Person-to-person sales rely on the communication and rapport between the salesperson and the client. This article is about how to use the right questions all the way through the sales process as a way of ensuring that you have understood your business partner, that you are getting proper feedback and that you are connecting with the client as a person and as a partner. It is an amazingly effective way of staying in tune with each other and of checking whether you are both on the same page.

The client as your partner

The more sales methods have evolved, the more they have profited from all manner of communication techniques. The American psychologist Marshall B. Rosenberg - who wrote the book ‘Nonviolent Communication’ - rejects the use of force or control in any way in communication. His method has been used in politics to advance peace between conflicting parties. Only when both parties feel entirely free of pressure, in whatever form, are they more likely to reach agreement. He lays out how to connect with others by expressing feelings and needs while empathetically listening to and understanding the feelings and needs of the other person. When the needs of the client (and not the product) are at the core of a business relationship, business is more likely to get done and the relationship will be sustainable. In the same way, the needs of the salesperson and the needs of the client must align.

The magic of staying in tune

There is a magic to staying in tune with your client by asking questions – the magic of an open dialogue, which allows for:

  • Politeness and respect
  • Understanding
  • Emotional connection
  • Feedback

The magic lies in engaging with your client and in not trying to control, block out or manipulate what the client says; in allowing – even welcoming – both agreement and disagreement in equal measure. An open dialogue - free of pressure - is a great basis for doing business. You relinquish control over the outcome of the sale in favor of the relationship. You are making a strategic bet that the client will be more comfortable when not feeling coerced and that a deal is more likely to happen when there is a good relationship.

A finesse

In a game of whist or bridge, there is a strategy called a ‘finesse’, whereby you try to win a trick with a low card. You may win the trick because of the way the cards are distributed; or you may lose it now rather than later by drawing out the winning cards of your opponents. Whether you win or you lose, it is a win. You take a calculated risk of not only losing a trick but also of losing control over the direction of the game at the beginning - with the strategic goal in mind of winning the game in the end. Giving the client space to disagree and to air his concerns is a calculated risk leading to a win-win situation.

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