Clues, Cues and Hints

May 12

Mani sul volto


If you have been selling for any length of time, you probably know the importance of asking questions to gain a thorough understanding of prospect’s situation and potential pain points.

But, do you catch their clues, cues and hints?

During a role play in a sales training workshop last week, I watched an interaction between a sales person (we’ll call him Jim) and his customer (Larry). Jim asked lots of questions and he made great eye contact and took notes as his customer talked.

At one point, Larry said, “I’m spending too much time on…” to which Jim responded, “Uh huh” and then he continued to ask a few more innocuous questions.

I whispered in Jim ear, “What do you mean by I’m spending too much time on…” Larry elaborated and we learned that this particular task was not only sucking up an enormous amount of his time, it was the source of a major headache.

With a little more prompting and a few more questions, Jim eventually discovered that automating this task could save Larry almost $23000 in direct costs in a single quarter. Compared to the $2700 investment required, it became a no-brainer for Larry to make a buying decision.

However, this sale could easily have gone the wrong way and ended up in a no-sale because Jim initially missed the major clue (I’m spending too much time on…).

When people make general comments, it is critical that we probe deeper and get them to clarify exactly what they mean and to keep digging until we find the source and cause of the pain and help the other person identify the impact of that problem on their business.

This not only helps us position our solution more effectively, it helps us build a solid ROI analysis.

Action step: This week, listen carefully for vague and general statements and encourage the prospect to clarify or expand on that statement.


  • Melissa Robinson

    Hi – Recently discovered your blog and love it. Mentioned you and linked to this post in our latest article, “The New York Times Best Sellers Guide to B2B Sales.” Thanks for the inspiration!