By Lane Henderson

What sets successful salespeople apart from their competition?  Their ability to ask strategic questions, listen for valuable information, and communicate real value based on the customer’s needs.  Sounds straightforward right?  It is… if you adopt a detective’s approach to selling.

In last month’s issue we discussed the importance of pre-call research, asking strategic questions and listening for clues.  Now we’ll use the sales sleuth’s approach to handling objections, presenting a powerful proposal, and closing the sale.

Handling objections

Objections are a natural part of the sales process and should not be dreaded but rather anticipated. They are a window into what the customer is thinking and when addressed effectively, move the customer one step closer to the sale. How does the investigative sales professional respond differently from the competition?  By acknowledging the customer’s concern, asking questions that dig deeper behind the objection, and listening for clues. The typical salesperson often “shoots from the hip” and hopes that his comeback lands somewhere near the bulls-eye. However, customers prefer to work with sales professionals who don’t “have an answer for everything” already prepared, but rather those who listen and ask questions to understand before responding.

Presenting a strong case

A proposal will be more powerful if it is customer-focused (not you or your company-focused), results-oriented, and value – driven.  While many salespeople feel hammered on price in this tight economy, the sales professional that has differentiated himself and his company through the investigative sales approach will be able to focus on more than just the price. The customer will appreciate the other critical factors which provide value: superior quality, competitive advantage, future savings, guarantees, delivery time, expert service, and on-going training. Typically these factors provide more value than having just the lowest price.

Closing the sale

Asking for the prospective customer’s business should be the most natural part of the sales process. So why do salespeople get cold feet and hesitate to ask?  Because they fear the customer might say no. Remember two things: 1) if you’ve done your homework to this point, you’ve removed the guesswork and improved your likelihood of closing the sale and 2) the customer expects you to ask for his business. Make it easy for a customer to say yes. Don’t miss your best window of opportunity to invite your customer to do business with you.


In a competitive economy it is essential to set yourself apart from your competition and to provide the best solutions and value to your prospective customers. Adopt the detective’s approach to unlock the mystery of selling.  Salespeople who ask strong investigative questions build relationships with prospects, meet customer’s needs, and close more sales. Period.  Your customers will notice the difference and you will reap the results!

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.