I accompanied Bob and George on a sales call yesterday and mostly sat and observed. Not much happened, there weren’t any obvious compelling reasons for the prospect to do anything and the call seemed to be a waste of their time. I jumped in twice, the first time to rattle off some issues that I had heard but which weren’t addressed. That moved the call a little bit in the right direction, but not enough.

I don’t know how to teach the next thing that I did because there isn’t a process for it. I did write about it in my previous book, Mindless Selling. Mindless Selling is basically about having faith in your ability to perform in a selling situation. In this case, I get really quiet and ask, to nobody in particular, for the key question, phrase or words that I need to make something happen. I don’t say this out loud, but say it to myself.  Sometimes it will come to me right away and other times it takes a little while. Yesterday it took about three minutes. The key is to trust what comes to you. The only thing that came to me yesterday was the phrase “New England”.

I had to have faith that those words would mean something to the prospect and when I asked, “what about New England?” the entire sales call instantly changed. The prospect, who hadn’t admitted to any problems of significance, suddenly said, “New England is a real problem for me” and then we were off to the races.

Patience and observation are two more underappreciated skills that are required to ask the call-changing question. You must be able to observe and recognize that you don’t yet have what you need and be patient enough to wait for it. Of course, there will be times when it won’t come at all. Most of the time however, it will come or the prospect wouldn’t have carved out the time to meet with you in the first place. After you recognize that you don’t have what you need to get to 2nd base, then it’s time to ask the call-changing question. Take a restroom or water break, clear your mind and ask, “give me the key question”. Then simply wait for the first thought that comes to you and, putting it into context, ask your prospect a question using those words.

I hope this helps!