Home Thinking Aloud Time’s Up! What Do You Really Want?

Time’s Up! What Do You Really Want?


by John Baker, author of “The Asking Formula – Ask For What You Want And Get It

If you are like most sales managers, when it comes down to it, you are downright scared of being direct and to the point and telling people in no uncertain terms, “Here’s what I want!”

Think about it. There’s a conspiracy that encourages people to bury their most important wants and desires. Marketing trainers use consultative selling to draw people out. Social media consultants say “Asking directly is suicide!” People hem and the haw and they even are afraid to ask you what they want to ask you the most. They feel vulnerable about being honest and up-front. It petrifies even the best of us!

Yet when it comes to being successful in business, being frank, open and clearly asking people to give you what you want is what wins the day.

The world would be a better place if marketers were totally up front and said “I’m selling windows today; are you buying?”

Very simply, the most successful people ask for what they want. Then they give the three very best reasons that explain why it makes perfect sense to say yes.

Here’s an example.

A sales manager is frustrated with his direct reports. He needs a way to get them to focus on three specific clients so that they can ask them to do something specific to move things forward. How does he get them to ask for what they need?

Even experienced people, young and old are often stumped over asking someone for exactly what they want. They stumble and bumble their way through touchy feely talk about their hobbies, the weather, their pets, family or weekend plans, anything but what they are really after.

Oh sure, all sorts of experts tell you that it’s important to build a relationship, or you have to draw out the prospect, or listen for buying clues, and any number of other items, but the crucial, bottom line issue is that they never get around to asking the big question.

Yet the quickest and best way to ask for the order is to go right up to your people and say:

“Would you please do this for me? I want you to call three clients and ask each of them what you need to do to move things forward. I want you to see what will happen. You’ll ask them what they need, you’ll find out the answer, and you’ll then get to give them what they need and we’ll have a sale or we’ll know what it’s going to take for us to get one.”

It is crucial to identify the exact most important request, and brainstorm before you decide on the best reasons. Each reason needs to be carefully selected from a larger number of options and be backed by three important facts.

It’s about that easy, and the power of this strategy is more than a little amazing. Baker has shown that this method can be successfully used to penetrate difficult accounts, close difficult sales calls, shorten a sales cycle, protect price margins, reduce meeting time, speed up Powerpoint presentations, structure personnel reviews, sales letters, company communications with suppliers, corporate memos and even email messages.

What’s more it is proven to be quite helpful in corporate and business personal interactions with personnel, especially with supervisors and staff.

And it really helps if you put your money here your mouth is:

“Let’s implement the plan as follows. Email me the names of your top three top clients by the end of the day. First thing tomorrow morning, you ask them the question. Identify and record the answers and what happens. We’ll meet at 10 AM and discuss the results and lessons learned. I bet this will improve sales success, and we’ll even make sure that it all happens by noon!”

Conversations are clearer and there is less misunderstanding and I earn lots of points for being thoughtful.

My formula has three key rules:

  1. Only offer information that is meaningful. The rest is trivial.
  2. Get to the point and ask for what it is you want.
  3. Be quick about it.

Building a relationship is great, but over-doing it turns you into a nuisance. The biggest problem with consultative selling, for example, is that it gets in the way of the selling. It’s technique overload. It targets intimacy over decorum. It allows for procrastination. It enables salespeople to avoid rejection. After all, if you are busy probing the needs of the prospect you don’t have to risk asking for the sale.

Can you image a vendor at a ballpark consultatively selling you a hot dog: “On a 1 – 10 scale rate your level of discomfort with your hunger?” “Tell me your main objective with the hot dog?” “When you had a hot dog before, how satisfied were you with the mustard and ketchup ratio?”

Isn’t he more effective when he just yells:

“Hot dogs, hot dogs, come and get your hot dogs!”

Just give me the damn wiener!


John Baker is a veteran Fortune 25 management and leadership consultant and author of the new book “The Asking Formula – Ask For What You Want And Get It“.