007 - Do You Make This Basic Sales Mistake with Clients?



In this episode:

  • The two tendencies that can wreck the sale early
  • The one question to use instead
  • Exactly how you might do that to get richer information
  • How this will make potential clients feel heard.




If you’re in the business of offering a solution to others, you’re probably keen to tell them all about it. But wait! You must first avoid these two common mistakes. 

Today, I'll use an example that's more suitable for those who sell services or products to clients, but it is very relevant for you if you don't, but you do need to sell ideas to stakeholders internally.

Say you're in the business of selling professional services and products to clients.  

You want to succeed with a new prospect and hopefully turn them into a paying client. 

So, you've organised a meeting with them, and they're currently expressing an initial need to you. 

It's at precisely this point that things can start to go wrong. 

Here's why.

You might not be asking enough questions - instead, you just hear the first few things the prospect says and then begin to offer ideas and solutions for Africa. This has the effect of confusing the prospect with too much, often irrelevant, information.

You might be asking too many questions without thinking carefully about where your line of questioning is going, and why. This has the effect of making the prospect feel like they're being interrogated.

In either case, you’re at risk of losing the sale.

How to Avoid Those Tendencies

Instead, when the prospect in front of you mentions they're 'interested in ABC', restrain yourself from offering your expertise at that point.

Ask, "When you say ABC, what do you mean?"

"What do you mean?" is a powerful but simple question that helps you, and the prospect, clarify what's really going on and why.

The question has three benefits:

  1. It helps you avoid offering irrelevant information.
  2. It helps the client clarify their thinking.
  3. It helps you know the 'why' behind the what.

All this allows you to check your prospect's true needs and motivations, and then move forward to generate options that will help them with those needs.

For example: A Building Consultant is Meeting with a Developer

[Propsect] "I'm wanting to get a sense of how to go about developing the property. Sort of, a plan of attack."

[Consultant] "When you say 'develop the property' what do you mean?"

[Prospect] "Well, I don't really mean 'develop', you know, like build an apartment block or anything. I mean more just renovating the existing building."

[Consultant] "And by 'renovate, you mean...?"

[Prospect] "Well, you know, paint and paper. Perhaps a new roof."

[Consultant] "So not adding rooms or changing the exterior walls in any way?"

[Prospect] "Ahhh...well I suppose I could look at that if it wasn't too expensive."

And so on.

You can see from this that a richer set of information has surfaced which allows both parties to explore the most relevant options and not waste time on irrelevant ones.


So practise listening carefully to your clients, prospects or third parties, and restrain yourself from over-talking things.

Instead, use "Tell me, when you say X.....what do you mean?"

Want to Develop Your Clarifying Skills?

Clarify is one of the five key abilities I teach in the online course The Art of Influence. If you're interested in finding out more about the course, and what else it covers, click here to see the information page.