The Ultimate Question That Gives You The Ultimate Answer

In a book I hold dear in my library, business loyalty guru Fred Reichheld revealed the question most critical to your company’s future: “Would you recommend us to a friend?”

Just think about that question for a moment.

If you asked all of your clients, they may well say ‘yes’. But what does it actually mean?

Firstly, ‘recommend’. When you recommend something, you have built up many reasons why it should receive your approval. It must make you feel better in some way, either through the service you received or the quality of the product. It also has to make you feel confident and hence build trust in it in some way.

So, for something or somebody to receive my ‘recommendation’, it will have to have added some real benefit to my life or business. I don’t easily give my endorsements on LinkedIn, for instance. The person really has had to impress me and given me cause to say that they are due that reward.

If someone is willing to recommend you and your services, it means they like you, believe in you, have confidence in you and trust you. They certainly wouldn’t pass on your details to a friend or colleague if they lacked even one of those components.

Secondly, think about the term ‘friend’. This is someone they are close to and they don’t want to be made to look a fool if they recommended something to this close acquaintance that turns out to be a dud or poor quality. By answering the question affirmatively, they are telling you that they trust you enough to deleiver the same kind of quality and service to someone they are close to, even in a business sense.

Make a list of your loyal customers. At your next meeting with them, ask them Fred’s question. If they answer ‘yes’, ask them why. Their answers will clarify what they really think of your company and how your future relationship will pan out.

Known as the ‘Ultimate Question’, it delivers a powerful message to you and your team, from the person who really matters; the client.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat
Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image by Stuart Miles at

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The One Attribute That Makes A Big Difference

Salespeople often ask which is the most important skill they need to be successful in modern-day sales.

Personally, I don’t believe there is just one skill that will put someone head and shoulders above the rest. But if I was forced to choose one skill, attribute, belief, characteristic or attitude that would serve a salesperson best in the new world of sales it would be ‘curiosity‘.

Does that surprise you? Has it piqued your interest? Has it raised debate in your mind as to whether you agree or not?

Then I have induced curiosity into your thought patterns!

These days we are far too quick to judge whether something is true or if we agree with it. Someone states a belief…we hear it and filter it through our belief systems…we interpret its meaning….we bounce it around our minds and contrast it with other ideas…we determine if it’s right or wrong based on our views of the world…we make conclusions….we judge, condemn, criticise in our mind…then we express our opinion.

All in a fraction of a second.

Consciously, we are not always aware of how we came to that conclusion. All we know is that the other person has a different opinion to ours. Many people think that now is the time to set them straight, show them the error of their ways and bring them back to the road of fact and truth.

Yes, they air their own opinions, sometimes diametrically opposite to the other person’s view.

This spurs a defensive reaction from the other person, determined to support their view with more opinions and ideas, driven on by them having to justify their position.

Hs this ever happened to you? Is coal black?

Well, one way this situation can be softened is by concentrating on being curious. Curiosity is a mindset that evokes questions, enquiry and deep thoughtfulness. It goes deeper than surface level because it digs up what facets lie beneath the belief or opinion. It creates quality conversations because it unravels deep-seated concepts and highlights hidden ideologies without being judgemental.

Imagine you’re in a prospect meeting, and they give an opinion or statement that you disagree with. The conversation could go something like this:

“Well, we’ve tried this kind of product before, and it didn’t work, so I’m sorry but we’ll stick with what we’ve got”

You reply, “But our product is different…just try it out and see how it improves performance…”

“No, as I said, we’re happy with what we’ve got”

You reply, “If you just give it a go, I’m sure you’ll be delighted with the results. I can guarantee you’ll see improvements…”

“Look…which part of ‘no’ don’t you understand…!!!”

The salesperson has simply been pushy and hasn’t heard the signals the prospect is sending out. If he had shown curiosity first, it would have uncovered the real objection and identified the way forward. Here’s the same example again, this time with the salesperson showing a curious mindset:

“Well, we’ve tried this kind of product before, and it didn’t work, so I’m sorry but we’ll stick with what we’ve got”

You reply, “That’s interesting…when did you try it, and what were the circumstances?”

“About two years ago, and it was no better than our current widget. Productivity wasn’t affected and it cost more to run, so we stayed with what we already had”

You reply, “I see…and are there any circumstances that would make you think about changing now?”

“Well, only if it could be proved that productivity and profitability would be increased”

You reply, “So, if I could prove to you that those areas would improve, would this be something you might consider?”

“If it was worth the change in the long run, I might take a look at it, yes”.

Here, the simple idea of being curious opened up the discussion to determine how the product could benefit the prospect. There was no pushing of the product or trying to force it onto the prospect…the salesperson simply enquired about what the circumstances were that brought the prospect to that conclusion.

So, the next time someone states an opinion or idea, resist the temptation to jump in with your opinion. Stop for a moment and think to yourself, “I wonder why they think that? I wonder what brought them to that conclusion?”

That curious frame of mind might help you to dig deeper and identify the real facts that might be lurking beneath the surface. You will find out more information and create a framework to build real solutions from that won’t tread on their well-formed beliefs.

Looking for more tips on becoming a great salesperson? These articles will help:

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

(Image by Patricia Glogowski)

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Three Ways Of Asking For the Sale, That ASK For The Sale

In the recent post, “Are You Really Asking For The Order?” I talked about how many sales people suffer with using weak, fearful closes that do not actually ask for the order. A few of them are:

1. Waiting for the prospect to take the initiative and ask for the sale
2. Asking the prospect what they think
3. Using some inducement with the hopes the prospect will initiate the sale

Now let us look at a few more direct and clear ways to ask for the sale that will help you make more money.

#1. Sign Here
There are not too many ways to be more direct when closing than to ask to prospect to put their signature on the order form or contract. Such closing requires a strong and confident sales person, as well as some very tactful wording. Here’s an example:

Sales Person
With order pad or contract in hand, uses pen to direct the prospect’s eyes as he speaks, carefully watching the prospect for reactions, says:

“So Steve, the whole thing looks like this: We have the two dozen cases of the extra-wide widgets, two cases of the medium, and one case of the small. It all comes to only £2,844, plus shipping.”

Sales Person turns the order, placing it and the pen in front of prospect, and saying:

“Now all I need is your OK right there Steve, and I’ll put a rush order on the shipping.”

Like I said, such a close is not for the timid.

#2. The Alternate of Choice
Though many sales people use this method to ask for the order, often they do so with little conviction and strength. Verify order details or logistics by giving the prospect two options, but you have to do it with an assumptive attitude. You have to believe that you are merely verifying the details, or it comes across as a con and the prospect will feel as if you are trying to manipulate them.

Give the prospect the alternative of choice between two buying or logistical options

Sales Person:
“Finally, Sarah, we will deliver, install and test the software. The total comes to £3,400 for the first year and then £425 per year in maintenance fees. Now, do you want to set up the installation for Friday, or the beginning of next week?”

Sales Person:
“The whole thing comes to only £2,844, plus shipping. So, Steve should I put that on a rush order, or our normal 4-day delivery?”

#3. Ask a Closing Question, Shake Hands, Congratulate and Assume the Rest
This also requires confidence. Ask a closing or bridge question, and then assume the sale. By a bridge question, I am referring to that question that simply helps bridge that gap between the end of the sales presentation and the time you strongly ask for the order.

A few I really like are: “Does that make sense?” and “Is that fair enough?” Asks such a question, congratulate the prospect on making a great decision, and start writing up the order. You can also use such a bridge with the above closes as well.

Sales Person:
“Finally, Sarah, we will deliver, install and test the software. The total comes to £3,400 for the first year and then £425 per year in maintenance fees. Does that make sense?”

“Yeah. It looks good.”

Sales Person: Extends hand to shake…
“Great Sarah! Congratulations. You have made one of the best decisions you can possibly make in your IT department. We have a little paperwork to take care of and we’ll be all set…”

Also, use this close combined with the above…

Sales Person:
“The whole thing comes to only £2,844, plus shipping. Is that fair enough, Steve?

“Yeah. It looks like a good rate.”

Sales Person:
“Great Steve. So, Steve should I put that on a rush order, or our normal 4-day delivery?”

It is normal for people to want to put off making a decision. It is your job to help them make that decision and you cannot do that if you do not properly ask them to make a decision.

Before I sign off, here are some more tips on becoming a great sales person:

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat
MTD Sales Training

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Asking Business Questions To Build Rapport With Prospects

One of our trainers asked on a sales course recently how they open their visits with customers.

Many offered the idea that they should build rapport with customers by commenting on the weather, some items the prospect has in the office, what their journey was like that day, and so on. Our trainer asked how long they take to ask these ‘rapport’ questions. One delegate said he has been known to spend 15-20 minutes talking about football to a new client, simply because they have a momento of some sort that shows they have an interest in sport.

We normally ask at this point how much knowledge the salesperson has gained about the prospect, other than what team they support? Obviously, it’s very little.

Instead of asking these types of questions, salespeople should be asking  business-related questions. Questions that will make your customer think about their business. Questions that will encourage and stimulate conversation. Let’s face it; how many of your prospects have got that amount of time to ‘chew the cud!’

Here are some examples of business-related questions that will get you straight to the point of the meeting

*  What are your company’s strategic initiatives?

*  What are the three biggest challenges in growing your business this year?

*  What are three things that if you could do them better would dramatically improve your business?

*  What would you do if you lost two of your top ten customers?

*  What are your plans to keep them loyal?

*  What are three things that your competitors are doing that you should be doing?

*  Because you aren’t doing things the way you would like, ‘conservatively’ how much money are you NOT making?

My trainer told me that all the delegates were furiously writing down those questions, many of them saying they had never used them before, but would in the future.

Your prospects simply don’t have the time for small-talk these days. If you want to find out what team they support or what their holiday was like, leave it until you have the relevant information and are walking with the prospect back to reception. You’re there for a business meeting, and it’s important to show your professionalism early on. There’s plenty of time for the personal stuff when you have built up trust.

Happy selling!


Sean McPheat
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
MTD Sales Training

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