Them or Me?

I hosted a round-table discussion with a group of veteran salespeople. We were talking about how to build trust while qualifying prospects, when I observed: Those questions are all about you, what you need, strictly “me”-oriented. That’s the wrong way to approach it. You’ve got to make it about them—asking “them”-oriented questions. 

“Them” questions sound like: Gee, Ms. Prospect, What do you hope to accomplish? What’s your vision of success? How will you know you’ve arrived? What’s a “me”-oriented question? A question important to me, the asker-seller, not them, the answerer-buyer. That’s backwards. You lessen trust when you ask a question before its time.

When you truly listen to them, you demonstrate that you care about them as a person. And people trust you when they know you care. That’s how you build the trust necessary for them to consider buying from you. You earn their respect, you gain personal credibility, they learn you can be trusted. Why? Because you’ve demonstrated that you give a damn!

How does the misguided salesperson do it? Too early they ask these closed-ended questions: Are you the decider? What’s your budget? When will you need it? The prospect’s defense goes “red alert”.  Let’s not date, let’s go right to the motel, is what they hear you suggest. Pushy salesperson…all about them, not me. Selfish, not interested in what I have to saycan’t be trusted, thinks the prospect.

Sure, a salesperson needs to qualify the opportunity—that’s part of their job. But prospecting isn’t just finding the business application you can sell to. What’s too often overlooked is the “people application”. What does the buyer need and want? What can you do for them? How would they like it to be?

People sell to people; people buy from people. You don’t sell to a company. You sell to the people on the buying committee. Person-by-person. You must understand them, their wants, their needs, their feelings. When you think you may be able to help them, you ask the now-necessary questions—How will the decision be made? Is there a budget? How much? When will you need delivery? What else should I be prepared for?

“Them” questions are selfless. It’s all about them, not you. You show you care about them with open-ended questions at the beginning of the process, gathering thoughtful, more personal answers. If you ask the relevant questions in the proper order, at the appropriate time, helping both parties build trust and reach a mutually valuable decision, everyone wins, every time! So, them or me?, that is the question.

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