The other day I was on the receiving end of a sales call and as luck would have it I was interested in the product and what they had to offer. Notice the operative word in the preceding sentence – was – interested.  What happened? What changed? Why did I go from “am” interested to “was” interested? It’s actually pretty simple. They didn’t seem to be interested in me and in that case, how could I be interested in them? And how did that become apparent anyway?

It happened like this. The sales rep introduced herself and my usual antipathy towards telephone sales calls quickly dissipated when I heard the company name and the product. You see I had been thinking about this product for quite awhile so you might say it was a case of ” good timing.”

But that’s where things started to feel wrong. The sales rep was clearly determined to deliver her message and didn’t even stop to take a breath, all the while regurgitating loads of features combined with the usual sales platitudes. At a certain point I started to tune out.

She didn’t ask me a single question to find out what feature/benefit combination was important to ME, didn’t inquire about my needs and wants or engage in any sort of “discovery” at all. And make no mistake about it – discovery is a critical part of any type of sales presentation whether in person or over the telephone.

Discovery – probing and asking questions so that the prospect will reveal what they need and want, why they need it and perhaps even what it is worth to them (aka what they’ll pay for it!) – is the salesperson’s best tactic. By asking questions you can find out what is important to the prospect and tailor your presentation accordingly. By asking questions you will also make the prospect feel as if their wants and needs are important because at the end of the day that’s all that is important!

So what happened with my call? After she finished up with her recitation there was silence and I didn’t jump in to fill it either. By now I was pretty curious as to what she would do next. Can you guess? She tried to close and schedule an appointment as follows, “so Lisa, it sounds as if you’re interested in pursuing this. I’ll be in your area on Tuesday. What do you say I stop by your office and we can discuss this in more detail.”

I kid you not.

My words to the folks reading this blog, to those of us that have to sell our products and services, let me say that questions are our friends and should always play an important role in all of our sales presentations.

Take a moment or two to think about what questions you should be asking. What information is good to know and what information is essential to know. What will help you to evaluate the opportunity (not all opportunities are created equal) and possibly back away or perhaps work even harder to secure the appointment or sale?

Include a mix of open and closed ended questions (closed ended can be answered with a “yes,” “no,” or a number; open ended elicit more information and usually begin with the following words, “what,” “why,” “how” or simply ask the prospect to tell you about their situation.)

Intersperse the question into your conversation and allow the prospect to ask their questions as well. You’re not interrogating them after all. You’ll find that this easy give and take is much more natural and comfortable than a sales monologue whereby you might be talking about features of absolutely no interest to the person with whom you are speaking.

As I said, questions are our friends. Don’t be scared to ask but also be prepared for any sort of answer that might come your way.

So let me ask you, what would you like to accomplish with your promotional products program? How will it integrate into the rest of your marketing initiatives? What is the market you are trying to reach?

Just like that!!!!!