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The Ruby Group | Akron and Columbus, OH


Jim knew for sure what the prospect was looking for.  It was the only possible thing.

“We also have this same car in a beautiful shade of deep red.”

“Oh,” she said, “that’s nice.”

“I couldn’t help but notice,” said Jim, pleased with himself for noticing what she drove into the dealership.  “Just like the one you drove in with.”

“Yes, my car is red . . .” she tapered off.

“And the sunroof on your car, you can get the same type on this new one.  I’m pretty sure that if you’re serious, I could get the sales manager to discount the sunroof package.”

“That would be nice,” she replied in a very noncommittal fashion.

“So,” said Jim, “what else could I answer for you?”

She pursed her lips and looked out the window towards where she had parked.

“Well, tell you what,” she said, “let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you.”

“Okay, here’s my card.  We have a red one with a sunroof coming in tomorrow.  You’ll love it.”

As she left, one of the other salespeople came over to Jim and said, “I see you were talking to Diane.  Did you hear how she got that car she’s driving?  Her husband walked out on her two weeks ago.  That car was his.  She told my wife that she’d like to run it off a cliff.  Doesn’t want to own anything that reminds her of him.”


Jim did not make the sale for many reasons.  The biggest reason was that he presumed to know what was important to the buyer.  As it turned out, what was important to the buyer was not what Jim presumed.  All he had to do was ask a simple question, “What is important to you when buying?”


Top performing salespeople never presume to know why someone is interested in buying, nor, after the sale, how the buyer is using the product.  They ask and ask and ask.

Salespeople who are not performing well or those that bounce up and down, constantly presume to know the answers to unasked questions.  Why?  Perhaps it is a pattern they have fallen into because they want the customer to know that they have all the answers.  And if they have all the answers, then the customer would be silly to not buy from them.

Another reason for presuming?  The salesperson feels “not-in-control” if the customer does most of the talking.  It’s easier and more comfortable for the salesperson to do the talking in the hopes that something said will make the customer buy.

But think of the customer who’s sitting in front of you.  The customer is interested in something.  The customer has reasons for being interested.  The customer feels that the reasons are important.  The customer wants to see if the reasons are important enough to part with the money.  Ignore this simple reality and lose the sale.

Or, pay attention to this and help the customer make the decision by talking to you about what he wants.


The first question that Jim should have asked was, “If you could do your car over, what would you have done differently?”  While the sentence is not completely logical, Diane would have responded in a way that allowed Jim to keep asking questions.

The same applies for any sales situation.  The customer, in 99% of the situations, has already bought what you are selling at some past point.  So ask him, “If you could go back and do that purchase again, what would you change?”  Be prepared to wait for a response because 99% of the customers will never expect a salesperson to ask this question.  They expect you to act as if you already know.

Unless you ask questions to find out what the prospect or customer is thinking, you are fooling yourself into losing the sale.

©1992, 2007 Sandler Systems, Inc and TEM Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. S Sandler Training Finding Power In Reinforcement (with design) and Tactics for Sales Professionals are registered service marks of Sandler Systems, Inc.


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