Sales Tips: Telling vs. Asking

My father was intelligent and well intentioned but he had an annoying habit of dispensing unsolicited advice long after I reached adulthood. His efforts to be helpful often devolved into efforts to impose his opinions upon me. Such efforts were doomed to fail if we weren’t on the same page.

At one point in time my dad reached the conclusion nobody in their right mind should buy a car unless it had bumpers that could withstand a 5-mile per hour impact without being damaged. I had shared with him that I was about to buy a sports car (that didn’t meet this spec) and he couldn’t resist trying to have me reconsider my decision. In doing so he failed to realize that a 5 mph bumper was not on my radar screen. I wanted a car that met my primary needs of acceleration, handling and braking. Once I was aware of the 5 mph spec, it was at the bottom of my list.

I resented well-intentioned (albeit misguided) paternal advice so you can imagine how unsolicited advice from salespeople sits with me. Every day in countries around the globe sellers dispense unsolicited advice about how great their offerings are. 

In having potential financial gain riding on making sales, sellers should recuse themselves from offering any opinions.

How often have you heard a sales clerk say an outfit didn’t look good on you?

The underlying problem:
Sellers fail to realize buyers have little or no interest in their “solutions.”

I’ve come to despise using the term in sales situations because vendors and their sellers fail to realize that “solutions” are opinions. How much value do buyers place on self-serving seller opinions about their offerings?

Unsolicited Advice from Sellers

After making introductions sellers come to a fork in the road:

  • In one direction is the land of telling (selling). By taking this road sellers completely disregard Ben Franklin’s pearl of wisdom: People are best convinced by reasons they discover. Instead sellers opt for making product pitches of their solutions.
  • The other road is one of asking (empowering people to buy) when sellers recognize they must ask questions to:
    • Uncover buyers’ latent needs
    • Help buyers understand what’s broken in their current approach
    • Have buyers agree to the capabilities needed to address what’s broken
    • Empower them to achieve the desired business outcome

Talking about offerings without asking questions is like walking into a dark room without turning on your flashlight. 

Better buying experiences will result if:

  • Sellers first ask questions
  • Listen to the answers
  • Present features that seem relevant to meeting buyer needs.

Some people won’t want a “5 mph bumper.”

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Frank Visgatis

As co-founder, President & Chief Operating Officer of CustomerCentric Systems®, LLC and co-author of the CustomerCentric Selling® sales methodology, Frank Visgatis drives the overall direction and strategy for CustomerCentric Systems®, LLC, leveraging 20 years of leadership experience. Visgatis knows how to conceptualize and execute a new business strategy into a winning company. He has done it numerous times - from co-founding a thriving commercial and residential real estate holding company to transforming a private consulting practice into one of the most successful sales training providers in the country. His ability to identify trends and changes in the sales ecosystem has helped improve the dynamic of interaction between sellers and buyers through the development of CustomerCentric Selling® and Sales Ready Messaging®. Visgatis' vision has propelled CustomerCentric Systems®, LLC as one of the industry's top providers of sales process consulting, sales training and Sales Ready Messaging®.

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