I am always amazed when I am approached by a salesperson who can’t wait to tell me all about the product or service they are selling – whether or not it is what I really need. It’s as if they believe if they tell me every feature, benefit, and detail about their product then surely, they will convince me to buy it or wear me down into submission. Then, after tiring themselves and me out, they leave without an order or commitment – usually with a look of irritation, and frustration,  on their face.

The best advice I ever got, from a seasoned salesperson who was training me,  is to SHUT UP and LISTEN. If you want to effectively sell to anyone, you must first establish yourself as a problem solver for your customer. How do you do that? Use the discovery process whereby you get your customer talking about themselves, their business, their challenges, and the solutions they have or are considering. The most effective discovery process is where your customer does most of the talking and you direct them towards what you want to know by asking the right questions. Often a customer will go beyond the answer to the question you asked, and you wind up with valuable information you might otherwise not have.  Here’s how:

Ask open-ended questions:

“How has your business been performing?”

“Where do you see the biggest opportunities for improvement?”  

“What are the key challenges you are facing?”

Clarify answers:

Always make sure you are getting the message the customer intended. Not only will you get the information straight,

but you will also demonstrate to your customer that you are intently listening and really engaged.

“Could you tell me more about that?” 

“Can we go over that again so I can be sure I’ve got it?”


It’s always good to summarize what the customer is saying during the conversation as well as at the end.

“So, what you are saying is …”

“Here is what I think I heard …”

“If I understand you correctly …”

It’s finally time to sell:

Once you have gathered all the critical information you need and clearly understand your customer’s issues and requirements, you are now able to use that information to present how you think your solution can get the customer what they need.

“I know we can help you, let me tell you how …”

“Let’s discuss how our solution could be the answer to your issues and requirements …”

I used this discovery process with great success throughout my career. It not only increased my close rate and sales results, but it also served as a launch point for deeper relationships with my customers and they came to view me as their trusted advisor for all situations, not just printing. All I had to do was SHUT UP and LISTEN.

We would love to know how your business is doing and what challenges if any, you are facing.   

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