You can’t sell if they won’t talk

We can't sell if they won't talk.A simple observation throughout my sales career is that if people won’t talk to us, we can’t sell them anything. Another observation is that many salespeople know how to talk, but don’t know or understand how to listen.

To sell, we need to engage people in simple conversations. To be in a conversation, we need to allow or entice the other side to talk. Salespeople need to understand when to shut up.

The path to a successful conversation is basic conversation development questions. Most of the time, you only need 3-4 good questions to kick start a conversation.

A crappy appointment involves either too much talking on the part of the seller or too many questions that lead to nowhere. We all know when a meeting goes well; it’s not hard to figure this out. If the other party mostly talked and we have an agreed upon follow-up meeting, that was a good meeting. On the other hand, if we mostly talked and we walk out with an “agreed” upon follow-up call, 8 out of 10 times that was a complete waste of the buyer’s time.

In sales, we have questions that give us the facts of the prospect’s world. (e.g., Who is your current provider? How long have you been with them?) It’s OK to use one or two of these questions just to help you and the prospect start talking. However, our big or primary objective is to give the prospect a stage so that she can tell us HER story about what it is she does, how she feels about her environment and how she thinks we can help her improve HER life.

The easiest way to do this is to ask broad questions that encourage the prospect to tell us a story. By listening to her story, we will gain all of the information required to qualify and move our position forward. A salesperson’s job is to tactfully guide people to talk. When they are done speaking, we should have a complete understanding of them, their company, the environment they work in and areas they want life to improve.

When people tell a good story, they interact with their audience. Many of the best storytellers actually don’t start the story; they enhance it with their own experiences and then give the stage back to the original speaker. This is how a sales conversation should work — we are the unknown director.  Our time on stage is short, yet powerful.

To get into sales conversations that sell, we need to step back and look at our services. Review how our services benefit current customers and create a list of questions that might bring up these benefits during the course of a conversation. Some of these questions will be broad while others are laser focused. Our skill is determining which ones to use first and when to use which questions.

The dance is to keep information following from the prospects’ side of the table as much as possible. A poorly placed question can stop a good story in its tracks. Conversations are built on trust and if you violate the trust given to you buy the speaker, the conversation is over.

So is there a magic question? No. Each prospect is a little bit different. While there isn’t a magic question, there is one thing you can do to create conversations: Organize. Prior to engaging a prospect, we need to give her the framework of the meeting. This will help her mentally prepare for her side of the conversation. The easiest way to do this is to send prospects a simple meeting agenda; failure to do so is just stupid. Be professional; take 3-5 minutes and create an agenda


One Response

  1. Hi, I am making a shirt for my Forensics Team (I’m in high school) and was wondering if I could use your image on this post for the shirt. I just want the silhouette, and I will credit you for the image.


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