By Ian Altman, Guest Author

When you are meeting with a potential new client it’s all too easy to fall into a pattern of asking a few well worn questions then rushing to blather on about your firm. This is usually a bad idea. One of the best comments on this very point came from Ian Altman. Ian is a former CEO and now helps firms boost their sales. When I heard him speak at a recent gathering of CXOs it became clear that this is the voice of experience speaking. I immediately asked Ian to guest blog on a few key points. Here’s the first installment…lwf

Want an answer? Ask the question.

A client of mine recently asked me to review three vendors for professional services they needed. As I met with each one, they all started by asking why the organization was seeking their services – good question. I gave each sales team the same answer, and clearly conveyed the issue we faced, the impact to the organization, and the importance of finding a solution quickly. Given what I do for a living, you might suspect that I spent most of the time evaluating what they did and did NOT ask.

There are key questions none of them asked:

  • What is the most important factor for your decision?
  • Who are the other vendors, and which one might you be leaning toward?
  • What format would you like for the proposal?
  • What concerns do you have?

Each one offered discounts without being asked. And, despite starting with a consultative approach, they told me their belief about what was important rather than asking me about what I thought might matter most.

In the end, each firm left with much less information than I was willing to share. And, I got the sense that only one of them did their homework prior to the visit.

It was an interesting experience since I have not spent time on the buyer’s side of the desk in the past year. I was reminded about the great need for improved selling skills.

Think about the most important information you can obtain going into a meeting. If you are trying to figure out how to get that information, consider simply asking the question.