Sales Tips for $500 Alex ~ by Michael Hotchkiss, February 29, 2016

I recently had a meeting with our company web developer who also handles our SEO and AdWords campaign. In this discussion he talked about a tactic that should be employed with every web site. A tactic which I had also applied unwittingly in many sales situations, but did not recognize it to be a significant strategy. Let the customer tell you what the answers are to his problems and have the question that he just answered.

This is Jeopardy! When communicating with your customer or writing copy for your web site, anticipate the answers the customer would like and reply as if you were posing the question that fulfills their answer (need). People go to your web site for information about all the answers they have to solve their problems, just like customers only reason to speak with you, the sales person, is that you provide information he or she was unaware of prior to talking to you: aka a question that fulfills their answer. A simple example (for some reason I always use printers for selling tips, but I digress) is to call up your customer and say “100 pages per minute” without the “what is” Jeopardy requirement. This statement comes from good time spent knowing what your customer requires from a purchase. In this case, you learned that the customer’s desire is to have page rate of 100 per minute (the answer) without ever having heard him make this statement, but you know it’s what is desired. Fast forward to your next conversation when you offer: “what is 100 pages per minute;” that is what we can do for you.

Naturally, real life isn’t that simple as you can only anticipate what answers may need questions. This is grass roots sales stuff to find out what exactly the customer wants. In some parlance that I take issue with – apologies to Black Belts – is referred to as “Voice of the Customer.” I’m not a fan of this because one customer has many voices, but that’s a different blog post; actually it’s whole chapter in my book “Preparation Breeds Success”.

I had a recent experience with a customer who was very concerned about reliability and maintenance for his machinery. His existing shot blast machine had a terrible history of wearing out components and the replacement cost for parts was killing his budget. Since we were bidding on a machine to perform nearly the same task, I surmised that the customer was going to weigh-in long term operating cost as a significant factor. He even said, “I’m going to improve the performance of the new machine no matter what”. This was the best news for me as a sales person, because the customer just scripted my pitch for me. During my next conversation with the customer, I candidly mentioned that I had taken a walk on the assembly floor earlier that day and learned we had standardized on a thicker wear liner design to improve the life of the machine wear areas. In the game show world, this would have sounded like:

  1. “This provides increased wear life in shot blast machines.”


  1. “What are thicker wear plates Alex?”

Correct! You are $500 richer!

In a nut-shell, you are offering information in a subtler and humble way to give the appearance that the customer came up with the solution (answer) based on a question you asked. What this really means is that your words, written or spoken need to have meaning to the customer.

You have less and less opportunity to present yourself and your company via direct communication these days. Make it count. That is why I cannot express enough that the biggest mistake sales people make, especially in a technical or purpose built world, is to treat each customer the same way. This isn’t law, so precedents need not be followed. This isn’t medicine where your insurance company decides whether motvyou need a procedure based on statistics, this is a sophisticated analog algorithm without a singular solution. Today’s artificial intelligence can fly a plane or drive a car, but it can’t figure a person out, at least not yet. Always bear in in mind that no two people are the same and the same person rarely reacts the same way to similar events. So keep those questions coming.