Debating and Selling – It’s All in the Preparation!

As nerve-racking and crazy as the recent political debates have been, what I enjoy the most about them is the thought that goes into every question asked. The moderator’s questions are planned out, purposeful, and zone in on key targeted topics.

When you think about it, isn’t that what we do in sales? We are like moderators. Just as the moderator of the political debate doesn’t show up and wing it, asking questions off the cuff, neither should we. We should be well prepared for a meeting, either on the phone or face-to-face. We don’t want to wing these appointments. It’s worth taking the time to plan our questions and strategies ahead of time.

Here are some tips to help you when you pre-call plan.

1. Think of the first two questions you will ask in order to get dialog started.

Do this whether this is your first call or your tenth call with this potential customer. This is breaking the ice or building rapport. These can be questions regarding how long they have been in the business, how they got to their current position, or how their son or daughter’s game was, if they talked about it the last time you connected. Make these questions about them. This is not about you.

2. Figure out how you will segue into the business portion of the conversation. 

Especially on a first appointment, don’t assume they really know what you do. For example, say, “Before we begin, would it help if I gave you some brief information regarding our company and my role within the organization?” Go into a brief introduction and then ask a “how” or “what” question to smoothly get into the conversation.

An easy way to start the business portion of the conversation with someone you have seen multiple times is to verify the information you received last time and move forward from there. “What I would like to do is go over the information you stated at our last meeting/conversation, to make sure I didn’t miss anything important.”

3. Know the critical things you need to find out before hanging up the phone or walking out of the meeting. 

These can be items such as budget, what they are currently doing, timeline, their decision-making process, or any specifics you need to create a compelling proposal.

4. Determine your main objective for the meeting/conversation. 

Should you not achieve your main objective, what is your secondary objective? You should always have a Plan A and a Plan B prepared before a meeting / conversation so you have something to fallback on if things don’t go exactly right.

Just like a good moderator, we also have to plan our objectives, carefully prepare our questions, and stay in control of the conversation. Dorothy Leeds, one of my favorite authors, states:

“The question, and how it is delivered, is the most overlooked part of the art of persuasion!”

Refine your own art of persuasion with your questions and your “closing statement” will have that much more impact!