So you want to become a master at selling? If you think it’s all about closing tactics, body language psychology, and aggressive persuasion, you couldn’t be more wrong. The best sales guys I know, the high earners, the guys who can sell ice to an Eskimo, let’s call them the one percenters of sales, have mastered one skill that trumps all other. Can you guess what it is?
If you guessed, “asking the right questions,” you are right. Now, there is an essential bonus skill that comes with this – listening! We have two ears and one mouth for a reason, and listening to the answers of the questions you ask is extremely important.
“I already know that, and I’m always asking questions,” you might say.
If I had a nickel every time I hear that from the people I coach, advise or train, I’d be a rich man by now. There is a big difference between asking questions, and asking the right questions.
You see, there is a specific purpose for asking the right questions, and that is to have people convince themselves that your product or service is a great choice. Think about it. If someone tells you something, they could be wrong, but if you convince yourself, you’re always right.
One great example is the typical “sell me this pen” scenario seen in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” How would you sell someone a pen? Especially someone that commands you to sell them something? Zig Ziglar, a fantastic sales and personal development master, knew how to do it. I’ll borrow a post from Quora by Mike Major, which shows exactly how to let someone convince himself or herself, without being pushy, without advanced techniques:
Zig Ziglar was interviewed by Johnny Carson.
“They say you’re the world’s greatest salesman, so sell me this ashtray”.
‘”Well, before I could do that,” replied Zig, “I’d have to know why you wanted the ashtray”.
Looking at the ashtray on the table, the TV host said, “I guess it’s well made, it looks pretty nice and it’s a good ashtray”.
Ziglar then said: ‘”OK, but you’d have to tell me what you think it’s worth to you”.
”I don’t know, I guess $20 would be about right”, Carson responded.
Zig Ziglar looked at Johnny Carson, smiled, and said: “Sold!”‘
Do you see what I mean? He didn’t try to convince Johnny Carson about how great it looked or how functional it was. He had him convince himself by asking the right questions.
Remember to not back yourself into a corner with bad questions. If you’re selling X, don’t ask people, “Do you like X?” Why? Because if they say no, it will be extremely hard to change their opinion. Figure out the benefits of your product/service, and ask a smart question.
Another example happened between me and a client I coach, where he was going to an event with his peers, and happened to be severely underdressed. Normally, I’d just tell someone, “Hey, you gotta suit up,” but this guy, like me, has an extreme problem with authority (hello, entrepreneurs!), and can’t be told what to do. After 2 minutes, he was changing into a suit. How?
Me: Do you respect your peers?
Him: Yes, of course.
Me: Would you like them to respect you?
Him: Absolutely. What do you mean?
Me: Imagine yourself in a room with your peers, and imagine yourself smiling, being the center of attention, shaking hands with everyone and feeling respected. Tell me, how does the environment look?
Him: It’s a nice, upscale place with rich and respectable people.
Me: Aside from knowing that they have money and what they do, what makes them look rich and respectable?
Him: Well, they’re wearing suits and expensive watches, and they are confident and intelligent.
Me: How about you, in this environment, how are you dressed and how are you feeling?
Him: Damn, you’re right. What am I thinking! I have to wear a suit!
And because of this little visual I gave him, he tells me now always thinks about how he dresses and feels before going somewhere. Did I sell him on wearing a suit? Did I tell him he had to? No, he convinced himself he had to, with the help of a few questions from my side.
Closing deals with questions is also much easier than persuading someone with pressure tactics (which might backlash or induce buyers remorse, which will lead to a return, and maybe even bad reviews). Questions like, “Would it be worth for you to invest $X to save time/make more money/be more effective/whatever it is?” If you’ve done your job right, they will say yes and ask for where to sign themselves, as they’ll be eager to get started.
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Sami Rusani is a serial entrepreneur with several multi-million dollar businesses under his belt. He has worked with global brands, major ad agencies, major labels, as well as many startups. On his blog, 6ft9.com, he shares marketing, sales and business advice, and real life scenarios from his projects. Sam also mentors and coaches entrepreneurs, and teaches them how to grow their businesses.