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SALES
I
f your salespeople think their job is to de- What does Socratic selling sound like? Here you in?” Rephrase what they’ve told you
scribe your company’s features and ben- are seven steps to becoming a disciple: to make certain you have it right.
efits effectively enough to elicit a purchase, • Clarify. When the prospect asks you a
they need to question this assumption. In so • Find out what’s on their mind. “Mr. question, don’t assume you understand
doing, they’ll also be moving towards So- Riley, I’m prepared to discuss your
the reason behind it. Instead, ask, “I’m
cratic dialogue, which is the key to successful computer system, which we talked
wondering, why do you ask that?”
sales. about on the phone. If you could give
Doing so can help you provide accurate
me your thoughts about that, we can
information and forestall a misstep,
The ancient Greek philosopher may have focus the meeting on what interests you.”
such as telling a prospect who asks if
known nothing about the modern sales Notice that you have not mentioned
you customize your training programs
process — yet he was a master marketer. In any “problems” or “challenges,” which
that you certainly do, since each client is
teaching his pupils to ask a series of logical would indicate a desire to sell something.
unique — only to discover the company
questions that make the listener question Instead, words such as “thoughts,”
is seeking a turnkey, tried-and-true
his or her assumptions, Socrates unwittingly “viewpoint”, “outlook”, and “perspective”
system.
created a strategy that causes prospects to encourage open communication.
• “Suppose” at the close. When you’re
open up, become comfortable discussing • Ask for more information. Once your
winding down the conversation,
their situation in detail — and actually prospect has defined the starting point,
asking some “what if” questions can
partner with the salesperson to identify the keep the input flowing with leading
be particularly effective: “If you were to
proposal that will win the sale. questions such as, “Give me an example
move ahead with a computer system
of that,” “Tell me more about …” “When
upgrade, when would you be likely
Socratic selling also means allowing your does this happen?” “What else should I
to start?” This allows the customer to
prospect to have the floor 80 percent of know about …” and the most powerful
imagine the new program beginning,
the time — admittedly a challenge for word in selling: “Why?” All of these
with no pressure. And by omitting the
many sales professionals. It’s natural to inquiries make the customer think, and
company name, the focus is on the
want to do the majority of the talking when provide you with a detailed picture of
prospect rather than on the salesperson.
you’ve worked so hard for the face time. It’s their situation.
• Question rather than counteroffer.
likewise common to talk excessively out of • Listen. You must give the prospect time
When your prospect makes a
nervousness or inexperience. However, this to ponder, and to provide a considered
counteroffer, instead of getting into
discomfort can lead to missed opportunities. response. If you jump in too quickly, you’ll
a bidding war, ask, “Would you like to
If a salesperson is focused on what he’s abort the flow of information.
discuss what I think might work?” Phrased
Socratically, this question usually elicits a
going to say next, he can fail to home in on • Empathize. If your prospect is lamenting
“yes”.
an important point the prospect is making the difficult experience they’ve had with
— which, properly addressed, could cinch their current supplier, you might ask,
Adapted from Socrates Makes a Sales Call by Dale
the deal. “How difficult a position does this put Klamfoth on www.managesmarter.com
 ThinkBusiness April 2009 
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