When I was 18 years old, I used to think that selling was all about talking.
But one day, a successful sales director in my area showed me a sales technique that was so powerful, it completely blew my mind.
The setup was simple. I was to role-play a hypercritical customer. He would be the salesperson. My task was to throw as many objections his way as possible.
Senior Sales Director: "So what are your biggest concerns when it comes to the offer I just proposed?"
Me: "Well, the truth is I don't know if I can trust you. You experts all sound great and your pitches make total sense. But then another expert will come along and sell me on something totally different, and that will make sense to me, too. I don't know enough about this market to make a good judgment call, and I’ve been burned before."
Senior Sales Director: "Hmm...I see. That makes sense. What would you propose as a solution to this dilemma?"
I remember this moment very well. My inner dialogue was going nuts. I wanted to sound smart, so I played out a few ideas in my head and finally said...
Me: "Well, I could have all of you salespeople show up at the same time and argue it out in front of me, and whoever makes the most sense will win my business!"
Senior Sales Director: "That's a good idea! Any others?"
Now I was even more stressed out. Another idea? I just gave you a great one. Since I didn’t have another good solution, I said...
Me: "I could also ask around in my network to see if I know anyone who understands this better than I do. It’d have to be someone I trust, and someone who could advise me on the subject."
Senior Sales Director: "Another good one! Any more options you can think of?"
At this point I was totally out of ideas. I spent a few minutes thinking as hard as I could and came up with some stupid idea that I can't even remember anymore. I just said something to say something.
Senior Sales Director: "I see. Any more ideas?"
Me: "No, I don't think so."
Senior Sales Director: "Well, let's recap then. We have Option #1, which is to get all the salespeople in a meeting and have them present their ideas together to you. Option #2 is to tap into your network and see if you can find an advisor. And Option #3 is to [insert stupid idea]. Which of these options do you like best?"
Me: "I think #1."
Senior Sales Director: "Great. Let's do that then!"
At that moment he came out of the role-play, leaned forward, looked me dead in the eye, and said:
Senior Sales Director: "Now who had to do all the work?"
Senior Sales Director: "Exactly! And that's how you always want it to be. Empower your customers to do all the work. Let them come up with the solutions and just guide them along the way. Sales is easy."
I'll never forget what he said next:
"Whoever asks the questions controls the conversation. Sales is all about asking questions and actively listening. It has very little to do with talking.”
This was, without a doubt, the most powerful sales technique I’ve ever learned, and it triggered a major shift in how I approach conversations with prospects and customers.
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