Ask and Observe

Ask and Observe


What is the single biggest tool in a salesperson’s arsenal that doesn’t cost a dime out of pocket? Inside info? Nope. A nice suit? Nah. Promotional items? Please….you’re embarrassing yourself.

The answer is…

a question.

Before you think the altitude on my flight to Ft. Lauderdale from Montreal Canada has made my brain work slower as I edit this nugget; simply ask your prospect/client a question.

By asking the right question in the correct formation, you are forcing them to think about the things you want or need them to think about without being intrusive.

Asking “what is your biggest concern in your company on a day to day basis?” to someone in need of furniture for their University’s remote campuses; will automatically give you what you need to focus on in order to properly and best help them . Whether it is having shipments arrive in time for the semester, price, or quality, their response gives you what you can now zero in on.

“How do you keep your competitors on their toes with the products you have in your catalogs?”; immediately opens type customer up to adding new products that their competition may not offer yet, without even having to ask if you can show them your product line. Isn’t that a more comfortable way then starting a meeting off with a company bio, followed with “here is our catalog”, i.e. the stone age way of trying to sell?


For the experienced salesman, relationship selling is the successful way to make a career out of sales. You will hear a lot on relationships from me in my writings, hardly ever using the term “accounts”. For those who have careers in sales and not jobs (if you don’t then get out now, for all of our sakes) there is one non verbal action that can be worth even more than the most well crafted question, and that is;

                                • BE OBSERVANT

Be aware! Look around your customer’s office. In a meeting with someone on their turf, turn into one of those robots with a probe scope that scans the room. Why? I’ll use three examples to explain:

1. One of my biggest relationships in a previous industry I worked in had an adopted daughter that played violin, and through observing her desk I zoomed in at a high school musical graduation card obviously for her girl, and I focused on it. I asked her about the card and she went on to explain her daughter’s obsession with the Disney cult. Two months later I got my hands on tickets to High School Musical on Ice and who do you think I gave it to? I can’t tell you how much it meant to her in words or the dollars spent on that season’s orders but I got a thank you card from her and her daughter. To top it off, I really was happy to do it too.

2. I met a recent prospective relationship that was referred to me in his office. I noticed fishing and golf pictures on his wall and then what was a huge ball made of rubber bands. It was bigger than a cantaloupe and was started 16 years ago and it was heavy! I noticed the most recent ones added were colored ones. Yesterday I was in a dollar store with the kids and spotted a bag of rubber bands and it had neon colored rubber bands. Guess what’s going into an envelope tomorrow morning from my office to him?


3. How about within your own company or sales team? Every time I take out a certain salesperson out for lunch she orders a Peach Snapple, you don’t think I have a visual post it note with peach Snapple on her forehead every time I see her? Just waiting for a frustrating day to come along for a nice iced surprise left for her in her box.


Getting the right information takes time, recording the information for use in the future takes effort, putting the information into practice at the right moment is priceless.


In a slight tweak of words of the best envelope salesman on the planet Harvey Mackay; “In sales, as in poker, a superior hand (or product) can be beaten by superior knowledge of the customer and opponent.”


4 thoughts on “Ask and Observe

  1. Great post. I liked your personal reflections on your experiences as well.

    So, it seems that good sales is about building relationships combined with good perception and a good heart.

    Do you have any tips/resources about helping to train yourself to be more perceptive and using this to build lasting relationships?

  2. First off – READ. Here are a few of my best authors. Harvey Mackay, Jeffery Gitomer, Dale Carnegie, John Maxwell and for managers Peter Drucker. i would suggest first taking out a book of theirs from the library to see if their style fits you; and let me tell that each of them have a different one.

    Is sales important to you? Is building a long term relationship important to you? Is noticing when your spouse is wearing something new important to you/him or her? It better be.

    If something is TRULY important to you, if you want to succeed in gaining the person’s trust thus a relationship you will notice the little things. Let me know how it goes!

    – E

  3. I am not Jewish but this is good stuff. thank you for your suggested authors in the other comment. Do you have a listing of books you have found most useful or your top list? Can you post them on here?

    Also maybe you can suggest something in my situation. I was finally let into a business the company has been after but have seen little business. I got friendly with the purchasing manager but I know most of their orders have always gone to a much larger company and I wanted to ask how I could make a difference to stand out and away from the big boys?

  4. Sam:

    thanks for your suggestion on listing my reading list. I will be sure to shortly post my top ten.

    I would like to know more about your industry but some things are applicable in any field. First ask them what they are happy about with their current supplier and then BE QUIET and listen; take notes. After they finish proceed to ask them what they are least fond of the supplier. (service, communication, price….) THAT is your target. If it is communication then you email them every day with something new, a news article in their industry, a funny quote that they would enjoy…no spam or jokes. If it is service then the account is in the bag.

    Service them to death even before they order anything big. As soon as the order goes in, confirm it witht hem with a call or email. Once you have a ship date pass it on to them. Then when it ships notify them, and when they contact you, BE PROMPT in getting back to them.

    GL – E

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s