Don’t Assume. Ask.

Via Sharon Parker
on Jan 29, 2013
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Source: via Sallie on Pinterest

Why did the chicken cross the road?

To get to the other side? To show the possum it could be done?
I don’t know. I’d have to ask the chicken.

Assumptions lead us into dangerous territory. When we assume, we’re often wrong and we make the mistake of lumping this customer with every other customer we’ve come across in the industry. No one wants to be generalized. No one wants to be “shoulded,” or told what to do. They want to discover the best solution for their challenges—and with your help, they can.

But you have to ask.

Questions invite conversation and elicit information, including a preliminary estimate of value. Statements, on the other hand, invite contradiction. That’s just how we’re wired. So the better you become at asking intelligent questions, the more successful you will be in aligning with the customer and bringing value.

Sometimes it’s as simple as rephrasing. For example, turning “We could help you…” into “Would it help if you could?” invites the customer to reflect and comment rather than bracing himself to be “sold.”

Sometimes it’s as simple as pausing before we blurt out our opinion to rephrase it in a way that encourages the customer to express his opinion. During the pause, the customer may add information or ask a question that helps us better understand the situation.

I’m not saying you should never make a statement. As an intelligent and experienced professional, your opinions and your knowledge bring value to the discussion and to the customer. Timing, however, is critical. With skillful questions you can help the customer discover for himself the value of your capabilities and then you have established a context in which you can share your experience and ensure the customer has a successful outcome.

It’s always about the customer.

First, do they have a goal? Is it measurable? And have we taken the time to find out what it is?

Second, are they willing to change? Is this achieving this goal enough of a priority for them to commit time and resources to achieving it? Have we helped them develop a vision of how they could achieve it using our capabilities?

Third, have you and the customer agreed on the value that achieving this goal will provide? If not, it will be hard for them to justify committing effort or resources toward the change.

While these fundamental concepts may seem obvious, the skill to achieve these steps requires constant practice. A golfer doesn’t improve his swing by reading a book. A quarterback doesn’t develop his arm in the locker room. Time, effort and practice are essential to mastering any skill.

So let’s start with the basic question: How do you know if the customer has a goal, is willing to change, and sees value in the effort?



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Ed: Brianna Bemel


About Sharon Parker

Sharon Parker successfully sold high-tech products and services for 25 years. Her book, Selling with Soul: Achieving Career Success without Sacrificing Personal and Spiritual Growth, was re-released as a second edition with new content and updated material in January 2012. The book counters the negative notions of selling and explains how selling is an honorable profession that creates value for us all when it is done with empathy for the customer and a firm commitment to integrity. She donates all the profits from the book to educational scholarships for women and minority students. / As Founder and Principle Consultant of Sparker, The Coaching Company, she provides training for sales people and sales managers using the CustomerCentric Selling® methodology. As a licensed facilitator with Corporate Coach U, she teaches coaching clinics to front-line managers and team leaders and offers individual and small group coaching to help people achieve their personal best. For more information, contact [email protected] or visit the website:


One Response to “Don’t Assume. Ask.”

  1. […] admits, when hundreds of thousands of users flock to a site the founders have to admit they have no clue who these people are. Continuing to build to Who You Think They Are is nowhere near as valuable as […]