Ask Questions, Get Results – The Art of Listening, Part II

Last week, FEI sales leader Zoot taught young salesman Ganymede how to develop excellent listening skills, and explained why salespeople who are good listeners will sell more. This week, Zoot teaches Ganymede how to ask thoughtful, probing questions— another component of good listening that’s crucial to sales success. Remember, fire = print.

Ganymede shuffled despondently into his office, laurel wreath in hand. Zoot, who was finishing up some paperwork in his office across the hall, instantly noticed Ganymede’s glum mood. He could read his apprentice like a scroll.

“What’s wrong?” Zoot asked.

“Another blown sale,” Ganymede said. “I don’t know what I did wrong! I talked and talked and talked. I told the prospect everything about FEI: our history, our products, our people.”

“Is it possible you’re talking too much?” Zoot asked. “You’re confident, outgoing and motivated to succeed—qualities that many successful salespeople possess. But those attributes can also make it more challenging for you to simply sit still and listen.”

Ganymede rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I agree. I need to listen more.”

“As I said last week, skilled listening involves hanging on a prospect’s every word and empathizing with him or her,” Zoot said, “but it also involves asking the right questions in order to move the conversation forward. Asking probing, yet thoughtful, questions in response to your customer’s stated interests and needs will propel you toward a closed sale.”

“Can you give me some examples?” Ganymede asked.

“Let’s pretend you’re the prospect—Demeter of Demeter’s Café—and I’m the salesperson,” Zoot began. “So Demeter…you value a fire service provider that can guarantee next day torch delivery, don’t you?”

“This is an example of a tie-down question,” Zoot explained. “It’s a natural-sounding query that involves putting a question at the end of a statement. Every time a prospect nods ‘yes’ in response to a tie-down question, you come one step closer to locking that person into a sale.”

T.J. Tedesco is a sales growth, business strategy, marketing and PR consultant operating at the intersection of clear vision, compelling content and effective outreach practices. For nearly two decades, T.J. has been an independent consultant and sales growth team leader. Previously, he sold commercial printing, graphic arts machinery and supplies, and finishing and bindery services. T.J. helps North American companies with content development, Web and print design leadership, nurture marketing programs, sales coaching, sales team alignment and business strategy. Since 1996, T.J. has worked with more than 100 clients on retainer, 80 percent in the graphic arts industry. T.J. is author of "Win Top-of-Mind Positioning," "Playbook for Selling Success in the Graphic Arts Industry," "Fire! How Marketing Got Hot," "Direct Mail Pal" and four more books published by PIA. He can be reached at (301) 404-2244 or
Related Content