to enhance your online presence? My e-mail magazine, Sales Caffeine, is a value-driven, content-rich, weekly newsletter sent free to more than 100,000 subscribers. They love it and tell their friends. How are you taking advantage of the Internet? Or are you hesitating because of some form of paranoia or internal squabbles about who gets what? Meanwhile, your competition is passing you by. Success question: Where is your value-packed weekly e-zine? Where is your plan to get one going?
  3. How often are you seen? How often do you mingle with customers and prospects? How often do you speak in public? How do others perceive your position in the community? How often are you speaking at business events, civic events, and participating in other community activities? If you have a staff of 20, you have an opportunity for 20 people to become visible in the community and to be seen as people of value-as leaders. Don’t miss this opportunity. Success question: What is your plan to be more position active? Have you ever given a speech at a trade show or trade association meeting? How are you leadership-positioned.
  4. How often do you network in front of customers? Many salespeople are out of touch with their customers. Your customers, for those of you unaware, are 100 percent of your revenue and 100 percent of your profit. Your CUSTOMERS, are in effect, your well being-your salary-and your future. You might want to get to know these people more intimately, and gear your products and services more toward fulfilling their needs. Success question: How often do you touch your top 100 customers? How often SHOULD you? What is your strategy to touch them more often than your competitors are calling on them?
  5. Is management out of touch with customers? This is the single biggest cry of the salesperson. Remember, without customers, employees have no reason to come to work. No I do not advocate playing up to customers more than necessary. But neither do I advocate demeaning them or ignoring them. Success questions: Is your management team profit-driven or customer loyalty driven? When is the last time a senior exec called on a customer?

More hard sales questions. Got answers?

How are you doing?
“Fine” or “great” you might say. Easy answer-even if it’s not true.

Where are you?
“What do you mean?” will most likely be your reply.

Here’s what I mean: Where are you in your market? Where are you in your customer relationships? Where are you in your career? Those “where” questions make you think. Those questions can cause pain. But they’re not as painful as the ones I asked last week, and the ones I’m about to ask.

The best way to know where you are in your marketplace is to evaluate yourself. Ask yourself tough questions. And answer them without being defensive and without any excuses. Give real answers.

It appears that the toughest answers in sales are the ones you have to answer yourself, and I’m about to prove it.

If you want to be successful, you need to ask yourself the following questions. The answers will tell you what you need to know, so when you come calling, people will ask you in and buy. Better yet, people will call YOU in time of need.

Last week I gave you five questions to ask yourself. Here are the rest:

  1. How many marketing dollars are spent on existing customers? Marketing for new customers while the old ones are leaving? Most companies spend millions on soliciting new customers, and pennies on servicing or retaining them. Success questions: How many policies make it more difficult to do business with you? How many customers did you lose last year? How much are you investing in customer retention?
  2. Does your competition hate you? If competitors hate you, it means you are taking food out of their mouths, sales off of their tables, and dollars out of their markets and into yours. If your competitors hate you, your product or service must be so superior that you command a premium in the marketplace for value delivered (not “price matched”). Success question: How can you position yourself, so you differentiate yourself with value (anything OTHER than price)?
  3. Where is the service? Come to the reality that every person on your team who talks with someone outside your business (vendor, customer, future employee, or prospect) is affecting your reputation, your customer base, your sales, your revenue, and your profit. If your people are not serving customers in a memorable way at EVERY ENCOUNTER, your customers will chose to spend their dollars elsewhere in your market. Serve memorably. Success questions: How are you improving your service? How well do you respond and recover from complaints? Are your customers satisfied or loyal?
  4. Is your work a job, a rut, or a career? In 1911, John Patterson, the father of American salesmanship and the founder of the National Cash Register Company, uttered the timeless phrase, “Put your heart into your work.” If you heart is not in your work, it is likely that you have confused a job with a career, a paycheck with earnings, and satisfaction with fulfillment. My adaptation of what Patterson said nearly a hundred years later is: “Love it or leave it.” Success questions: How dedicated are you to your company? How deep is your belief in what you do? How much do you love what you do?
  5. Are you working on yourself as much as you are working on your product knowledge? How much time do you spend on writing skills, editing skills, personal development skills, selling skills, and customer service skills? Looking for a formula? Spend as much time building your skills as you do using them. Success questions: How dedicated are you to your study of sales and personal development? Are you the student you should be?

10.5. It’s a family, not a team. Once you recognize that you are all members of the same family, working toward the same goal, while maintaining family unity in the face of every conflict known to humans-you will have uncovered the secret to harmony, great morale, higher productivity, and profitability. Success questions: How are you treating the members of your “family”? How is management treating “family” members?

Well, there you have them. Ten questions and a new way of looking at the people you work with. These are hard questions that result in honest answers, but not as hard as losing customers or losing business to the competition.

Ask these questions and uncover your own answers.
Once you do, the road to success will be traffic free.