Lipstick on a pig? Who needs “questioning” skills?

25 March 2015 by Charles Howden

How often do sellers tell you they are practising their questioning skills? The sales training world is full of courses covering presentation skills though less well served by questioning skills training. Presentation skills are an essential part of a seller’s tool kit. The drama, the drum-roll, the pitch-perfect advocacy, the animated Powerpoint. Isn’t this all part of what successful selling is all about?

Well no it’s not. In a similar way to the over-reliance on closing skills, the pitch/presentation should be the confirmation that the seller is going to win the business, not the primary tool used to win it. In the world of complex sales, a successful pitch/presentation should build on an agreement that has already been built, it will rarely substitute for the discovery part of the sales process if it has been overlooked.

We can thank Barak’s Obama’s acerbic observation loosely aimed at Sarah Palin, for introducing many of us to the idiom of putting “lipstick on a pig”. In this context, if your prospect is expecting a cow, it doesn’t mater how much lipstick you put on it, however you present it, if you are offering a pig, it’s still a pig. And any amount of polishing up your presentation at that point will not change the central message that you got it wrong.

Which is where the discovery part of your sales process comes in. It is this part of your sales process that will win the sale for you, and it is based on the quality of the question-sets that are used to understand the prospects needs and their procurement process. Not to mention creating an opportunity for the seller to demonstrate their value to the prospect’s business, creating rapport and opening up a valuable business relationship for the future.

Knowing how to present is one thing, knowing what to present is quite another.

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