It happens once or twice a month. A young, eager salesperson (experienced salespeople rarely ask any questions in public) e-mails or walks up to me at some event and asks me to give them my best shot: " If you could tell me one and only one skill or technique that would insure my success in sales, what would it be?" they ask. I respond without hesitation?

Now, I write a great deal in this space about skills and techniques, so my quick response in giving out one skill as being the best and standing out above all of the rest is really quite noteworthy.  So, if someone will start the drumroll, I will reveal the secret here and now to anyone who cares.

The greatest technique of all in sales is no technique at all. Get to a place in your sales communication skills where you can forget about skill and technique and just be in real time with the other person - 'a real person, talking and listening to a real person.'

Truly great salespeople operate out of this " real time" place effectively because they have done their product/market/customer/application homework and usually know the answer to most questions asked, including whether or not their product and solution is appropriate to the person they are talking to.

So, how much time and preparation does it take to get to this position? None. It doesn't take any preparation at all. It simply means a willingness to stand in a place where you don't know the answers to a lot of the questions being asked and honestly tell the person you're talking with that you don't know - until you do.

In sales, a skill or a technique is like a stick that stirs the fire to get it started.  After a certain amount of stirring, the fire begins to take on a life of its own, and the stick that helped get it going dissolves in the flame, leaving behind " a real person talking to a real person."

Have a wonderful week selling. And have some fun along the way.

Sales Tip and Practice
" I Don't Have the Answer to That"

Practice the following twice a day for the next week. Repeat it 10X silently to yourself each time and begin practicing it with customers or prospects halfway through the week. " I'm sorry, but I don't have the answer to that question. Let me research it and get back to you in an hour."

Copyright 1998 Mentor Associates, Inc.