How frustrating it is when we think we are aligned to close the sale or for successful implementation of our solution, only to be blind-sided by counter-productive customer behavior! Sales professionals understand the benefits of exploring with customers to fully understand their needs, motivations and objectives. Having gained that info, further exploration can provide critical insight to predict the customer's role moving forward. Here are the key questions that will provide insights to keep your sales effort from getting derailed down the road:

Is this a new initiative? Why is it being addressed now? The customer's response will give a good indication of his/her sense of urgency or lack thereof. New corporate initiatives, specific objectives, compelling deadlines or significant industry events all bode well for committed and timely customer action. If customers reference down time or their slow season as the impetus for timing, it suggests a concerning lack of urgency.

How has the customer attempted to overcome this particular gap in the past? What were the results? Insight on this point will tell you a lot about the size of customers' challenges and the reality of their commitment (financial and man hours) to close the gap. Their attitude and insights regarding past failures will tell you how realistic they are in any/all aspects of the purchase decision and solution implementation, including cost, timeframe and their/others' role in implementation. Finally, these questions evoke insight as to their attitudes and expectations of past suppliers and the role of the sales professional.

Have you shared with your contact the organization's role in successful implementation of your proposed solution? Have they committed to these requirements? This can be one of the most difficult conversations to have with customers, but doing so will avoid frustration and disappointment down the road for all parties involved.  This line of questioning is particularly helpful to prompt discussion about actions and engagement needed from individuals who have not been involved in the decision process to date. For example, regional sales managers may not be involved in the decision to hire Carew International for sales team skill development, but their role is critical to the successful implementation and subsequent reinforcement of the training initiative.

Understanding the needs and objectives of your customers is essential to develop relevant and valued solutions. Understanding the customer's mode of operating when working with vendors or addressing challenges will minimize the risk of wasting your time and effort, and greatly increase the likelihood of successful implementation.