Ask For It!

There’s no magic in what I do. I call people and I ask them for their business; those who need what I have to sell, buy. Sales are different in the 21st century; consumers are savvy, they are price aware and they can fact-check us on the Internet. Instead of trying to sell them your products and services, how about you let them sell themselves? No magic needed.

It’s easier than you may think, too.

During your prospecting calls, ask questions instead of talking. Have the questions ready before you pick up the phone. Have at least three prepared. Tell them you just want to ask them a few questions, get their buy in, or schedule a time to call back.

Every time someone answers the phone, I ask, “Am I disturbing you?”

Every time.

If I am disturbing them, they tell me, and the next thing I ask is, “When would be a good time to call back?” Most tell me immediately. My point is always ask, always respect the answer.

Depending on whom you are calling, some broad sample questions may be:

  1. What would it take to earn your business?
  2. What are you looking for in an architect/designer/insert your trade?
  3. What can I do to make your job easier? (When you get an answer to this one, you have the makings for a long-term relationship, listen to the answer!)

A max of five simple questions, stop at two or three if necessary; pay attention to the tone of their answers and let it guide you. You can tell when you have a willing listener on the other end and when you don’t. If they are willing, ask the questions. If they are not, schedule a time to call back and move on to the next call.
If you are calling prospects that have already said they want to work with you but they haven’t yet signed a contract, questions like these will work:

  1. I am ready to partner with you, is there anything in the way of you signing the contract today?
  2. I’d like to move forward with you, what do you see as the next step?
  3. If not now, when? I’m happy to follow up with you and do what it takes to earn this job.

Be direct, ask exactly what you want to know, no sugar coating, no sales pitch. Ask the questions one at a time and listen to the answers. They will tell you what they want and when they want to buy it.

There is no magic. If you want more business, ask for it.

If you have your questions ready and ask them in a straightforward manner, you will get the answers. If you indeed have the value they want to buy, they will sell themselves!

Here’s how to become a better asker

  1. Get clear about what you want: You can’t express what you want effectively if you’re not clear what it is, so before approaching your partner, your boss or your child with a request, think about it and make sure you can write it down in one clear sentence.
  2. Create a good atmosphere: Make sure you and the person you’re asking both have time, and invite the other person to sit down and talk with you. Tell them you have something to ask them.
  3. Simply state what you want: Don’t preface your statement with a lot of disclaimers – they make the other person feel accused of something. Just ask, politely, for what you want. Sometimes I literally read it off the paper where I wrote it down. This helps me be clear and stay on target but it also lets them see how much it means to me.
  4. Be prepared to accept a “no.”: if you can’t accept a no answer, then you’re making a demand, not a request, so have a backup plan.
  5. Listen politely to the other person’s answer: Whether the other person says yes, no, or something in between, listen carefully to what they say. Skip the drama in your head, just listen. You need to know what the answer is.

When I follow these steps, I am successful far more often than not. And when I am not successful I have a backup plan – truly a win either way!

What about people who want to ask ME for business?
I believe you need to make it as easy as possible for people to do business with you, which means being where THEY want you to be. I insist that my clients use a listing service as a place to start: my favorite is And it’s free.

You put in your company name and zip code, and it will tell you how you rank among the top 50 search engines for your location. Invariably most have a miserably low percentage out of the possible 100%. tells you where you are NOT listed, and then you simply click on each link and fill in the online form: pow, now you’re listed. Doing ALL of them can take a couple of hours, but if each one of the 50 brings you just one more client per year, I’d say it is time well spent. That’s using your power to sell – letting them ask you for business.

Closing a sale is all about asking!
Check out for an incredible list of closing skills.

It’s all about the close, teaching closing skills is one of the easiest things I do. A sales rep should always be closing! The only way to do this is to keep asking questions. If you understand exactly what your client needs and wants, you can match it quickly with your products and services. If you DON’T have what they need or want, I always say, “Next phone call!” If you indeed have what the client wants and you deliver extraordinary customer service along the way, they will sell themselves. Closing is about asking questions until they are all answered and then asking ONE more, “are you ready to buy this?”

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