By Lane Henderson

In today’s tight economy, every sales professional is looking for ways to stand out from the competition. Successful selling doesn’t have to be a mystery.


How many salespeople do you know who rely primarily on their enthusiasm, people-skills, and determination to succeed?  These traits go a long way, but they don’t ensure long-term success.


The salesperson who adopts a detective-like approach to developing new customer relationships soon discovers the clues to cracking a case, closing a sale and improving long-term sales performance.  Here are three ways to begin:

Conduct investigative research

Don’t go in cold! Warm up your first call to the prospective customer by doing a little pre-call investigative research. What are the trends in the prospect’s industry? How is this customer perceived in the marketplace?  What are significant milestones that this prospect has achieved? Who are this prospect’s best customers? Consider having a mutual contact make an introduction or referral for you. Remember these two reasons to be prepared: 1.) top-level decision makers are short on time and 2.) it doesn’t take long for them to get a first impression of you!

Ask strategic questions

Create a stronger opening question than “So, tell me a little about your business.” Sure, decision-makers enjoy talking about their business, but with limited time and resources, they really want to know if you are the person or the company to provide the best solutions to their needs.  Consider questions like “What specific objective are you hoping to achieve?”, “What does a successful solution look like to you?”, “How much is it costing you each day not to have a solution to this problem?” Avoid “winging it.” Have strategic questions prepared and written in advance.

Listen for clues

A successful sales sleuth knows that one of his most important tools is listening! And true listening (which is more than being polite and waiting until the other person stops talking) allows the salesperson to listen for clues so he can better understand what the prospect needs, dig deeper and discover something that the competition may have missed. By simply listening and taking notes, a sales person has already set himself apart from the majority of sales people who rely more on their ability to ‘talk and tell’ rather than to hear what the customer has to say.


In today’s business environment, salespeople and their current/prospective customers are looking for an edge. Think like a detective! Conducting investigative pre-call research, asking strategic questions, and listening for clues will not only set you apart but will take the pressure off the call and get the relationship off to the right start. Next month we will uncover tips that a savvy sales sleuth can use to handle objections, present a powerful proposal, and close the sale!

Lane Henderson jumpstarts teams to peak performance as a sales coach and team development consultant. The Take the Mystery Out of Selling workshop delivers results for traditional sales teams as well as business professionals responsible for new-client development. www.jumpstartteams.com or lane@lanebhenderson.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.