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Posted: November 01, 2009

On Management: A simple approach to selling more

Questions are the salesperson's strongest weapon

Pat Wiesner

We were being good parents, helping one of our children look for a house. (Details have been disguised enough in this story that none of those involved would recognize themselves.)

This was not my favorite thing to do, so I resolved to sit in the back seat and quietly amuse myself by judging the salesmanship of the woman showing us around.

I decided that for the purposes of my entertainment the rule would be that the salesperson would have to know substantially more about her client after the outing than when it started. The idea being that in order to earn the right to sell a house, the salesperson has to learn enough about the prospect to find and present the right property.

So the tour began. In total we went to five houses. And we viewed them all properly in about four hours, in and out of the car at each home. One thing became very clear at the outset: This Realtor knew a lot about real estate, financing and these particular properties. None of us was able to ask a question for which this Realtor could not give a good answer.

I think we all could quickly conclude this person was an informational expert. Product knowledge was her specialty. This Realtor knew everything we wanted to know about real estate and housing in this area. She gave a surprisingly understandable description of real estate taxes, how they are figured and how they must be paid. As we drove she gave an interesting history of the area.

It was so interesting that I had to force myself back to my rule: "How much had the salesperson learned about the prospect?" So far, not much. Like a lot of us, this salesperson talked a lot about herself and didn't seem to care much about learning about the customer.

As of the third house tour, I couldn't think of a single question the salesperson had asked the client. The problem is that a salesperson gets to the end of the call without learning anything new. The client gets the feeling that this salesperson is not going to deliver. There is a good chance that the client will look for a salesperson who is more interested in them!

What would have earned this saleswoman some points? Things like this: What did you like about that place, Mrs. Client? We have looked at three homes so far; if you had to decide only between these three, which one would you choose? Each one of these homes has had a different number of bedrooms and baths; how many do you want/need in your new home? What do you like most of what you have seen so far in these three? Worst?

You get the point. Let's not keep knocking this poor real estate saleswoman. I wouldn't want someone picking on me the way I've been picking on her. We all have things to improve on.

But to be tops you have to learn all you can about your client, in any sales job. To learn, you have got to ask questions. And not just any questions, but questions that give us new information that helps us find and present the right product.

Doing this properly takes some simple planning. We have to decide ahead of time just what we want to know about our client.

• Have a plan for what you want to learn on every call.

• Ask questions that get you this info.

• Don't quit until you know how to find and present the product that will work.

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Pat Wiesner is the retired CEO of WiesnerMedia, publisher of ColoradoBiz. He still leads sales training for the company. E-mail him at pwiesner@cobizmag.com.

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