If you’re in a position to “sell” at your company (and no matter what you do for your company, you should be), then you know it’s not always easy to get the ear of the prospect you’re trying to sell to. The worst thing you can do is get on a call or get in front of someone you don’t know and–without knowing their problems–start selling. It’s off-putting to the person you’re selling to, and ultimately you’re wasting both his/her time and yours.

So where do you start? You’ve got to get information by asking and listening, then serve up what you’re selling. Here’s how it goes.

1. Probe – It’s all about tailoring what you say to what your prospects’ needs are, and the only way to truly find out what their needs are is to probe them with a bunch of questions. Try not to jump right into the probing process until you know a bit about them first. Some of my best sales calls have been when I’ve known the school they went to, the type of dog they have or the weather where they live. It lightens up any conversation. And you can find this by researching their website, or Facebook or LinkedIn profiles.

Once the questions start flying, consider these to start formulating your thoughts for how you’ll sell to a prospect.

  • What are you using now?
  • How do you like it?
  • What don’t you like about your current product, or about what you’re doing now?
  • Do you use one of our competitors? What do you like/dislike about them?

With these answers, you’ll be able to roll through all of the reasons why they should consider you for their solution.

2. Listen – If you are fortunate enough to get in the door and speak to someone who cares about what you sell, shut up. Listen to their problems, listen to what their needs are and while you’re listening, develop the solution in your head. Repeat what you believe they said and give them your thoughts on what your solution to their problem might be. If you haven’t been able to weave the answer to all of your prospects’ problems, there’s nothing wrong with repeating what they need and telling them you’ll get them the answers in a short period of time.

3. Try soft selling – Whenever we’re at a tradeshow and sponsoring a booth, I ask my staff not to hard-sell our products. Why? Because we don’t have to. We give our online e-mail marketing product away for free. Sure, we have certain limitations on the time they get to use it, but it’s a full version of the product. So I put my money where my mouth is and tell people to try us against our competition to see what works best for them. They might find that there’s something in our competitor’s product that works better for their needs, and that’s OK. In the long run, we want happy customers, because happy customers tell their friends good things about us versus how frustrated they might be.

So the next time you’re faced with a “selling” situation, try and put these three tactics to work and see if they close your next deal!