Too often salespeople are so anxious to close a sale that they don’t take the time to determine what their potential customer needs. What should they do? Ask questions.

There’s a story about a sales trainer who was interviewed by Johnny Carson. Carson asked the salesman to sell him something, to which the salesman replied, “What would you like me to sell you?” After Carson named an object on his desk, the salesman asked why he liked it and what it was worth to him. When Carson named a price, the salesman quickly said, “Sold!”

It’s a rather simple story, but the point is clear. Had the salesman picked an object to sell to Carson and tried to point out all of the product’s benefits, his words would’ve missed their mark and Carson would’ve instinctively become defensive. By asking him what he wanted to buy and what it was worth to him, the salesman engaged Carson and cast him into an offensive role, where moving toward the sale—rather than away from it—came naturally.

By asking questions and listening to the answers, you learn more about your customer and ensure that what you sell him is what he really wants. And a happy customer often becomes a loyal, repeat customer.

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