The science of sales conversations started with the release of SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham in 1988. Based on research from 35,000 sales calls, SPIN selling provided a scientific basis for understanding what to say and in what sequence in a customer dialogue to achieve the best chance of sales success. Subsequent publications, including Strategic Selling (1988) By Miller and Heiman, Solution Selling (1995) by Michael Bosworth and the Secrets of Question-Based Selling (2000) by Tom Freese build on the SPIN research and gave additional methodologies for navigating complex sales conversations.
There are two issues with these industry-standard programs:
Firstly, many sales training programs only teach questioning and listening skills. The problem is that questions do not persuade. Sales people also need to learn persuasion and teaching techniques such as the use of stories and metaphors. It is vitally important that sales people are taught to tell compelling and relevant stories and to listen intently to their customer's stories.
Secondly, none of these branded questioning techniques are easy to learn.
The Diamond Dialogue™ technique breaks the sales conversation into easily learned steps; from opening a meeting to closing with relevant and valuable next agreed next action. The Diamond motif is a graphical element that shows the trainee exactly where they are in a sales conversation with respect to a model dialogue.
The sample above is an extract from the middle part of a sale simulation. The sales person, Peter, is a professional mediator and is seeking to sell his services to a board that is experiencing internal conflict among the board members. Peter has provided the scenario and suspected customer issues to Mike, playing the CEO of the prospect customer board. It's an interesting example of good probing skills and how you can practise for an important sales call.
The Diamond Dialogue, invented by
Growth In Focus partner, Mike Adams, is focussed on ease of learning, we care about the pedagogy because a concept that is not internalised by practise is no use to a sales person in the heat of a customer dialogue. The Diamond Dialogue technique takes the best components of the classic texts, builds on them and adds pedagogical elements that make learning the sales conversation much easier.
The stages of the Diamond Dialogue (from left to right) are
- Create interest and introduce the conversation - with a story or a well targeted question
- Diagnose the customer's situation in a way that proves the sales person's credibility
- Expanding the conversation to probe and understand the customer's ambitions and issues that restrict those ambitions
- Create a mental business case by probing to understand the impact of issues and the pay-off for ambitions
- Give the customer respect by asking them how they plan to proceed
- Ask if its ok to propose something or tell a relevant story (assuming you have something to offer) then close to a reasonable next step
What seems like a simple prescription; “ask this type of question first, then this type" whilst easy to understand conceptually is incredibly difficult to master in a live customer conversation, its necessary to practice in a safe simulation environment.
The fact that sales conversation skills are difficult to master is not well understood by Business and Sales Managers and very few companies offer more than rudimentary training in this most fundamental skill. We should point out that some companies such as IBM and Schlumberger have recognised the sales training imperative and provide substantial long term training for their sales people amounting to cumulative months of training effort. It's not a coincidence that these companies dominate their respective industries (IT and Oil and Gas Services) and provide a disproportionate number of senior managers across all sectors of their industries.
About Mike Adams
Mike has had an extraordinarily diverse sales career. He has managed sales teams in the United Kingdom, Russia, India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia and held sales director and head of sales roles in the Oil and Gas, Mining, Telecommunications, Facilities Services and Industrial Safety sectors selling software systems, telecommunications networks, facilities services and industrial products.
Mike has developed corporate sales training courses at Nokia Networks and Halliburton, and each of his sales management roles has included sales development.
Companies that Mike has held sales management roles include Schlumberger, Siemens, Nokia Networks, Halliburton, Spotless, Motorola Solutions and RSEA Safety.