How To Avoid Sounding Like a Babbling Fool

“Sometimes we do a thing in order to find out the reason for it. Sometimes our actions are questions not answers.”

~ John Le Carre

How To Avoid Sounding Like a Babbling Fool

by Art Sobczak

I was on a sales call, talking with a sales manager at a high-tech firm that sold a highly specialized, niched product. Things were progressing smoothly, I seemed to have exactly what he was looking for regarding a telephone prospecting training workshop that he wanted, then he asked,

“Now, who else have you worked with that sells a similar product?”

I’ve done over 1200 training programs over the past 27years, and have worked in virtually every industry and sales model there is, but not in this one. I doubted if there WAS a company that sold a similar product.

I could have begun babbling some half-baked answer about companies I have worked with, trying to force a comparison, but certainly would have failed, and likely would not have sounded like a suave, polished professional. More like a bumbling fool.

So instead, I paused, and realized that question might, or might not have been important to him. Before I answered, I really needed to know for sure. So I asked,

“Are you asking if I’ve worked with a similar prospecting model, selling to similar decision makers? And, how much of an issue is that for you?”

He replied, “Oh, I know there aren’t many companies like ours. I was just curious. You seem to have what we want.”

Here’s the sales point for this week:

Early in the information-gathering phase with a prospect, have YOU ever had them ask you extremely technical questions that were out-of-the-ordinary?

How about outrageous requests regarding capabilities or service?

I often see reps stumble all over themselves because they don’t know the answer, or because they are unable to provide the service the prospect asks for. They apologize and make excuses and in some cases look like a total doofus because they thought that what the prospect was asking for was a solid requirement.

Clearly not the situation you want to find yourself in.

Why do people ask these questions? On occasion, they might be sincerely concerned and interested in your ability to provide the service, or to meet a certain unusual technical requirement. In other cases, they might be using tactics to belittle your service, or get you off of the phone.

To determine the precise motivation for the request, you need to ask “check questions.” Check questions help you to gauge how important the information is to the inquirer. The response dictates with how much importance and urgency you should prepare your answer.

For example,

Prospect: “Does it come with a left-handed gold-plated adapter with an Experience Rating of 99.9%?”

Sales Rep: “Hmmmm. Will that be a major concern of yours in the decision making process?”

After your “check question,” you’ll need to be prepared for the possible answers. In many cases, they’ll say, “Not really, but I was curious,” therefore meaning you could likely gloss over the request. If they answer that the information will be important, you’ll want to ask more questions to determine just how critical the request is, and in turn, you’ll need to figure out how to answer their request.

Here are other examples of “check questions.”

After an outrageous request for service,

“How often do you run into those type of situations?”

“How often do you need that type of service?”

“Are you getting that service now? How much extra are you paying for it?”

After nit-picky technical questions,

“Wow! Just out of curiosity, how are you going to use that information?”

“Hmmmm. What will you be comparing those figures to?”

By using these questions, you’ll sort out the sincere requests from the shoppers, stallers, and people who are trying to fluster you and make you look inferior.

Art Sobczak, Business By Phone Inc., provides how-to ideas and tips for rejectionless prospecting, selling, and servicing by phone. Get the free ebook, “29 Sales Tips You Can Use Right Now” at