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Giving Information is Free, Getting Information is Priceless

"Tis skill not strength which governs a ship," said Thomas Fuller. The same is true in sales. Tis finesse and questions which governors a sale not the force of one's personality and sales pitch.

Questions are your greatest asset. Use them to understand your customer's business, or they will be your greatest liability.

"The thing that man never tires of is learning," said Leonardo da Vinci. The thing that strategic sales people never tire of is asking good questions. Customers rarely tire of questions that give them surprising new insights and understanding.

You create more value not with your product, but with the value of your questions and insight. If customers do not value your questions, they likely will not value your answers either.

As the humorous saying goes, economists are qualified to predict anything but the future. Well there is certainly parallels to this in sales. Few customers are confident that sales people can understand, predict, or speculate on their future because they do not learn enough about them due to their lack of insightful questions. This is why sales people so often do not command the respect and attention of customers.

"Stop being a master persuader, and start being a master questioner and qualifier," says Bill Caskey. Probe hard to make selling easier. Traditional sales people can be somewhat commended for working hard to differentiate themselves with what they have to say about their product, yet they do a dismal job of differentiating themselves where it really counts, asking questions about their customer's most pressing challenges and issues.

Giving information is free, getting information is priceless. Too many traditional sales people ask questions in as short of a time frame as a Kardasian wedding. They do not realize how impactful thought-provoking questions can be to customers who trust them.

Sales people should take on the role more of a diplomat or a special envoy who is on fact-finding missions, instead of fact giving missions. The whole idea is to be like a cipher, an empty vessel waiting to be filled up with important customer information.

"Don't give answers until you've earned the right to do so. Focus on defining problems, not guessing the solution," says John Holland. Too often traditional sales people simply use questions as a back door to sell and push product. They love giving their own answers, instead of finding out what the customer's answers are.

"People who know what they are talking about don't need PowerPoint presentations," said Steve Jobs. Nowhere is this more true than the world of sales. Sales people who know what they are doing do not need to be selling and pitching. All they need to do is let the customer control the answering process through the quality of their thought-provoking questions.

"Executives believe that meetings are a forum for exchanging ideas, and they are prepared to be led by a skilled questioner along a path of discovery in the hope that the sales person knows what he needs to find out from the executive in order to make appropriate recommendations. Sales people who ask the right questions to uncover problems impress senior executives," says John Holland.

Sales people need to be good at asking anti-ambiguity questions to get to the truth and reality of their customer's most pressing challenges. All meetings should be approached with one's eyes wide open, instead of having one's mouth running. Let questions do your bidding, not conventional selling tactics. "The important thing is not to stop questioning," said Albert Einstein.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com