Why Asking Great Questions Is The Most Important Sales Skill

Antonio Garrido is the president of ‘Absolute Sales Development Inc’ – an award-winning Sandler Sales Training Organisation.

In this episode of The Salesman Podcast, Antonio shares why asking great questions is the most important sales skill and the step-by-step process to asking questions that get deals done.

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Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Antonio Garrido
President of Absolute Sales Development Inc

Resources:

Transcript:

Will Barron:

Coming up on today’s episode of The Salesman Podcast.

 

Antonio Garrido:

Learning to ask questions, and learning to understand why we have to ask questions, and the right types of questions to ask, is absolutely key. And we’ve been training salespeople for 50 years this year, and we find that the ability to ask really good questions is a very rare commodity.

 

Will Barron:

Hello, Sales Nation, I’m Will Barron, the host of The Salesman Podcast, the world’s most listened to B2B sales show. If you haven’t already, make sure to click subscribe, and with that, let’s meet today’s guest.

 

Antonio Garrido:

Hello there. My name is Antonio Garrido, I’m the author of Asking Questions the Sandler Way. You can find it lots of places. Check us out on www.absolute.sandler.com, or LinkedIn.

 

How Important is a Salesperson’s Ability to Ask Great Questions? · [01:20]  

 

Will Barron:

On this episode of the show with Antonio, we’re diving into questions, and not just ask these four questions and something magical is going to happen on the back of it, we’re diving into the methodology behind what questions we should ask, when, and why we should ask them, how we can use questions to build trust, how we can ask difficult questions that have profound answers for us and the person we’re asking them of, and a whole lot more. So with that, let’s jump right in. To tee things up, and to add, I guess, a bit of suspense to the conversation, in the grand scheme of things, out of everything that a B2B sales professional learns throughout their careers, how important is the ability to ask great questions?

 

“Learning to ask questions, learning to understand why we have to ask questions, and the right types of questions to ask is absolutely key. We’ve been training salespeople for 50 years and we find that the ability to ask really good questions is a very rare commodity.” – Antonio Garrido · [01:57] 

 

Antonio Garrido:

Well, it’s the single most important thing. And the problem is, or the challenge that we have is, we’re really not good at it. We’re good at asking very superficial, how are you, would you like a coffee, did you find your way here okay type of questions. But they’re not, on any way… Well, other than maybe slightly bonding and rapport a tiny bit, they have no real value or real use. So, learning to ask questions, and learning to understand why we have to ask questions, and the right types of questions to answer to ask is absolutely key. We’ve been training salespeople for 50 years this year, and we find that the ability to ask really good questions is a very rare commodity.

 

How Can Salespeople Know if They’re Incredible at Asking Questions? ·  [02:23] 

 

Will Barron:

So how do we then… Before we get into the types of questions we should be asking, and that side of things, how do we know if we are incredible asking questions, or if we suck at it?

 

Antonio Garrido:

Let’s work on the assumption that we’re… Well, I’m going to say we suck at it, but everybody needs help. So we all need to improve our question asking ability. I think the first thing we need to do, before you can fix anything, is recognise what the problem is. So if we think about… There are a few things going on, and once we recognise what’s going on, once we first get that aha moment, which, hopefully, we’re going to share with you chaps today… Once we recognise what’s going on, we can then start to come around to what that solution might look like. So I’m going to assume that we’re all pretty good. The problem is, when we have this conversation with people, is that everybody thinks they are a good driver. Right?

 

Will Barron:

Yeah.

 

Antonio Garrido:

But not everybody is a good driver, we can’t all be terrific drivers. So, recognise the problem, and, hopefully, during the course of this interview, when we discuss it in more detail, listeners and viewers will recognise that there is a problem, and then we’ll get to figuring out what the solution looks like. But let’s work on the basic assumption that we all need help. How’s that?

 

How to Improve Your Ability to Ask Great Questions · [03:46]

 

Will Barron:

Perfect. Okay. So with that said, is the ability to ask great questions… does that come down to memorising 15 questions that are on some YouTube video like this, and then we’re incredible at it, or is there a methodology? Is there a framework? Is there a structure to becoming skilled at asking great questions?

 

Antonio Garrido:

Yes and yes. So let me start by asking you a question. Of course, I have to do that, don’t I? Right? I’m the worst person to interview, because I’ll never asked a straight question. People that are listening and watching now, think about this. So let’s imagine that you were the prospect. Doesn’t matter what you sell, what industry, what market, what vertical, not interested. What culture, or country.

 

Antonio Garrido:

So, when you’re talking to a prospect, when you were the prospect, consider this, what percentage of the time do you think that you’re hearing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? So what percentage of the time, when you were the prospect, are you hearing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? So what do you think, Will? Give me a guess.

 

Will Barron:

I would like to think it was relatively high, but I’m assuming it’s 20, 30% that they’re not trying to bullshit you.

 

Antonio Garrido:

So when people is listening, some people will assert, “Oh, I don’t know,” very optimistic individuals, no doubt, 80%, perhaps. And then they’ll be some other people like you going “Oh, yeah, I’d like to think it was 100, probably more like 20.” And they’ll be some other people screaming at their device saying, “Never.” So it’s somewhere between never and not 100. So let’s agree that. Well, that’s problem. That’s our first problem.

 

“Your primary objective is to get to the truth, that’s your number one job because prospects and clients will tell us a version of the truth, their version of the truth that they believe it’s in their best interest to have us believe.” – Antonio Garrido · [05:46] 

 

Antonio Garrido:

So I’m going to give you a new definition for every sales professional out there, in terms of what their job is. So there’ll be some individuals that think, “Well, my job is to sell photo copiers,” and there’ll be some people that think, “My job is to sell pharmaceuticals,” and so on and so forth. And I’m going to say that your primary objective is to get to the truth, that’s your number one job. Well, what if they’re not prepared, not willing, not able to tell you 100% of the truth 100% of the time? Then our job is to get to the truth, because prospects and clients will tell us a version of the truth, their version of the truth, that they believe it’s in their best interest to have us believe. Does that make sense?

 

Will Barron:

Makes total sense.

 

Antonio Garrido:

So what happens is, sales guys, sales professionals… So when I say guys, I mean [inaudible 00:06:17], go out into the world, and they interact with prospects and clients, and they have really good conversations built on trust, and all of that good stuff. So I’m coming at this from a good place. But the fact of the matter is that sales individuals and their prospects and clients, we’re not always on the same page.

 

Antonio Garrido:

Typically, as a sales professional… I’m a nice guy, you’re a nice guy, Will. Thank you all. Most people listening to this are nice guys. You only have a nice audience. So we’re a fairly trusting bunch, and so we go out and meet with a prospect, they tell us a version of the truth, and let’s be generous and say 75% of the truth, and then we take that information and we go and do something with it. We’ll prepare a quotation, we’ll give them some unpaid consultancy, as we talked about at Sandler.

 

Antonio Garrido:

So we’ll base our responses on the information that they give us, but it’s not all of the truth. And so I’m going to argue that your value as a sales professional is reliant on discovering… Let’s be generous and say he’s giving you 75% of the truth, it’s discovering that other 25. The bit that they don’t necessarily want you to know is where the magic lies. Does that make sense?

 

Will Barron:

That makes sense. Let me jump in here for a second, because-

 

Antonio Garrido:

Sure.

 

Why The Goal to Asking Questions Should Always Be About Helping Buyers Discover the Truth · [07:41] 

 

Will Barron:

Is the goal of all this then to assume that they are not being truthful with us, and perhaps they’re doing this consciously, because they want leverage for negotiations or wherever else down the line? But is the golden to… Is the goal either to assume that this is happening, and so go around the lies and uncover the information whichever way we can, or is the goal to help them tell us the truth, and not lie, if that makes sense?

 

“Let’s be curious, be sceptical, and not be attached to the outcome. So be curious means ask lots of questions. Be sceptical means question answers. And then be not attached to the outcome because it’s our connection or enthusiasm to get the deal that actually crashes our equal business stature.” – Antonio Garrido · [08:33] 

 

Antonio Garrido:

It’s to help them discover the truth. So we have a mantra. There’s a few mantras that we have, and these are more revealed in the book, and I’ll tell you a couple, just so you get the wavelength of it, or get the sense of it. So if we go into every sales negotiation, I don’t want us to all become sceptics, and so cynical, I don’t want that to be the case. So let our watchword be, let’s be curious, be sceptical, and not be attached to the outcome. So be curious means ask lots of questions. Be sceptical means question answers. And then be not attached to the outcome, because it’s our connection or enthusiasm to get the deal that actually crashes are equal business stature.

 

“When we become too attached to the outcome, we lose our business stature, we lose our objectivity, and then we stop asking questions, and we start answering questions. Answering questions doesn’t get us any further down the line towards the truth.” – Antonio Garrido · [08:55] 

 

Antonio Garrido:

When we become too attached to the outcome, we lose our business stature, we lose our objectivity, and then we stop asking questions, and we start answering questions. Answering questions doesn’t get us any further down the line towards the truth. So I want people to… I’m not, at all, trying to trap anybody and get them to… I don’t want the anglepoise lamp, I don’t want it to be an interrogation and say, “You tell me the truth, or we won’t let the children out the trunk of the car.” I don’t want it to be, in the least bit, aggressive. I want it to be very conversational. But the fact of the matter is, we have to go in with open eyes, and recognise that what they’re telling us isn’t necessarily the case. It’s a version of the truth, and it’s our job to help them discover the truth.

 

“So they (prospects) never believe what you tell them, they rarely believe what you show them. They’ll often believe what somebody else tells them, but they always believe what they tell themselves. So what does that mean? That means stop trying to sell people things. Stop trying to tell them stuff. Feature, function, benefit, it doesn’t work, because it’s your data, not theirs. But they always believe what they tell themselves, so it’s your job to help them come to discover that you’re the right solution.” – Antonio Garrido · [09:58] 

 

Antonio Garrido:

So rule number one is, be curious, lots of questions, be sceptical, question and answers, and don’t be attached to the outcome. Rule number two is… Last point, and then we’ll get onto maybe some specific questions of why this is the case, depending on where you want to take the interview. So they never believe what you tell them, they rarely believe what you show them. They’ll often believe what somebody else tells them, but they always believe what they tell themselves. So what does that mean? That means stop trying to sell people things, stop trying to tell them stuff.

 

Antonio Garrido:

Feature, function, benefit doesn’t work, because it’s your data, not theirs. But they always believe what they tell themselves, so it’s your job to help them come to discover that you’re the right solution. And it’s a bit like… Will, have you ever been to a specialist? You go to the doctor, and the doctor says, “Oh, that’s a nasty rash, not quite sure how to deal with that.” And then sends you to the specialist. What I want us to be, is that specialist.

 

Antonio Garrido:

If you think about that specialists that you’ve ever been to, and if you haven’t, you can imagine, that specialist acts and behaves in a certain way. And we tend to tell the specialist a bit more of the truth, don’t we? When a specialist asks us questions… because you want to get rid of the nasty rash. So when they ask us questions, we tend to tell them the truth. And so our job, then, to boil it down, right to the point of this whole questioning strategy piece, I want us to be seen by the other person as not just another vendor, not just another supplier, but as a trusted adviser.

 

“If you look, smell, act, feel, and taste like every other one of your competitors, how are you going to be treated? So don’t look, and feel, and smell, and sound, and taste like them, differentiate yourself by the questions you ask.” – Antonio Garrido · [11:32]

 

Antonio Garrido:

A vendor, if it’s like a triangle, you’re one of many vendors down here, but there’s only one of few trusted advisors up here. And I don’t want you to be seen as a vendor. And if you look, smell, act, feel, and taste like every other… one of your competitors, how are you going to be treated? So don’t look, and feel, and smell, and sound, and taste like them. How do you differentiate yourself by the questions you ask?

 

Keys to Becoming a Trusted Advisor in Sales · [11:50] 

 

Will Barron:

Okay. So we’ll come back to questions for a second, we won’t go too deep down this rabbit hole. But what do we need to do before… Assume we get an in-person meeting here. What do we need to do before an in-person meeting, so that we come across, and act, behave, I guess, prepare to be the trusted advisor, as opposed to rock it up as a salesperson, and then try to blog our way out of it with questions?

 

Antonio Garrido:

[inaudible 00:12:10]. That’s a great question. So, if any of your listeners are listening, and they go to a call without having put together a pre-call plan, they need to be fired. I know, they need to be fired. You get in an aeroplane, you fly on your holiday somewhere, and you know, you know that that pilot has had a pre-call plan, he’s registered a flight path, he’s got a plan B, he knows what to do, he’s been in simulated train training, he’s checked the engine, and the fuel, and all of that stuff.

 

Antonio Garrido:

Well, that’s what a pilot does, that’s what a lawyer does. An architect checks the foundations before he builds anything, a surgeon has a pre-call plan. Every professional has a pre-call plan, and so should we. So, included in that, therefore, is, what’s my objective of the call? And once I know my objectives, and my plan B, and I should now fashion… start thinking about, what are the key questions I’m going to ask? There’s a big difference between a good question and a bad question, which is, obviously, maybe where we’re going to go to next.

 

Antonio Garrido:

So it’s no good just asking questions. So another question for you, Will. And I know this isn’t how interviews work. But if I got an hour with a prospect, how many questions you think I could ask in that one hour? What do you think? Top of your head, doesn’t matter.

 

Will Barron:

If I’m ploughed into it, two, three minutes an answer, so 20, 30 questions.

 

“Your value as a salesperson is determined by the information you gather, not the information you give. And the quality of the information you gather is entirely determined by the quality of the question you ask.” – Antonio Garrido · [14:32] 

 

Antonio Garrido:

Right. So we’re limited. It’s not a boundless number, there’s a limited number of questions we can ask. And depending on whether they’re tactical questions or strategic questions… because tactical questions, typically, have a short answer, and strategic questions, typically, have a longer answer. So let’s say 15 questions, I don’t know, doesn’t matter. Well, if our real estate is 15 questions, it stands to reason to me, therefore, that one of the ways I’m going to differentiate myself from my competitors when I’m talking to this client or prospect, is I want me to have asked 15 really good questions, whereas everybody else is just going to ask average questions, because… Here’s the thing, here’s the critical thing, that your value as a salesperson is determined by the information you gather, not the information you give.

 

Antonio Garrido:

So, the quality of the information you gather is entirely determined by the quality of the question you ask. So if I go to a prospect and say, “Hey, Mr. prospect, quick question, how long have you been the CEO of ABC company?” Intuitively, we think, “Well, that’s a good question.” It’s actually a terrible question. So if I only got 12, or 15 questions to ask, any question when I can get the answer on LinkedIn, Google’s search, a website, literature is a waste of time. And all of your competitors are saying, “Tell me a little bit about the markets you serve.” It’s such a dreadful question.

 

Antonio Garrido:

So in our pre-call plan, I want us to have written down on our notebooks, or however we do it, with a CRM, or whatever we’re using, I want us to have written down, what are my goals? Or what’s my objective for the call? What would be five or six tactical… good tactical, not dumb tactical, good tactical questions? Five or six good strategic questions? In advance, why? Because once you have all of these questions laid out in front of you, before you go in, then when you ask a question, you can absolutely be paying attention, very active listening, instead of thinking, what’s my next question going to be, because you’ve already got them laid out.

 

“Whoever you are, whatever industry you’re in, whatever you sell, you get asked the same 20 questions in a slightly different pair of pants.” – Antonio Garrido · [16:05] 

 

Antonio Garrido:

So that’s first thing to say. Second thing to say is, whoever you are, whatever industry you’re in, whatever you sell, you get asked the same 20 questions in a slightly different pair of pants. So if I’m selling, I don’t know, pharmaceuticals in Reading to GPs, I’m typically going to get asked the same kinds of questions day in, day out, same 20 questions. So another thing I’d like us all to do for your homework is to, for the next week, write down on a piece of card, or somewhere, all the questions you get asked.

 

Antonio Garrido:

Now, for every question, there is a motive behind it. If a prospect says to me, “Hey, Antonio, how many offices has your business got? How many officers has Sandler got?” And I say, “Ah great question, Mr. prospect, 275.” Because we’ve got 275 offices around the globe. I’ve learned nothing, and he’s learned 275. Now, 275, in his view, might be the perfect number. All right, that’s exactly the right number I was hoping to hear. It’s more likely that he thinks, “Gosh, these guys are probably going to be expensive.” Or it might be that he thinks, “Oh, I’m going to be a very small fish in a big pond.” Or it might be he thinks… It might be that he thinks, “Oh, great. So I’ve got a guy in New York, and I’ve got a guy in Miami, and they can train them both.”

 

“The point is, until I know the motive for him (prospect) asking me a question, I should never answer it.” – Antonio Garrido · [17:22] 

 

Antonio Garrido:

The point is, until I know the motive for him asking me a question, I should never answer it. So when we get asked a question, one of the things I want us to do is write down the 20 questions that we get asked, and then try and figure out, with a reversing question, which is something like, “Hey, great question, Will. Of all the questions you could ask me right now, why is that one important?” In other words, my… you asked me a question, I’m reversing it, reversing the flow of information, because my answer ends in a question mark, to find out… If you then say, “Because I got a guy in New York, and I’ve got a guy in Miami, can you train them both?” Well, now I can give them a better answer. Does that makes sense?

 

Will Barron:

That makes total sense. So let’s stop here for a second, there’s a tonne to go [crosstalk 00:18:06] before. Two things. One, when we narrow it down, that we’ve only got 15, maybe 10 questions to ask, that was a light bulb moment for me of, I need to really think about these questions, as opposed to going in willy nilly, and maybe I’ve got a plan, maybe we’re just going to have a bit of conversation, and maybe we’re going to build a bit of rapport, and that’s 15 minutes, and then when we get into it, then we only got seven questions.

 

The Objective of Asking Sales Questions is to See the World Through the Prospect’s Eyes · [18:55] 

 

Will Barron:

So you can, perhaps, be doing yourself a bit a disservice by faffing around. Obviously, there’s a balance here, and it depends on relationships and all that kind of stuff, but that was interesting to me. The other thing was motivations behind questions. Now, when we are asking questions, and we have a objective for the meeting, perhaps we have a plan B, or [inaudible 00:18:50], or whatever acronym we want to throw at these kind of things, do we always ask questions that don’t necessarily push, that don’t necessarily close into questions? But are we always asking questions that are motivated by getting someone to a certain place, or are we treating it more like an experiment of, we’re having this hypothesis, that this is where we want to get then, but we are genuinely trying to see an uncover a little bit more about and see if that is the right place.

 

Antonio Garrido:

That’s a great question. I’m tempted, after what I’ve just said, to reverse it, but I won’t. I will answer it, since-

 

Will Barron:

I’d reverse it right back at you. [crosstalk 00:19:28] to do that.

 

“The objective is to see the world and understand the world through their eyes. Now, that may mean that we’re not the right solution for them; that’s why we have to be not attached to the outcome. And that’s okay, because we’re not for everybody. And if we go around trying to force-fit ourselves into everybody’s life, then we’re going to fail, because we’re going to be a jazz hands, pushy, bullshit sales guys, and that’s the last thing I want us to be.” – Antonio Garrido · [19:32] 

 

Antonio Garrido:

Yeah, right. The objective is to see the world through their eyes, is to understand the world through their eyes. Now, that may mean that we’re not the right solution for them. That’s why we have to be not attached to the outcome. And that’s okay, because we’re not for everybody. And if we go around trying to force-fit ourselves into everybody’s life, then we’re going to fail, because we’re going to be a jazz hands, pushy, bullshit sales guys, and that’s the last thing I want us to be.

 

“Nobody likes a sales guy. Everybody knows it’s okay to lie to a sales guy and still go to heaven.” – Antonio Garrido · [20:35] 

 

Antonio Garrido:

So, the objective is to see the world through their eyes, for them to tell you really what’s going on. So then you’re trying to solve real problems, not phantom issues, not half truths. So our objective is to get to the truth, as we’ve mentioned, to see the world through their eyes, and to be a trusted adviser, which means that sometimes, right now, we might not be the right solution. That’s just a fact of the life, and facts of life. And if we go around… Because nobody likes a sales guy. Everybody knows it’s okay to lie to a sales guy and still go to heaven. And even you. And I’m going to guess that you’re a nice guy, Will, right? So when-

 

Will Barron:

Most of the time.

 

Antonio Garrido:

… when you… Yeah. Imagine you’re going to go and buy a car. The second you step into the garage, or the dealership, the second you step in, you’ve taken two steps, what happens?

 

Will Barron:

Get hounded, right?

 

Antonio Garrido:

Right. And you go, “Oh, thank God you’re here. Here’s my budget, here’s exactly who I’m talking to, here’s what…” Do you tell the truth? No, you tell your version of the truth. So all I want them to do is to see the world through your eyes, understand exactly what your issues are, and then figure out whether or not you might be a good fit. Maybe sometimes you’re not.

 

How to Build Trust with Decision Makers in an Organisation and Proove That You’re Literary There to Help Them · [21:27] 

 

Will Barron:

Okay. So let’s get real practical with this, with some specific scenarios and questions. What do we do, or what questions do we ask, or how do we even perhaps ask them or frame up the conversation if, perhaps, we’ve dealt with someone lower down the food chain, we know that we can solve the problem or product services as a good fit for them, and we get pushed up to the boss, to the end decision maker, whatever we want to call them, and they are not giving us… Maybe they’re holding back because they want to negotiate on things, or they’re holding back because they see as a salesperson, there’s not perhaps that trust there. What can we do, or what questions can we ask to level the playing field and align and frame ourselves up as, I’m literally here to help you?

 

“One of the best and quickest ways that we’ve found in 50 years to build trust very, very quickly is to actually say something that’s against our best interest. And one of the things that we say against our best interest is, “Hey, let’s spend a little bit of time to figure out whether or not we might be a good fit. And if we’re not a good fit, that’s fine. I’m okay with that.” – Antonio Garrido · [22:14] 

 

Antonio Garrido:

Yeah, yeah. So that’s a really good question. So we could have come in at a certain level, and we’ve been bumped up. So there’s a few things to… Well, first of all, one of the best and quickest way that we’ve ever found in 50 years to build trust very, very, very quickly, is to actually say something that’s against our best interest. And one of the things that we say against our best interest is, “Hey, let’s…” And I’m going to tell you how to ask that question in a second. But the principle is this, let’s see, let’s spend a little bit of time to figure out whether or not we might be a good fit. And if we’re not a good fit, that’s fine. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with a no. And so I still love you, and you’ll still be on my Christmas card list.

 

Antonio Garrido:

Another thing that we can say is, we’re a little bit expensive, or slightly more expensive than the best price that you can get, or it takes a long time for us to get the proposition right, or anything that we call exploding the bomb, which is maybe not in my best interest to say. That builds trust. Because if you say something against your best interest, which is what a trusted adviser would do, then it actually helps to build trust.

 

Antonio Garrido:

So, an example might be… And this says a few things all at the same time, if you think about it. So this is a question. You mentioned negotiating, because most people want to negotiate, and that is true, that most people expect to have to face a price conversation at some point down the line. And it comes in a few different pair of pants. Sometimes it says, right, you insult my children, that’s outrageous, that’s so expensive, forget it, to… maybe it’s as subtle as, could you just try and sharpen your pencil just a little bit more? And everything in between.

 

Antonio Garrido:

And so early on, because we know that’s going to happen, we know that’s going to come down the line, or rather, we should at least anticipate it… So early on in a conversation with a prospect, I’ll ask this question. I will say, “Hey, Mr. prospect, could you spend a couple of minutes? Because, help me understand something.” Now, other than price, which, of course, is critical, what are the criteria are you going to be using when you’re… What are the criteria you’re going to be using when you’re making the decision of who you’re going to select for the next partner for this project, for example?

 

Antonio Garrido:

So other than price, which, of course, is critical, what are other things? That could be reputation, proximity return on investment, geography. Who knows? And if the guy goes, “No, just price,” and you go, “Yeah, but what are the criteria?” And a guy goes, “Nope, it’s price only.” Well, good? Well, it’s great. Now you know that, you know how to behave. So you might go. “Well, we’re never the cheapest, ever, ever. Why do you think that might be?” And if a guy goes, “No idea, don’t care,” I think it’s time [inaudible 00:25:18]. Do you know what I mean?

 

Antonio Garrido:

If the guy goes, “No, it’s only price,” and you go, “Well, we’ve been doing this for 38 years, we’re never ever, in all instances, going to be the cheapest you can possibly find. So maybe we’re not for you in this instance. Is it over?” And often you’ll find, “Well, no, I’m not saying it’s over.” And now the conversation keeps going. So if price is your issue, typically, then explode that bomb early.

 

Antonio Garrido:

So when I first came to Miami, five years ago, and we opened the office, I used to go around saying to my prospects, “Hey, listen, we’re brand new in this market. When you talk to me, you’re talking to the business. When you look behind me, it doesn’t look like the cast of Gandhi. And so I’m not well networked in the area, I don’t have a little black book of millions of connections. So if that’s going to preclude us from doing business together, then that’s fine. Let’s shake hands, walk away, and maybe I’ll come back in three years time. Is that going to be a problem?” And no one ever said yes. Well, that now beat that up, so that when, in two weeks time, when I’m giving a price, he can’t say, “But it’s just you,” because I’ve already dealt with it. Does that make sense?

 

Tactful Ways to Ask the Difficult Questions in Sales · [27:07] 

 

Will Barron:

That makes total sense. The questions that you’re asking here are, perhaps, difficult questions to ask, especially if we’re not used to asking these kind of questions. Clearly, they’re important, and that might even separate ourselves from the competition. If we go to [inaudible 00:26:51] and someone comes and asks all these wet wishy washy questions, and we can be more assertive with how we’re going about things, obviously, it shows that we’re confidence in ourselves, our product, or service, and that, subliminally, will translate into more trust, potentially. But with that said, Antonio, what… It’s one thing to say all that. How do we become more assertive in our questioning, and how do we become more comfortable asking the difficult questions? Because it seems like the way you would go through this in, you asked one question, while softer people or softer questioners will perhaps ask five to get to the same point.

 

Antonio Garrido:

Yeah, right. That’s a really good question. So that segues beautifully… Anybody listening going to think [inaudible 00:27:32]. So that segues beautifully into this. So let me ask people who are listening, what is the single most important question of all the questions we can possibly ask? And I am coming to answer your question, I promise, Will. There are people now shouting at their radios, in the car, going… they’re all shouting, “Why. Why is the most important question.” That’s the worst question. They’re going to be saying, “Tell me more.” That’s the worst. Okay.

 

“First of all, before we can ask all of these questions, we first have to get permission to ask all of these questions. Because if we haven’t got permission to ask all these questions, then it’s going to feel, from his side of the table, or her side of the table, it’s going to feel like an interrogation, and nobody likes the feel of that.” – Antonio Garrido · [28:23] 

 

Antonio Garrido:

To answer your question, here’s the answer to my question. The single most important question of all questions for any salesperson to ask… Write this down, if you’re listening. First of all, before we can ask all of these questions, we first have to get permission to ask all of these questions. Because if we haven’t got permission to ask all these questions, then it’s going to feel, from his side of the table, or her side of the table, it’s going to feel like an interrogation, and nobody likes the feel of that. I don’t know if you’ve ever been arrested by the feds-

 

Will Barron:

No.

 

Antonio Garrido:

… Will. Okay. [crosstalk 00:28:46]. Well, there’s a difference between an interview and an interrogation. You instinctively feel that those two things… I think you know, if you’re being interrogated. And so-

 

The Difference Between an Interview and an Interrogation · [29:00]

 

Will Barron:

Let’s just open this. We might lose our train of thought, so I’ll try and move us back. But what is the difference between an interview and interrogation? It seems to me that the difference between the two will perhaps be open-ended questions, versus closed-ended questions.

 

Antonio Garrido:

Oh, great. So when I spoke to the FBI over here, when I was researching the book, and I was asking exactly that question, I said to them, “What is the difference?” And they are very clear. So this is a really good thing to learn. That an interview, which is okay, everybody’s relaxed, everybody’s cool, and everybody’s non-threatening or aggressive, an interview, helping them with their inquiries, they’re just trying to figure out, what happened, what the sequence of events was, and what people’s motives were, and everything.

 

Antonio Garrido:

An interrogation is specifically designed to get you to incriminate yourself. That’s all they’re trying to do. All they’re trying to do is to get you to say something that’s against your best interest. We don’t want him to feel, he’s trapping me, he’s trying to get to the truth. Because if he feels that it’s an interrogation, he’s going to close down. So that’s why it’s important that we get permission to ask all of these questions, and it’s really simple, and it just sounds like this. And this is real early on. You shake hands, you say hello, you talk about the weather and the price of fish for about 30 seconds to two minutes. That’s all.

 

Antonio Garrido:

If you’ve got an hour’s meeting, and you’re still in bonding and rapport in 58 minutes, you’ve completely screwed this appointment up. So very soon after, you got to say a couple of things. You got to say, anyways, you get down to business, that doesn’t offend anybody. And then you say, “Before we get going…” And now, because everybody needs a because, so you say, “In order for me to see the world through your eyes, Will, is it going to be okay if I ask you a bunch of questions Some of them might be a little bit tricky, and some of them you might not want to answer, and that’s okay. But are you going to be comfortable with that?”

 

Antonio Garrido:

And then you’re going to ask the single most important single word in sales… Are you ready for it? Fair? Right? So when you say, “In order for me to see the world through your eyes, so I can maybe give you the best advice, figure out whether we might be a good fit or not, I’m going to have to ask you a bunch of questions. Some of them might be a little bit tricky, and some of them might be a little bit uncomfortable. In which case, just tell me, and we’ll move on. But are you going to be comfortable with that. Is that fair?”

 

“People agree to “fair” because we are programmed for fairness. When you say, “fair, are you comfortable with that, does that make sense, is that all right, is that okay,” people agree. And once they’ve agreed to answer a bunch of questions, now you’ve got permission to ask questions. So now when you’re asking questions, he’s not thinking, this is like a bloody interrogation.” – Antonio Garrido · [31:32] 

 

Antonio Garrido:

People agree to fair, because we are programmed for fairness. When you say, fair, you’re comfortable with that, does that make sense, is that all right, is that okay, people agree. And once they’ve agreed to answer a bunch of questions, now you’ve got permission to ask questions. So now when you’re asking questions, he’s not thinking, this is like a bloody interrogation. Does that make sense?

 

Will Barron:

That makes total sense. That’s really useful, because… Anyway. Probably would have been a bad question for me to ask at the top of the show, but it was at the back of my mind of, how do we get… Because it’s almost like, literally, physically, in the room, we want to be on the same side of the desk, sat next to them, don’t we, going through this, as opposed to sat opposite them, if we were to visualise it that way. Not very quickly and succinctly, puts us in that side by side partner, or consultative position, right?

 

Antonio Garrido:

[inaudible 00:32:23]. So to answer your previous question, so now that we’ve done that… I don’t want to say a move because that feels like a technique. But now that we have that explicit agreement, comes back to your question earlier, so now… Because you said how do ask all of these questions. Now that you’ve been given permission to ask questions, then ask away. Make sure they’re smart questions, because you’re going to have planned that upfront. Make sure the smart questions, not dumb questions. Because if you ask a dumb question, do you go up in his estimation or down? But if you ask a smart question, do you go up or down, you go up.

 

Antonio Garrido:

So I’m perfectly okay. If I ask a prospect a question, and he says this… In fact, on my pre-call plan, my objective is to get him to say three times, “Man, that’s a good question.” Or, “Oh my God, that’s such a good question.” Or, “I have no idea.” If I can get him to think in a different way… We call it pattern interrupt, we’re interrupting the pattern. We’re not being like all of our competitors. So if I can get him to go, “Man, that’s a good question,” and mentally work hard, I’m becoming this trusted adviser, this equal business stature, I’m becoming not like any of my competitors.

 

“If you don’t differentiate yourself by how you behave, then the only way you can be differentiated is by price. And that’s the worst thing. So write this down, anybody listening, different is better than better. Different is better than better. I want you to be different from your competitors, so he’s (the prospect) not looking for a better price.” – Antonio Garrido · [33:37] 

 

Antonio Garrido:

If you don’t differentiate yourself from your competitors by how you behave… I’ll say this slowly for everybody to write this down. If you don’t differentiate yourself by how you behave, then the only way you can be differentiated is by what? Price. And that’s the worst thing. So write this down, anybody listening, different is better than better. Different is better than better. I want you to be different from your competitors, so he’s not looking for a better price.

 

Antonio’s Thoughts on the Things Will Could do Better to Make the Podcast More Intriguing · [34:10] 

 

Will Barron:

Love it. And I’ve got to ask this, and this may be funny for the audience, and feel free to break my heart with this, Antonio. But is there anything that I’ve done with my questions, and this interview, that could be better, that could have changed, that really sucked, and I shouldn’t have done, from your opinion, and things?

 

Antonio Garrido:

How could I possibly answer that without you getting upset?

 

Will Barron:

I may get upset, but I’ll get over it.

 

Antonio Garrido:

What I just did to you then was quite a sophisticated reverse, which is like, how do you tell someone they’ve got an ugly baby? It’s tricky, because people don’t want… So what you do is you say, “Well, can I say something without you getting upset?” So I said, “How can I say that without you getting upset?” And you said, “Bring it on.” So you’ve now given me permission to say something potentially a little bit painful. So that’s called a universal yes, when you ask a question where the answers is… I’m going to answer your question, by the way. So let me give you a couple more examples of that, and then I will answer your question. So if I said to a prospect, like, sign, huff and puff, and you put my hand on my chest and say, “Hey Will, can I tell you my biggest fear?” What’s the other guy going to say?

 

Will Barron:

Sure.

 

Antonio Garrido:

Well, I was thinking about this meeting on the way over today, do you want to know what I was thinking?

 

Will Barron:

Yes.

 

Antonio Garrido:

You got 30 seconds for a super quick story?

 

Will Barron:

Yes. Why not?

 

Antonio Garrido:

So these are universal yeses, where you get permission to say the thing that you want to say. So you said to me could I have done anything better? Yeah. So I’m going to say you could have read the book, because at the end of my book… And maybe, again, people that are listening are going to go, “They bloody planned this.” There’s a free link to a tool with 125 really smart questions. So if I were you, I’d have a look at that list, and I would pick the five or six that you think are the… Because you’ve asked me lovely, easy, soft questions. So when you’re-

 

Will Barron:

But we’re battling, right? There’s nothing on the line here. It’s either you’re trying to win, so I don’t feel like I need to build trust review. Because you’re a very pleasant guy. If you’re a bit of an asshole, the show just doesn’t go out, and you’ve wasted your time, and you wasted mine.

 

Antonio Garrido:

[inaudible 00:36:44]-

 

Will Barron:

So-

 

Antonio Garrido:

… I didn’t was possible. I would have been even nicer.

 

The Type of Questions Antonio Believes Make for Exceptional Conversations · [37:17] 

 

Will Barron:

But I’m trying to put it into context here, because I’m going to ask you a question to wrap things up with. So this is a bit of a different dynamic for me to kind of… There’s a few interviews. There’s an interview with Jordan Belfort, Wolf of Wall Street fame, didn’t go out, because we didn’t get on. And I pushed him, and he tried to push me back, and it was just awkward. It was a weird hour of my time that I’ll never get back. And there’s been very few other interviews like that. So this is a weird one to use as an example, but with all that said, in context for the audience, what questions would, then, out of these 120 odd questions, would you suggest that I should have been using in this interview?

 

Antonio Garrido:

Well, I think maybe, what are the five or six best questions, maybe would have been a good question, for most people that… Because people listening, I’m hoping, are taking… I don’t know if they listen, eating breakfast, and maybe taking notes, or driving in the car, or… So things like, what’s the what’s the single most important question, which is like, can I get permission to ask lots of questions? Maybe we could have done, tell me what never to ask, which is what we sometimes get asked, what should we ask? But I have to say largely, genuinely, I’ve enjoyed all of your questions. I think they’ve certainly helped your listener get a really good understanding, I think.

 

Will Barron:

You didn’t need to stroke my ego. It was a genuine question I was asking.

 

Antonio Garrido:

No, no. And that’s genuine answer. Because the reality is, in an hour, you can only go an inch deep and a mile wide, right?

 

Will Barron:

Yeah.

 

Antonio Garrido:

And so we haven’t got too bogged down in any particular area, which I think is useful.

 

Will and Antonio Go Through the Most Important Parts of Asking the Right Questions · [38:33]

 

Will Barron:

[inaudible 00:38:33]. I appreciate that. Yeah, I’m always trying to get… I’m less worried about specific questions when we do shows like these. I’m more interested in the frameworks, and there’s couple things that I picked up in here, of not being attached to the outcome changes every question you ask. When you are willing to walk out of the room, immediately, you’re elevated over everyone else who’s going to suck up to the individual and do all that bonding, which reduces their ability… This is the other thing I picked up from this conversation, Antonio, of, if we’ve got the ability to ask 10 great questions and they’ve only got the time to ask four, because they’re soaking up at the beginning of the conversation, we’re already miles ahead of these individuals, aren’t we?

 

Antonio Garrido:

Miles ahead. The interesting point you just make is, most of our, let’s say, non-question, alert sales guy, so the BS, jazz hands, push, push, push sales guy, they actually ask a lot more questions. They ask like, how long you been here? Is that your selfish? Are those your grandchildren? How long have you been in this office? What markets do you operate in? Who are your biggest competitors? They ask a lot more very superficial questions. So they’ll ask, maybe, 30 dumb questions, where I would rather we ask six really smart questions.

 

Antonio’s Advise to His Younger Self on How to Become Better at Selling · [39:50]

 

Will Barron:

Good. That’s a good thing to end the show on and leave the audience with. And with that, Antonio, I’ve got one final question that I ask everyone that comes on the show, and that is, if you could go back in time and speak to your younger self, what would be the one piece of advice you’d give him about selling that would help him become incredible at sales, but it can’t be anything to do with, I guess, question-based skills, or anything like that?

 

Antonio Garrido:

I think I would say learn a sales process, figure out a sales process. It doesn’t have to be my process, I’m not trying to sell my process. Every buyer has a process, every single one. If you don’t have your sales process, you are obliged to follow their buying process. That serves them well but not you well. Because like in the buyer-seller dance, if you don’t know how to dance, who leads the dance? The other guy. So learn, become a ninja, find a sales process you like, and become a bloody black belt ninja at that process. Because most sales processes are good. I think ours is terrific, of course, but learn a process. I would have sold billions, with a B, more, if I’d have learned a process, I’d learned our process earlier. And obviously, I’ve got to say, learn to ask better questions.

 

Parting Thoughts · [41:02]

 

Will Barron:

Good stuff. Well, with that, tell us a little bit more about the book, where we can find it, and then where we can find out more about you, as well, Antonio.

 

Antonio Garrido:

Well, you can find the book in lots of great places. So it’s Asking Questions the Sandler Way, S-A-N-D-L-E-R, the Sandler way. Check out LinkedIn, check out my website, www dot… Does anybody say that anymore? Just absolute.sandler.com, LinkedIn, or send me an email on [email protected] And if anybody wants to send me an email to [email protected], I will send them a free chapter of the book. And if you like it, you can buy it, give me a five-star review on Amazon. And if you don’t like it, no harm, no foul, but you can have a free chapter of the book. How’s that?

 

Will Barron:

Good stuff. Well, I’ll link to all that in the show notes for this episode over at salesman.org. With that, Antonio, I appreciate it. [inaudible 00:41:54] really enjoyed the conversation.

 

Antonio Garrido:

[inaudible 00:41:55].

 

Will Barron:

Thank you for joining us on The Salesman Podcast.

 

Antonio Garrido:

Thanks very much. Keep rocking. Thanks, Will. (silence).

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