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Ask, Tell, Ask Sales and Marketing
November 24, 2013

Ask, Tell, Ask Sales and Marketing

Ask your customer about their need, speak to them – exclusively - about just that and then ask them again if what you said resonated with them

Greetings Sales and Marketer:

In sales and marketing bad stereotypes abound. Sales becomes the act of persuading people to buy your product(s) or service(s) while marketing becomes a series of promotional announcements talking about how great you are. The truth of the matter is that business is all about service and if you are not putting your customer first then you are in trouble. This is especially true nowadays when there is a premium on good service. Find out what your customers want before talking to them about what you have


When someone picks up the phone in response to your call, what do you say? The first thing that comes out of my mouth is always the same; depending on who my client is (who I am making calls for). I will say: “This is Husain Zaidi calling from __________. Did I catch you at a good time to chat for a few minutes?” Regardless of what they say next, I will always then ask, “Are you the person that manages ________?” (I talk about gaining permission to engage in more detail in my articles on cold calling)

Sales and marketing is about reaching an agreement with your customer and that means you need to ask and make sure that everything makes sense to THEM at every step. In sales this is a straightforward process and in marketing it is done by engaging in interactive marketing communication where buy in is achieved through a variety of channels such as online, direct mail, surveys and so forth. Rather than the traditional push approach, sales and marketing today is all about pull


I was told by a sales trainer once that people always buy for only 1 or 2 reasons. This is one of those kinds of sales and marketing gems that you may never hear or read about but that makes perfect sense. What it means is that rather than focus on all of your product and service features and benefits, you simply pick the ones your customers is interested in and talks to you about FIRST (you simply ask qualifying questions). So, when a vacuum cleaner salesperson in the store asks what you are looking for, he is not going to talk about suction power when you have told him that you are looking for a light, durable and quiet machine

There really is no end to what you can talk about in describing your business and what you can do for your customer. However, do you know what your customer is looking for? Maybe what appeals to them is something that you have not even thought of… remember, like Jeffrey Gitomer says, “People don’t like to be sold but they love to buy”. I used the same approach as enterprise software salesperson for almost a decade: rather than the standard 45-minute canned software demo showing off ALL the bells and whistles, customers respond better to an “on the fly” presentation where we can match their needs to what they can see on the screen


This ask might be called the close and is where you say, “Did we cover everything you are looking for?” There is a line of thinking which says that you should not ask questions like, “What do you think?” or “So?” However, my opinion is that there is no harm in doing this in the right way at the right time, just like there is no harm in talk about price upfront (if your price is high your customer will simply realize that you are offering a premium product with a lot more features). There is a BIG difference between talking about a bunch of features and benefits and asking, “So?” as opposed to asking once you have answered to what your customer has been telling YOU

In addition to sales and marketing part of my consulting practice is to help people with job placement. Here what I do is guide job seekers in everything from education and general career advice to job hunting, resume building, making phone calls and finally acing an interview. The Ask, Tell, Ask approach works like a charm because no one ever uses it and it turns conventional interview technique – i.e., memorizing answers to “Top 50” questions – on its head. Ask what the qualities of their ideal candidate is; tell them how your experience matches that and then ask, “So, based on our conversation do you think I am a good fit for this role?” You will be surprised at their reaction

Stop speaking, start listening and do not try and progress your own agenda without clarifying and aligning it with that of your customers first!


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