Ask the Right Questions and You Can Sell Almost Anything

Don Draper is the king of cool. After a sales pitch, he seems to have people ready to buy, but that's not how the real world works. It's about knowing your buyer and asking the right questions.

When a customer walks into a store, they aren't always looking to be sold on the best product according to the critics. Susan Adams of Forbes writes on a piece of wisdom brought from the year 1988, in the form of a book called SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. It provides a method for the salesman on how to get the consumer what they need in order to move product.


The book remains in print despite being almost 30 years old--a testament to it's teachings. Rackham, a behavioral psychologist, developed the SPIN solution for uncovering a customer's needs and finding a product to match it. Another testament to Reckham's selling method are coaching firms, like the one run by John Golden, chief executive of Huthwaite, who use it as their bible to salesmanship. Golden teaches his students that the process starts with an investigation into what the consumer needs:

"You need to uncover the issues or challenges the organization you’re selling to faces. Show you can find a solution for their issues or opportunities.”

“You lead the buyer to draw his own conclusions.”

It sounds like common sense—sell to what the buyer's wants and needs. But, in Golden's experience, that's not the case.

“A lot of salespeople are so anxious to get the sale, they pitch the product as soon as anyone expresses some kind of interest.”

There's also the salespeople who aren't trying to sell you on a new car or camera, either. Huthwaite, for instance, specializes in training people to sell in medical, biotechnical, pharmacological, banking, and IT fields, which requires quite a bit more research on the buyer and their preferences. He suggest to find out who has been assigned to make the purchasing decisions for their company and construct the right questions that will resonate with each person.

“Those people have to be identified and approached differently. Then you establish what the decision-making criteria are for the purchase.”

These questions double to inform you about the buyers needs, but also informs the buyer that you understand their needs. Golden believes that a salesperson doesn't need to have the charisma of a Don Draper in order to make a sale. Thorough research and the patience to listen help more than TV show swagger.

“The conventional wisdom is that your best salespeople are big personalities, gregarious. The truth is the best sellers ask good questions, analyze the answers, and identify nuggets within the answers that they can develop and explore further with more follow-up.”

Read more at Forbes

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