The Socratic Method

Robert Half once said, “Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers.” The more information a salesperson elicits from a prospect, the better her chances to close the sale.  Fortunately every prospect has a story to tell and is dying to tell it; unfortunately most salespeople are in a rush to engage their mouths instead of their ears.  If you take the time to search out what your prospect desires above all else, what his passion is, what his problems are, you’ll be teed up for a‑hole‑in‑one; and isn’t that a whole lot sweeter than a blind shot out of the rough?

Before you begin presenting, or later when you spot an opening, do a little digging.  If Socrates had been a salesperson, here’s a short list of probing statements and questions he would have found useful: “Tell me a little about yourself.”  “Tell me what makes (prospect’s name) truly feel alive.”  “Everyone has a fascinating story to tell, what’s yours?”  “Everyone has a dream, what’s yours?”  “What do you want more than anything else in this world?”  “What’s the biggest problem you’d give almost anything to solve?”  “How did you get into this business?”  “What is the most important thing I need to know to be of service to you today?”

The brilliance of the Socratic Method is your prospect would much rather talk about himself than listen to you, and after he does you’re going to pounce on those newly-mined 24‑karat‑gold nuggets, by performing an act of sales Ju-Jitsu, aren’t you?  You’re going to use the prospect’s own energy to facilitate the sale.

After you ask a question, listen carefully.  Absorb every word as though your life depended on it.  Becoming a good listener is vital for a salesperson; it requires great dedication and lots of hard work.  If you don’t think so, why is it you can ask someone his name and a minute later you can’t recall what it is.  It’s happened to all of us.  Careful listening is so rare it’s become an anachronism.

Use the Socratic Method.  Keep asking questions until it becomes natural, habitual; and make a commitment to listen carefully, too.

The rewards for your efforts will be well worth it, I promise you.