Asking For vs Asking About?

I was reminded recently of one of the most important things a sales person can do.   It’s ask.  I don’t mean ask a question, or inquire.  I mean ask for what you want.   Sales training is littered with how to ask why, and how to ask about a problem, or how to probe.   It’s drilled into sales people from day one.   But the other kind of ask is rarely talked about and that’s asking for something.

The other day one of my account managers and I were with a new customer.   The usual was happening.  We were talking about the current relationship, where things stood, what the customer wanted to see from us, what they thought of our product set etc.  It was a good conversation.  As it continued however, I was having trouble connecting the dots.  Based on what the customer was saying, we should have had a lot more business with them than we did.   The more he talked, the more confused I was becoming.  I couldn’t understand why we weren’t doing more business together.   After a bit more discussion, I turned to the customer and asked; “Why don’t we have more business with you?”   The customer gave us a great answer.  A reason we hadn’t considered.

I then asked; “What do we need to do to get more of your business?”  The customer gave us another great answer with the specific steps on how to do it.

I followed that up with “Can you help  us put this together and will you sponsor us to the other stakeholders?”   The customer said he would.

Those three questions changed the entire meeting.  They filled in the gaps.   They gave us a road map and they secured support.   None of which the customer would have provided without being asked.

Asking is critical in sales.  Questions drive the sale.  We’ve been taught to ask “about” questions since the dawn of time.   Asking about something gets the ball rolling but asking for something that changes the game.

Asking for is a lot harder than asking about.  Learn to ask for what you want.  You’ll be amazed at what you’ll get.

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