By Tibor Shanto
It seems many in sales feel the best way to show how smart they are, is to have all the answers at the ready, and feel compelled to bark an answer as soon as the prospect asks, sometimes even before. I would suggest that even when you know the answer, no element of doubt, offering it up like a candy dispenser, will not lead to the prospect thinking you are smart by virtue of knowing answer, and certainly does not guarantee the deal.
I know some will be hard to convince, but you need to look at questions and answers as props in a play, where the plot and theme are centred around the prospect, their objectives, and things they are looking to, or more often, willing to change. So, while being right is great for grade 8 English test, it may move the dial the wrong way in a given deal.
Just as the questions you ask are designed to create a learning experience for both buyer and seller, and allow you to take the meeting in certain directions, so do answers.
Prospects will in their own way prepare for meetings as well, and when they are focused on addressing something, they want to get to that point, just like sellers want to get to their point. As experienced sellers will tell you, that facts and reality are sometimes best doled out in bits and pieces, and these are tied to the buyer’s state of readiness. This is not so important if you are selling products to “informed” and predictable buyers looking for what they bought last time, and neither you or the buyer are inclined to change, learn or improve.
But if your success is based on helping buyers achieve a future state, one different than their current state, one that represents change, or as they think of it as “risk”, then it will likely involve educating and motivating that buyer. There is a reason they call it a journey, it allows the buyer to evolve on the way to the destination.
Our role as sellers is to ensure the buyers gain an understanding of the specifics at hand. Individual buyers we deal with, are part of a group of buyers, often with varying opinions and wish lists. This means they need to both understand and explain the change you are proposing to others in the process, meaning that a “just in time” approach to answers will likely serve you better than spewing facts.
Not Every Question Deserves An Answer
That’s right, there is no law that says that all questions have to be answered immediately, or at all. Sometimes buyers ask questions not purely out of a need for an answer, but for example, as a way of thinking out loud. Based experience, you know that certain question show a state of unreadiness on the part of the buyer. Answering the question, now or too soon, may confirm some wrong assumptions, or limit your ability to explore areas later; another good reason to review all opportunities, won, lost or “no decision”.
There is also the opportunity to demonstrate your organization’s “deep bench”. You can introduce experts and specialist to respond. Setting that meeting will allow you to surface and involve others in the process, by setting up a meeting to introduce your expert(s) to their team. It also allows you to ensure that they form relationships with those in a better position to ensure success after the signature. Something that if it came to you, would cause you to not “sell”, and delays in resolving the clients issues.
Knowing the answer is one things, what makes you an expert seller, not a product or fact expert, is how you use and dispense the answers in a way that drives the buyer’s and you objectives.
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