Salesmanship - I just love that word.

It's the ability to sell.

It's 50% art and 50% science. Of course that's
my opinion.

Ask most salespeople and they'll say it's 90% art and 10% science.

I know, because that's how I felt years ago. I believe there is a science to successful selling and it's not acquired through osmosis.

You have to dig for it. You have to ratchet up your level of interest and curiosity.

You have to take courses, you have to read books and magazines, and you have to listen to CDs.

Throughout my sales career I've made lots of mistakes.

But I've always had my learning meter set to the highest levels.

I'm just determined to get better and I hope you are too.

I have a sales tip for you that will enhance your salesmanship and improve your selling results.

Basically, the sales tip is just a reminder to stop talking and start asking more questions.

What's the big deal about asking questions, you might be wondering?

For starters you can't learn anything while you're talking.

People who are good listeners always seem to be more likable, and that's a good thing especially if you're in sales.

The longer you've been in sales, the more careful you have to be about controlling how much talking you do - because that's not good salesmanship.

In fact the more you know about your products and services, the more you are inclined to share with your sales prospects and customers.

You see what happens when you don't ask questions is that it forces you to make unnecessary assumptions.

The less you know, the more you assume!

When you combine how much you don't know about a sales prospect with how much you do know, because of years of experience, about your products and services the results can be disastrous.

With limited knowledge about your sales prospect you're forced to tell all there is to tell about your products and services.

But there is a better way and I discovered it just about 21 years ago.

Like most people in sales I enjoy talking, but I enjoy selling more. And I can guarantee you, without any doubt, you will sell a lot more when you learn to employ your ears before you engage your mouth - that's salesmanship!

About 20 years ago I stopped showing up and throwing up on my sales prospects and customers.

It was easy to do as long as I began my presentation with really good questions.

Here's an example of what I'm mean.

About 20 years ago a sales manager called me and asked about my availability to do a one day sales training program.

I recall asking him a bunch of questions and learning a number of things about his sales team.

His sales team sold drum chemicals.

His sales team consisted of 50 salesmen - no women.

His sales team had an average age of 55.

The sales manager provided his sales team with one day of sales training every year.

I kept asking questions and finally asked this question.

"How will you measure the success of my one-day sales training program with your sales team?"

He thought for a moment and then reminded me that his sales team sold drum chemicals, consisted of 50 men, and the 50 men had an average age of 55.

He then added, "You know Jim, if in the middle of the afternoon, no one is sleeping, I'll consider your sales training to be a very effective."

I can't make this stuff up - this actually happened.

I had to ask the question to learn how this sales manager would measure the success of my sales training program.

It made my sales presentation more focused on his needs.

In fact, it allowed me to say, "Based on what you just told me, I'd like to tell you how I'll keep your salespeople awake and engaged throughout the afternoon of the sales training program."

And of course I did.

And of course I got the sales training assignment.

And of course I kept his salespeople (all of them) awake during the afternoon.

That's the story and here's the point. The less you say the smarter you'll sound.

Asking questions will give you more insight and credibility. Always get your customer talking first - that's what salesmanship is all about.

Doing it this way will make what you say even more powerful and persuasive because it's based on what they said first.

So Salesmanship 101 begins with lesson # 1 - simply stated it's to start with your customers not with your products. Ask good questions!

Author's Bio: 

Jim is a former U.S. army officer serving in Germany and was a Public Information Officer on a General’s Staff while serving in Vietnam. He was also Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Scientific Products Division of Baxter International

He has authored five books including the recently published “57 Ways To Take Control Of Your Time And Your Life.” He is also publisher of the Start Selling More Newsletter .