Training Your Salespeople to Act More Like Therapists than Doctors

For the typical software account executive, two or three daily prospect meetings is pretty normal. Over the course of a year, that equates to 600+ separate prospect appointments—and a lot of problems to solve.

These days, prospects and customers are more informed than ever before. As a result, sales teams need to adapt their approach.

Think of it this way: if customers are patients with a problem that needs solved, there’s a difference between approaching as a therapist and approaching as a doctor.

Doctors vs therapists

Technically, doctors and therapists aren’t all that different, but hear me out. Let’s look at it from the patient’s (customer’s) perspective:

When you walk into a doctor’s office, you are looking to an expert to diagnose—and solve—a problem. Yes, you have a symptom or two, and maybe you went to WebMD to do some research, but you’re walking in relatively uninformed. The doctor will ask you questions, check you out, give a diagnosis with a solution, and you take the doctor’s word as truth.

Instead of acting as an all-knowing experts (doctors), sales reps should consider approaching conversations more like therapists: it’s all about questions, questions, questions and listening, listening, listening. The sales rep asks, and the customer answers. Using body language, tone of voice, and language cues, the rep, like a therapists, can ask second-level questions that further the conversation.

Just as in a therapy session, salespeople should be constantly interpreting and clarifying needs and wants from customers. The best therapists (and salespeople) provide a solution by leading the patient to answers, not by prescribing them.

Training a team of therapists

If you’re not a sales therapist yet, you can be. Start by ask questions first and foremost, they are your primary tool in all stages of the sales cycle. After initial introductions, move on to second-level questions. This type of question allows you to peel back the layers of your prospect’s problem, and both parties gain value. Second-level questions often start with “why?”. Here are some examples:

  • Why is that a challenge?
  • Why does this align with the business’s strategic objectives?
  • Why haven’t you done X or Y in the past?
  • If you don’t make a change now, what will happen?

Notice how none of these questions set up a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Open-ended questions like these invite the customer to consider their business more thoughtfully and provide better answers to you, the therapist, who is working to learn more about the situation. Training around asking better questions is a fantastic place to start for all members of a sales team.

If you can help it—and you usually can—never come into a call cold. Use the tools your company provides to learn as much about the business and your specific prospect as possible. By preparing beforehand with tools or simple internet searches, you spend less time on basic surface-level questions and gain credibility quicker. For example, Rapportive and Mattermark are two tools we use to get started. And never stop learning about the prospect after the first call. Try to go deeper with each step in the process, learning a bit at a time.

There are plenty of self-evaluation questions that you and your team can use to work on sales therapy skills. Recording and reviewing calls is great for fine-tuning parts of your sales process. After recording a sales call that went well, ask these questions:

  1. Do you build rapport quickly? Does the prospect trust you?
  2. Who’s doing the most talking? Like any good therapist, you should try to listen more than you talk. Try getting to 30% you, 70% your prospect.
  3. Do you get responses like: “That’s a great question”; “I hadn’t thought about it that way”; and “How do your other clients solve the problem?”
  4. Do you understand their business as well as the prospect does? And can you recite their hopes, dreams, and fears?

Answering these questions is a strong start toward re-thinking customer and prospect conversations. As customers become more and more knowledgeable, the therapist’s model of listening is essential in guiding them to the conclusions that result in more closed-won deals.

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