Don’t just jump into pitching! Ask questions first

Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus is a name you don’t hear often, except outside of the Punic War. He’s famously known for ‘Fabian Tactics’ in the Roman’s War against Carthage. Essentially, he was famous for only fighting battles when they had an overwhelming advantage. All other times, he would avoid the Carthaginian army until they were on favourable ground.


I hear you saying “Owen, why are you bringing up this history lesson?” To which, I say hold on! Give me a minute. Point is, he focused on his best chance of winning and so should you.


Don’t pitch until you know what matters to them

Don’t just jump straight into pitching, because you don’t yet know why they took the meeting. First, find out by asking questions. What questions, I hear you ask? Here are some general ones which might be a useful start:

  • I know we reached out to you initially, but what made you want to take the meeting?
  • What’s prompted this review of your supplier? What brings me here today?
  • I noticed that you enquired via our webchat, did you have a specific question that you were looking for an answer to?
  • In this meeting I was hoping to find out a bit more about what you want, then I can let you know how we fit. Is there anything else you’d want to chat about?

Get Fabian: Ask questions to uncover pain and where you can help most

Essentially, you want to ask questions where the answers will neatly lead to why you’re the best fit ever for them. You ever heard of Sandler Sales Training? They do a really good ‘Pain Funnel’ which helps guide Prospects to uncover the extent of their pain.

Check out the blog they did on finding pain here


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How to avoid getting thrown off course

Conversations are by their very nature, dynamic and fluid. Topics can and do easily change from one sentence to the next. In the back of your mind, look beneath their actual words to the underlying meaning;

“Instead of hearing they’re speaking, listen to the meaning of those words. What are they actually saying?

Now that might sound wishy-washy to some, but it’s vital to see the intent behind their words in addition to the content. Regardless of the words being said, keep in mind at all times “What points are we both actually saying?” This helps you not get lost in the semantics of words and keep the conversational course on track.

Getting back on track

Another quick point to make is when they start with a question that encourages you to pitch. What do you do? Here are some examples:

“So, how much do you charge?”

“Tell me what you do”

“How are you different from our current supplier?”

On one hand, you need to acknowledge the content of their question. But on the other, you need to understand that they don’t necessarily want to talk pricing right now, it’s their way of moving the conversation toward a business chat.

To think strategically, don’t get caught up or flustered, just follow this 3 step process to get the conversation back on track;

  • One sentence answer – Give a ONE OR TWO sentence answer to their question
  • I want to answer more fully – Explain that you want to answer in further depth, but to do that you just need to know something more
  • Ask a question – Ask your question

For example “How much do you charge?”

  • One sentence answer – Absolutely, our pricing is competitive and is easily worked out by getting an idea of the time and the people needed.
  • I want to answer more fully – To figure this out, I just need to know a little more about the design/requirements of your current supplier.
  • Ask a question – Tell me, do they [Ask a relevant question which helps you provide a fuller answer to their question]

Well-placed questions mean the difference between winning and losing

So this is all lovely, but what does it mean? If like Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, you find out the best possible ground to win on, then your chances of winning increase dramatically. By using questioning to find out the source of problems before you explain your solution, you’re choosing the best way to position yourself.

For example, if a customer needs reliable delivery and you harp on about cheap price, you’re not going to be as effective. If you pay close attention to the intent behind their words and their underlying message, you can become more aware of what they’re really looking from a supplier. As such, you can give more relevant answers to their questions and this increases your chances of winning the contract.


B2B Telemarketing Bristol

Park Row Marketing are a local lead generation agency with a global reach. We do this stuff a lot for clients. Owen himself helps design sales processes and manages the monthly sales coaching meetings with clients, as you can see from his recommendations here.

Are you looking for some help in lining up qualified leads? We do Pay-Per-Lead Web Chat, B2B Telemarketing Bristol and Sales Coaching. Why not get in touch to find out how we can help grow your business?