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Speak the language?

Today, business discourse in general and sales interactions in particular, involves asking questions, true?  Lots and lots of questions, yes?  See what I mean?  Point made?  ‘nuff said?

OK, OK, I’m simply trying to demonstrate that today’s business language involves asking a great many questions.  The more skilled we are in the language of questions, the more successful we can be.

Think about our doctor and her ability to diagnose ailments.  Doctors ask us lots and lots of questions so we can participate in the process more so than simply offering a body part for repair.  Our tax accountants ask questions; our lawyers too.  Many professions involve the asking of many questions; but not all.

Contrast our interactions with our doctors to that of our auto mechanics.  With the latter, there is less question/answer dialog, isn’t there?  Many auto mechanics have drop boxes where we fill out a form, leave our keys and expect them to fix the problem.  “I hear a noises coming from the right-front-end” might be the only clue we offer our mechanic – expecting him to perform a miracle from there (and hopefully, inexpensively too).

Of course, auto mechanics don’t always welcome our assistance:

            Labor Rates 

    Regular                                 $ 24.50

    If you wait                               30.00

    If you watch                             35.00

    If you help                               50.00

    If you laugh                             75.00

Unknown Sage

In my profession, sales people ask our prospects a plethora of questions.  However, many times we are not asking questions because of our natural curiosity and true interest in our prospect’s situation. Too many times our questions are more self-serving; more product-feature-focused; more trial-closing-oriented.  Did we not read the book?

THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE by Stephen R. Covey 

HABIT 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Let’s turn the table.  Have you ever noticed the times we’re comfortable with the questions we’re being asked, and the other times questioning irritates us?  How about those forecasting calls?  How about the times when a subject matter expert needed for our deal asks first if our deal is even “qualified”?  Same question our Sales Manager asks – often!  Some questions can be very irritating, don’t you agree?

Maybe we all can agree that it’s not so much “what” we ask; rather it’s “how” we ask it.  It’s our tone of voice; choice of words; the directness; the quantity; the repetition of our questions.  I mean, it’s not supposed to feel like an interrogation (unless I suppose, we are interrogators – or Sales Managers).

If our dentist displayed the same chairside manner that we do during sales calls, we would become a totally toothless society.  I mean, if we applied the same tone, language, and directness we use in our sales role to our social life, we would all become hermits ostracized by family, friends and potential companions who would consider us rude and totally uncouth!  Not to mention our toothlessness.  But I digress.

There are also times where we ask questions about things the prospect finds obvious.  That’s not good:

In a visit to a utility company to study its best practices, teams from Sprint Corporation in Westwood, Kansas, were shocked to learn that some corporate cultures weren’t quite as rigid as theirs.  When the Sprint teams asked questions regarding dress code and attendance policies, the firm responded that its policies were come to work, and wear clothes. 

Bob Nelson

So I submit to my fellow sales professionals for your professional consideration – shall we add a little more professionalism back into our profession?

GAP

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