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"Magical Questions"
By Stan Flanagan   Printer Friendly Version

High on my list of musts for sales professionals, is the ability to speak in an eloquent manner before a group. Hand in hand with this is the ability to ask the right questions, when in front of a prospect, then SHUT UP and listen to the answer.

Now, before you stop reading this, remember, WE ARE ALL IN SALES. Whether we are selling for a living, or just trying to promote our idea at an office meeting, or before the parent teachers meeting at our children's school.

This discussion will not center on the ability to speak, but on the importance of asking the correct questions. At this point, I will go back to a time, when I had what most speakers refer to as "A regular job."

I was selling Medical X-ray, and had received a call from an Orthopedic Surgeon in a neighboring town. He began by telling me what he needed, and at the end of the conversation, asked if I could put together a quotation, and meet with him at his office at 3:30 PM, that day. I agreed, and on hanging up, sat down to work on the quotation. My biggest problem, was the type of equipment he had requested. This was not what I would recommend, and we had worked with a lot of Orthopedists.

As I thought of this, I decided to quote exactly as he had requested, but make sure there was enough money in the quotation, to furnish what I felt he really needed. That afternoon, I arrived at his office on time, and was immediately taken by the Doctor to the X-ray suite, where I was introduced to his wife, who was also his Technologist. The X-ray room was equipped with a system belonging to his associate, who was moving to another office. His request paralleled this type of system. We went over the quotation, and at the end of my presentation, he said,"that looks OK." This sounded to me like, "I'll put this on the pile, and we will let you know."

At this point, I asked if it was OK to ask him a couple questions. (Always ask permission.) He agreed, and I asked if he practiced any Sports Medicine. His answer, "Yes, I take care of a number of triathletes, and I am also physician for the High School football team. I asked, "Do you do any Knee studies?" "Yes, we do, quite a few." "Do you find any problem doing knee studies with this equipment?" His answer, "Oh no, we just pull this box over to the front of the film holder, and the patient stands on the box, as we make the film." AT this point, his wife looked at him as if to say, "We move the box pronto?" My next question was. "If you had a tube stand that would allow the time to go all the way to the floor, would that be of any help. Immediately both the Doctor, and his wife looked up, and he asked. " how much more would that cost?" I asked if he had hired a contractor to make any alterations? He replied "Yes, quite a few." In that case, it would cost about $150.00 to prepare the ceiling in this room, but the equipment would cost no more than that shown on the quote." He then answered. "Lets go with that."

Now, I had an order, but I now wanted to NIBBLE. You see, once you have brought the prospect over to your side, he can now be sold the extras. I mentioned that. "there was a new version of the table available, that could be motor driven from the normal working height of 32", down to 19" above the floor, so a patient on crutches. or in a wheel chair can easily get on the table. It can then drive back to 32 inches for the film to be made." With this news, his eyes immediately said WOW. His mouth said, "How much extra would that be?" I replied, "$3,000.00." At this point, His wife, who had been rather quiet, said "That is too much for that feature."

I now realized I was in the middle of a marital difference or opening so I SHUT UP. for what seemed like a DAY. Suddenly, the Doctor smiled at his spouse and said, "Sweetheart, you are not always going to be my technician, and the next person may not have the finess you have in handling patients." With that, he looked at me and said, "We will go with that table."

The nice thing was that once the equipment was installed, she loved it, and became one of our biggest boosters. All because the correct questions were asked!

Stan Flanagan

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