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4 ways to get better at asking

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Selling well requires that you ask for — and obtain — commitments from buyers. As salespeople, we move from one commitment to the next, from target to close. If you’re going to gain those commitments, you’re going to have to ask for them. Here are four ways to get better at asking:

1. Tie your asking to future value creation. One way to improve your ability to gain a commitment is to focus on the future value you’re going to create. What will your clients get out of granting you the commitment you ask for? If you were to ask for access to their decision-influencers, how would that benefit them? If you were to ask for access to information, how would giving you that information help them? By justifying your asking, you make it easier for your dream clients to give you the commitment you need. (As a side note, if it’s early in the sales process, the best way to create value is to give them information and ideas they can use, regardless of whether they choose you or one of your competitors. This makes it easy for them to say yes later. If it’s late in the sales process, show them that you alone can create the kind of value that you’re describing and differentiate yourself from your competitors in a way that’s compelling.)

2. Earn a commitment before you ask. The more value you create during each sales interaction, the more you earn the right to ask for the commitment you need. If it’s early in the sales process and you help your dream clients with ideas that benefit them, you make it easier to gain a commitment to move forward. But the opposite is also true. The less valuable you are during each sales interaction, the more difficult it is for you to ask for the commitment you need. If you haven’t earned those commitments, they will not be forthcoming. Do the work necessary to deserve the commitment you’re asking for.

3. Practice asking. You get a lot better at asking if you practice. The more you practice asking, the more comfortable you will be with the words coming out your mouth and the easier it will be for you to ask. Most salespeople don’t do this. They’re too shy. They’re too embarrassed. They don’t think they need to practice. But the rewards are high for those brave souls who rehearse the words and practice the language. You might practice with a group of your peers. If your group is game, you might be brave enough to critique one another and offer suggestions. You might also get the opportunity to listen to the language other salespeople use and steal some of it to use in your own sales interactions. If you want to get better at anything faster, practice. If you don’t have enough opportunities to practice in real-life sales interactions, rehearsing with your peers is a great substitute.

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4. Remember that you’re in sales. Don’t worry about being “sales-y.” Guess what? You’re in sales. Your dream clients already know you’re a salesperson. They have known that since the moment you called and asked for the appointment. Instead of worrying about being sales-y, worry about the above points. If you can tie your asking to future value creation, if you can create value during every sales interaction and if you can rehearse the language, you can be very comfortable asking directly for the commitment you need.

You’re in sales. And selling is a game of obtaining commitments. So do what you need to do to become comfortable asking for those commitments.

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Anthony Iannarino is the managing director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, a boutique sales coaching and consulting company, and an adjunct faculty member at Capital University’s School of Management and Leadership. For more information, go