On February 28, 1953, Francis Crick walked into the Eagle pub in Cambridge, England, and announced that he and James Watson had “found the secret of life.” In just a few weeks of frenzied inspiration, the two men made one of the most profound discoveries in history by building a model of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that demonstrated how the very structure of DNA provides one of life’s most essential features: the storage and transmission of genetic code. The men had solved a problem that had been baffling the scientific community for years—how did the DNA molecule make exact copies of itself? Biochemists already knew that DNA contained a biological code, a genetic language that consists of four types of molecules, known as bases—adenine, cytosine, thymine, and guanine—referred to as A, C, G, and T, but how those molecules made exact replicas of each other was still a mystery. Back in the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, Watson and Crick concentrated on identifying the form of DNA rather than its function. They built model after model of the possible structure of DNA until on March 7, 1953, when they discovered the solution: DNA has a double helix shaped like a spiral staircase with the four bases representing the steps. Their model suggested a mechanism by which DNA could make copies of itself. The two strands of genes that made up the DNA molecule can simply unzip or unravel into reverse images of each other that can act as templates for new strands to build on. The genius of DNA is that its form is its function. Its shockingly simplistic double helix structure allows the molecules to make facsimiles of themselves, and because the bases always bond in the exact sequence, the finished copies are always the same. The concept was stunning in its implications. Using the scientific method, Watson and Crick made the most celebrated discovery of the twentieth century. The double helix now stands as an icon of the scientific understanding of life.
The Science of Selling
The same way DNA consists of the building blocks of life, The DNA Selling Method consists of the building blocks of effective selling. Similar in concept to DNA, The DNA Selling Method is a selling language—a code of questions. It is a process of discovery—a questioning framework whose form is its function.
Like most sales professionals, I learned early in my career that selling was more of a science than an art. I learned that asking the right questions was more important than looking for the right answers; however, knowing the importance of asking the right questions was not enough. My questions seemed random and, at times, even uncomfortable. Asking questions “off the top of my head” was sporadic and ineffective. This unorganized approach quite often left me tongue-tied and unable to communicate effectively. I needed a system—a questioning methodology. I needed a process that was easy to understand, easy to remember, and easy to replicate from one sale to the next. I decided to write down a series of questions that I deemed important to making sales. I then organized the questions into categories. For example, I separated qualification questions from questions that identified client needs. I differentiated need related questions from solution related questions. The result was The DNA Selling Method—a questioning methodology that leads buyers through the sales cycle.
The DNA Selling Method is based on the premise that correct principles of selling have not changed. They have remained unaltered for thousands of years. If we were to view an ancient Persian craftsman selling goods or services to a Greek merchant, his selling skills would be similar, if not exact, to the skills and tactics of a salesperson today. Selling practices may have changed. But correct principles of selling have not.
Like a compass or atomic clock—sellers need to adjust their selling behaviors to reflect accurate and effective selling principles. And the most fundamental—and most universally recognized principle of successful selling—is asking effective questions. The point is that salespeople do not need to invent new selling principles. They simply need to discover them. And that is what The DNA Selling Method does. It helps sales professionals recognize and implement ancient, validated, intelligent selling principles.
The DNA Selling Method is a question-based approach to selling that follows a rational probing sequence and provides sellers with a systematic approach to qualifying accounts and closing sales. Like the four bases of DNA, The DNA Selling Method consists of four probing categories that guide buyers and sellers through the purchasing process:
1. Discovery-Qualification Questions: Questions that discover a buyer’s existing circumstance, account facts, qualification factors, and purchasing capabilities.
2. Need-Problem Questions: Questions that identify a buyer’s needs, problems, and primary buying motives.
3. Ascertain-Pain Questions: Questions that ascertain the negative consequences of unfulfilled needs and/or unresolved problems, i.e., the pain.
4. Solution-Benefit Questions: Questions that focus on the benefits of implementing the proposed solution.
Asking good questions is the cornerstone of any good sales strategy and is a skill that separates elite sales professionals from average sales representatives. Questions divulge information, uncover problems to solve, and equip sellers with information that can be used to deliver account-specific presentations that address the exact needs of buyers.
Think about what separates a good doctor from a bad doctor. Good doctors do not initially worry about getting the right answers. They concentrate on asking the right questions. They make intelligent inquiries, take notes, make observations, and listen. They initially gather information—they don’t provide it. Likewise, great sellers do not initially focus on providing information. They focus on acquiring it. Look at the most brilliant thinkers, innovators, and explorers of our time. They emphasized questions more than answers, a characteristic of highly intelligent individuals. Note the root of the word question is “quest”—the act of seeking or pursuing something, a search beyond that which is already known.
The DNA Selling Method is a logical questioning methodology that helps sales people on their “quest” for information. It is a selling approach that guides sellers through the sales cycle. By asking discovery questions, sellers acquire the information needed to make informed proposals. By asking qualifying questions, sellers spend time and attention on buyers with the greatest purchasing potential. By asking need-problem questions, sellers unearth primary buying motives. By asking ascertain-pain questions, sellers identify the negative consequence of not filling a need or solving a problem. And by asking solution-benefit questions, sellers get buyers to articulate the benefits of the proposed solution.
Self-interest is the catalyst that moves people to act. By asking DNAS questions sales people focus on the interests of the buyer. They ask questions that are customer centric instead of product centric. Common sense? Of course. Common practice? Unfortunately, it’s not.
Because questioning is such a fundamental part of successful selling, it’s important to use an effective questioning methodology—a strategy. By using The DNA Selling Method, sellers add structure, repeatability, and predictability to the questioning, presenting, and selling process. By implementing the DNA Selling Methodology sales people utilize a proven sales methodology that reflects validated selling principles
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