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What are you asking?


Tonight is the last night of “Larry King Live.” I don’t watch a lot of television, but I’m compelled to see what his last night will look like. He has interviewed thousands of people, every notable person in the world, and I’m sure it will be interesting, if not nostalgic.

I’ve always questioned Larry King’s ability to ask a tough question. He throws softball, Miss America questions rather than asking for impact or thought. That’s one of the reasons I prefer not to watch television and talk show news – it makes me angry and frustrated. I want real answers.

POST-SHOW REPORT: Every famous person, celebrity and newsperson you could think of appeared. They were very nice and full of praise for an originator of the newsmaker-interview talk show.

I’ve watched many “last shows.” The last Walter Cronkite newscast. The last Dick Van Dyke show. And most notably, Johnny Carson’s last appearance on “The Tonight Show.”

I doubt we have seen the last of Larry King. He will become a talk show guest or do specials until he takes his last breath. Receiving questions in the same manner that he threw them out. “What was your favorite show?” “Who was your favorite interview?” “Who was the toughest guest?” And other nauseating, non-informative questions and answers.

I wish somebody would ask King, “Who actually wrote the questions for you?” or “How much were your callers screened?” or “Tell me about your early gambling addiction.” No one would dare.

HERE’S SOME INSIGHT ABOUT YOUR QUESTIONS: Making sales is all about asking questions. Intelligent, engaging questions. When prospective customers or existing customers are asked compelling questions about their productivity, their brand, their outreach, their service, their morale or their profit, the answers are sure to be well thought out – and both pointed and poignant. Those answers give the salesperson insight that might lead to a sale.

The sad fact is that most salespeople still ask pathetic questions. Pathetic, self-serving questions. “Who are you using right now?” “How are they treating you?” “Do you have a contract with your present supplier?” “When does that contract expire?” “Do you think we could bid on that business? Because I think we could save you some money.” Sad questions. Funny questions. Pathetically sad, funny questions that make you sound like every other salesperson who walks in the door.

Even if those questions get you a response, and you get to bid on the business, you’ll come in with a low-price, low-profit proposal. Please help me understand why you do this.

As if those questions aren’t bad enough, other salespeople take the tack of, “tell me a little bit about your business,” or worse, they try to “probe” someone to find their pain.

HERE’S AN EASY SOLUTION: Why don’t you try to find their pleasure? HERE’S A NOT-SO-EASY SOLUTION: Why aren’t you preparing the night before with engaging questions – questions about the prospect, questions that make the prospect stop and think, consider new information, and respond in terms of you?

If you’ve read any of my previous writings, you know I consider questions the heart of the sale, and you know that more sales are lost to poor questions than are lost to lowest price. Salespeople should go into every sales call with 25 prepared questions from research done the night before.

I recommend that you take one hour of your television time and redirect it to preparing questions – emotion-based, engaging questions that make the prospect give you substantive answers that you can turn into a sale – or it might be your last show.

Jeffrey Gitomer can be reached by phone at (704) 333-1112 or by e-mail at salesman@gitomer.com. © 2011 Jeffrey H. Gitomer

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