How Channel Leaders Can Avoid The Worst Sales Mistakes And Win Every Time


Channel leaders and sales managers should use a three-pronged questioning framework to first build trust with customers and stop committing one of the biggest age-old selling mistakes, according to Chris Bennett, president of British Columbia-based Chris Bennett Sales Training.

“Salespeople talk too much, they sell too soon, and they don’t take enough time to understand their customers,” Bennett told channel partners at The Channel Company’s XChange 2019 in Las Vegas. He urged attendees to reconnect with the core concepts of consultative selling and elevate the quality of their customer conversations.

Bennett’s sales strategy centers around “circumstance,” “challenge” and “consequence” questions – in that order – as keys to business-outcome selling that drives revenue growth.

Circumstance questions are fact-finding questions designed to first understand a customer’s situation – questions such as how their business is going, how many employees and locations they have, how they have set up their IT security, who are they using for storage, and have they moved any work to the cloud. Salespeople should progress from general to specific questions to get clients to open up and avoid inserting anything about their products or services to let them know they have their “trusted advisor hat on.”

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The next-step challenge or fishing questions position sellers as problem detectives first and solution providers second. They must be framed to include one of these buzzwords: issues, concerns, obstacles, worries difficulties, problems, frustrations, headaches, struggles or complaints, according to Bennett. Sample questions include: “What difficulties does your team have setting up video conferences?”; “Does your staff struggle with the virtual private network while on the road?”; and“What types of challenges do you have with storage and memory during peak times?”

“Challenge questions are the only type of questions that build pipeline,” Bennett said, and they’re also one of the highest-impact sales activities. “No problem, no sale. Therefore, people need to be black belts in asking challenge questions.”

Sales managers and channel leaders should set and track a mandatory number of challenges questions that their representatives should be asking every week, and even sign off on the exact phrasing, Bennett said.

If channel partners are “light on the pipe,” it’s because their teams aren’t looking for customer problems. “More problems equal more sales,” he said.

The third-level consequence questions turn sellers from problem detectives to pain detectives, because they’re aimed at uncovering the costs of customers not addressing their deficiencies. They’re designed to create urgency to shorten the sales cycle and incrementally gather numbers to build a business case and return-on-investment-based recommendations.

“Every problem can be monetized,” Bennett said, and customers should see that the cost of their problems is high compared to the cost of a channel partner’s solution. “Document the financial pain 10 to 1 to make your solution a no-brainer.”

Quotes should include what customers would save or recoup and an estimated return on investment.

Scott Minke, CEO of iTrust IT, welcomed Bennett’s instruction.

“It’s a step-by-step process to solve a common sales problem,” said Minke, whose cybersecurity company is based in Forth Worth, Texas. “This session brought immediately actionable items that I can bring home to my team.”