Chapter 9

Balancing Advocacy and Inquiry

Ideal conversation should be a matter of equal give and take, but too often it is all “take.”

—Emily Post

When sellers talk too much, they win too few customers. So why do so many sellers find themselves prattling away when they should be asking questions and listening? Emily could have been a sales consultant, as she pegs the sales chatterer just right in Etiquette.1

The voluble talker—or chatterer—rides his own hobby straight through the hours without giving anyone else, who might also like to say something, a chance to do other than exhaustedly await the turn that never comes.

Although some salespeople talk too much, some talk too little. The voluminous teachings of people who subscribe to the school of consultative selling tell us that good salespeople ask great questions, spending much more time listening than talking.

Unfortunately, too many sellers take the advice too strongly and ask question after question, offering no advice and setting no agenda. They can take it so far they make the person on the other side feel like they’re getting the third degree. Instead of talking too much, they’re asking too many questions. Busy executives don’t have the time for answering question after question in hopes that, after spending a couple of hours with someone, the seller will come back with something worthwhile. This is especially true if you’re selling a demand-driving service, and need to inspire them to put you on their agenda.

The key ...

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