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The Ruby Group | Akron and Columbus, OH
We don't ordinarily think of sales as one of the "helping professions," but maybe we should. People tell their problems to psychologists and clergymen. They pour out their hearts to their neighborhood bartender. But they tell their troubles to sales professionals, too, so we should develop our "helping profession" skills. I have often noticed, when a sales pitch is going well, how the conversation resembles what I understand a therapeutic session to be like. That is the way it should be, if the salesperson knows what he or she is doing. For one thing, there are times when-acting as a counselor might-it is best to answer a question with a question. It's even important to pause thoughtfully after a question has been asked, which isn't easy for salespersons. Many are fast talkers, eager to make their pitch as quickly as possible. That's a mistake. It's important, before answering a question, to know why it's being asked. The only way to find out is to follow with a question of your own. Let's say you're selling an ad agency's services to a restaurant chain, and the potential client asks how much experience you have with restaurants. Too many salespersons, without bothering to find out why the client wants to know, immediately answer by citing the vast number of restaurant accounts the agency has handled. When they are done, the prospect says, "Well, I hope you aren't planning to present me with recycled ideas." Now the salesperson is cooked. If he had asked why the prospect was asking about his experience, he might have learned how important it is for the restaurant to be seen as unique. Answering questions with questions allows you to learn as much as possible about the prospect's needs so that when you do respond with definitive answers, they are the right ones. There's at least one other reason to take a therapeutic approach to sales calls. They create an atmosphere in which the prospect is likely to talk about the problems their business faces-that is, their pain. Once you understand their pain, you can explain how your product or service will remove it. Approach your sales calls this way, and you'll make friends and sales
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