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Ask Questions Like A Lawyer

There are three dimensions to getting a good answer to a question:


Unfortunately many sales professionals ask a question and accept the first answer at face value. This is because their typical personality style is characterized by high optimism and trust. Additionally if the information plays into the solution the sales person wants to propose, it’s easy for the sales person to get excited, assume the prospect is fully qualified and rush into a presentation of his product or service.

Lawyers on the other hand are often characterized by detail orientation and a good dose of skepticism. Experience has taught them that the first answer they receive is only part of the story. Judges and parents know this also. That’s why our courts instruct people to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Without asking a question 3 different ways, there is a good chance important information will be omitted and the salesperson can make assumptions which jeopardize a sale. Here are prospect statements or questions that could easily have 3 or 4 different meanings:

  • “This looks good, we should be able to get something done.” (Vaguely positive, should (??) be able to get something done?)
  • “We are always looking for new technology solutions.” (Always looking– is that good or bad?)
  • “Do you have a guarantee?” (Have they had a bad experience in the past?)
  • “I don’t have a very big budget” (Is the prospect broke or playing a price pressure game? Maybe he wants a cheap quote to beat up the incumbent.)
  • “What makes you better than your competition?” (DANGER—don’t take the bait!)
  • “Tell me what you’ve got.” (This one is usually delivered by a highly dominant executive who is in a hurry. What does he really want?)
  • “I’m the decision maker.” (We’ve all learned about this one the hard way!)

My advice to sales people is simple: Ask questions like a lawyer.

Ask the question 3 different ways so that you fully understand what the prospect is sharing with you or what the prospect is asking. The art, of course, is to redirect a prospect and uncover additional information without making him feel like he got the third degree!

SELLect Sales Tip:

Assumption is the enemy of the salesperson. Seek the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

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