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A New Field Guide for Salespeople.

In this field guide, I share with you the Hierarchy of Probing that occurs during sales calls; and the difference and effectiveness of different types of questions to use during a sales interaction.

This field guide is designed to help you use probing skills to motivate a customer to act.

What you will discover:

  • The #1 hindrance during a sales interaction and how you can avoid it.
  • Which types of probes have the greatest impact on the customer making a decision to use your product or service.
  • How to use specific probes to determine the exact process the customer will use when deciding to use your product or service.
  • How to use probes to increase awareness and motivate the customer to act NOW!
  • How to use the two-step closing process to ensure commitment and follow through.

Remember, every decision you make carries consequences. So, what is the value to you of broadening your probing skills repertoire now? And what challenges would you continue to face with a limited one?

You decide, invest now!


Sales Tip #20:  Use the questioning skills in the new field guide.


Copyright 2012 J.P. Thompson CHt. All rights reserved.

Visit Ascent Selling Technologies website: www.ascenticg.com



Sales TipsIs the attentiveness by your prospect just an illusion?  It just might be!

Your assertiveness is the key.  There are two typical behaviors a prospect will demonstrate when they react to a salesperson who is naturally more assertive than themselves. Typically in the face of assertiveness prospects will:

  • Avoid; that is, go quiet
  • Or acquiesce; that is, agreement to do something, yet without a commitment to act.

Both are negative reactions and produce only limited outcomes.  You may get results in the short-term but the long-term outcomes can be disastrous in terms of being able to call on a particular customer or fostering cooperation with a business associate.

The problem with assertiveness is that an assertive salesperson may be blind to the effect their assertiveness is having on a prospect.  The reason for this is that both of these behaviors, avoid and acquiesce, can masquerade as more positive customer reactions.

Avoidance behavior can masquerade as attentiveness.  To the assertive salesperson, the prospect may appear to be listening attentively to them; when in reality, something very different is going on in the customer’s mind.  They are actually trying to figure out how to get out of this interaction.

Acquiesce can masquerade as agreement with what is being said since a typical acquiescing behavior is head nodding in agreement.  Again, something very different is going on in the prospect mind.  They are politely yessing you out the door!

Think about it.  Have you ever been challenged by a prospect and found yourself going quiet (avoid) and wondering how you were going to get out of the interaction?  Or, have you ever found yourself nodding your head in agreement when you were actually in disagreement, just to reduce the tension?

You can be made to feel this way when others are more assertive than you, and vice versa; you can cause these reactions in others when you are more assertive than they are.  The reactions are relative to the degree of assertiveness used in communication between both parties.

Your assertiveness can be off-putting in a number of ways.  In an earlier post, Building Instant Rapport, there are two components to building rapport.  They are your voice and demeanor (body positioning).  Assertive salespeople have a tendency to have a firm and strong voice.  They have a tendency to lean into the prospect, that is lean forward on the desk across from them or step closer to them.   These verbal and non-verbal behaviors can be completely out of the salesperson’s awareness.  Yet they can have a tremendous impact on the prospect.  Let me illustrate this point.

Not long ago I was traveling with a salesperson who was very frustrated with a prospect whom had not done a single piece of business with them after six months of calling on them.  During the call the prospect appeared “attentive” and responded to questions.  To the salesperson the interaction seemed to go well although, again, no commitment.  I suggested he take a step back and lower his voice during the next sales call.  He was very skeptical about the suggestion.  A couple months later the salesperson said he had followed the suggestion and was completely surprised at the prospect’s reaction.  The prospect opened up and became very engaged in the conversation.  The customer asked the salesperson why they haven’t told them this information before!  Here is the essence of the problem when a prospect reacts to assertiveness.  Remember, at that point they are NOT LISTENING TO YOU they are trying to figure out how to get out of the interaction, by either patiently waiting for you to finish (avoid), or yessing you out the door (acquiescing).

The best way to avoid these situations is to pay close attention to the prospect.  If they go quiet on you, match their volume and be sure you are not leaning into them.  If you see a lot of head nodding, back off and appear friendlier to them.

“Observations often tell you more about the observer than the observed.” ― Chris Geiger

What does your prospect’s reaction say about you?


Sales Tip #19:  Make sure the prospect is not reacting to your assertiveness.


Copyright 2012 J.P. Thompson CHt.  All rights reserved.

Visit Ascent Selling Technologies website: www.ascenticg.com


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SalescafeA pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. ~ Winston Churchill

I like the ease of use, but it is too expensive.

What did you hear the prospect say?  During a sales interaction, it is important to stay focused on the positive.  Unfortunately, we are conditioned to focus on the negative.   There are only four responses a prospect will give you during a sales call.  Those responses are:  positive, positive negative, seemingly negative, and a true concern.  The only one that can keep you from gaining a commitment is the true concern.

The technique of “Picking Up on the Positive” has two advantages; first, it keeps you focused and listening for all positive during the sales call; second, you can uncover the true concern.  A true concern is the one thing that is truly keeping the prospect from using your product or service and if resolved, they will commit to using your product or service.

The first type of prospect response is positive:

  • “I like the flexibility.”
  • “It appears to be easier to use.”
  • “Sounds interesting.”

When you hear positive statements made by the prospect, quickly pick up on them by asking about the positive:

  • What is it about the flexibility that you like?
  • How will ease of use help you?
  • What interests you the most?

The next is a positive negative statement:

  • I like the flexibility, but it’s similar to what I am currently doing.”
  • It appears to be easier to use, but it’s not on formulary.”
  • Sounds interesting, but it’s too expensive.”

When you hear a positive negative statement, focus on the positive in the statement, even though your natural tendency is to hear and focus on the negative portion of the statement.  When you hear the statement for the first time, focus on the positive in the statement by asking a question about the positive:

  • I like the flexibility, but it’s similar to what I am currently doing.”
    • What is it about the flexibility that you like?

The next one is a seemingly negative statement.

  • “It’ similar to what I am currently doing.”
  • “It’s not on formulary”.
  • “Too expensive.”

Again, although your natural tendency is to focus on the seemingly negative statement, focus on the positive in the statement by asking a question.  Remember, if it is the first time you are hearing it, focus on the positive by asking a question:

  • “Too expensive.”  Positive:  The prospect wants to see more value to using the product.  A question that you could use would be:
    • What is the value (or benefits) you see in using this product?

Also, an important thing to remember when using the technique of picking up on the positive is that you are weeding out the unimportant from the truly important issues of the prospect.  The skill is not meant for you to ignore real prospect concerns.  You can use the skill to determine the prospect’s true concerns or those issues, if resolved, will cause them to use your product now.

So, how do you know you are dealing with a true concern?  Remember, the first time you hear a positive negative or seemingly negative response from the prospect, pick up on the positive.

If it is a true concern, the prospect will stop you and bring the concern to your attention.  Usually it is the difference between a statement like “it’s too expensive,” to “we are under pressure to reduce costs and can’t afford the cost of a implementing a new system.”  The statement is usually accompanied with a rationale for why I am bringing it to your attention now.

When you develop the skill of picking up on the positive, you can be pleasantly surprised by the prospect’s responses and potentially fewer issues to deal with during your sales call.

I like the ease of use, but it is too expensive.

Now what did the prospect say?


Sales Tip #18:  Pick up on the positive in a prospect’s statements.


Copyright 2012 J.P. Thompson CHt.  All rights reserved.

Visit Ascent Selling Technologies website:  www.ascenticg.com


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THE PARETO PRINCIPLE – #1 Hindrance Revisited

SalescafeThe Pareto Principle is known by the common term of the 80-20 rule.  You can apply it to all your sales calls for greater sales success.

How does the Pareto Principle pertain to the face-to-face sales call?

In a previous post “The #1 Hindrance. Are you a victim?” the number one hindrance to a salesperson during a sales interaction is that they mistake a prospect’s mild interest for a prospect’s desire to do something and provide too soon.  That is, the salesperson talks too much.  The more you talk, the more challenging the sales call can become.

Using the Pareto Principle means that your prospect should be doing most of the talking, about 80%.  How does this help you?

You can use effective questioning techniques to have them talk so you can:

  • show interest in the prospect.
  • accurately identify needs.
  • gain information.
  • control the sales call.
  • increase awareness of the need to act.
  • identify the prospect’s decision process.
  • involve the prospect mentally.
  • avoid assumptions.

Unfortunately, people believe more in what they discover for themselves than what you could ever tell them.  So, you need to get the prospect talking.

The average prospect’s attention while listening to a presentation is less than two minutes.  The moment you start to speak the clock is running.  Have you ever had a prospect ask you a question about something you just gave an answer to a moment ago had they been listening? That’s right! When you are talking you don’t know if they are truly paying attention to what you are saying.

  • As a side note – commercials are no more than 30 seconds, the average adult attention span while listening.  Can you sell your prospect in 30 seconds?

Having the prospect talk increases their attention and also their retention of the discussion.  You can know if they both heard and understood the value of what you have to offer.

A vast majority of time the Pareto Principle is operating in reverse. The salesperson is doing most of the talking.  So, what compels us as salespeople to talk?

  • Time pressure.  We feel we don’t want to waste the prospects time or the prospect appears busy.  You may even feel you are an interruption in their day.  Remember, if a prospect feels you understand their situation and feels you are being of help to them they will have time for you.  If they feel you don’t, their time becomes very limited.
  • Pressure to make sales.  The sense of urgency about making a sale can compel you to start to talk.
  • You know your product intimately.  You want them to know as much as they can in order to make a decision to use it.  It took you days, weeks, or months to learn what you know about your product or service. Your prospect may never know what you know in the limited time you have with him or her.
  • The prospect.  They know the “pitch “ is coming. So, let’s get it out of the way.  “What’s new?” “What have you got for me today?”  As they look at their watch.  They are skilled at getting you to talk.  They believe it saves them time.
  • It’s natural.  We like to talk.

You can use effective questioning techniques to avoid these pitfalls.

Further, the Pareto Principle applied to the sales call eliminates resistance.  The prospect can resist and object to everything you tell them.  Whereas, when the prospect tells you the value of using your product or service . . . that’s hard for them to argue with.  It’s their information!  All you have to do is restate what they said when discussing the merits of your product or service.

It is far easier to have the prospect sell themselves than for you to sell them.


Sales Tip #17:  Have the customer speak 80% of the time during a sales call.


Copyright 2012 J.P. Thompson CHt.  All rights reserved.

Visit Ascent Selling Technologies website:  www.ascenticg.com


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J.P. Thompson CHt


Clinical Hypnotherapist
NLP Practitioner
Master Sales Trainer (34yrs)

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