Why I Hate "Asking for the Order"

Those of you with sales training know that one of the things they drill into you time and time and time again is to "ask for the order." For the uninitiated, this means that without asking the customer whether or not they want to buy your product, you assume they do (because you have answered their objections – the previous step) and ask a question like "when would you like delivery" or "what options would you like on your widget?" I hate it. Not only do I hate to do it, but I hate even more when it is done to me. Telemarketers are horrible at it. They call and give you their spiel and then say something like "now all we have to do to let you take advantage of this wonderful benefit is verify your name and address. Do you live at…" They do this without asking if you want their product or service. They just assume you do. My response is "look, I know you were trained to ask for the order, but please stop. I don't want your widget."

Now, some of you sales folks out there will probably swear up and down that this works, but I say it doesn't. Here's why. If you "ask for the order" and it works, then you have one of two things: a cutsomer who bought your product because he wanted it, or one who bought your product because you tricked them by asking for the order. In the first case, well I say they would have bought it without asking for the order. All you had to do was ask them if they want to buy or if they want to proceed. In the second case, you will get no repeat purchases from that customer because they don't want to deal with you anymore, so you got a short-term victory by giving up a long-term gain. That is never a good strategy.

Selling is about problem solving. If someone doesn't have a problem don't try to sell them your widget. Develop a widget that they need. Only sell to people who have a need for your product. If they don't realize they have a need, work on them to show them why, but don't keep asking for the order after every objection. You drive a buyer crazy.

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When the Comanche program was canceled this week, I had to laugh. It is a perfect example of how selling can hurt you. Part of the reason for the cancellation was that the cost of a helicopter had climbed from 12 million a piece to 59 million. Do you know why? Because the companies producing the Comanche had teams of people selling add-ons to the Army. These sales teams convinced the Army to keep adding stuff (I'm sure they asked for the order a jillion times) until the price got so high they lost the long-term contract. The companies were looking out for themselves, no the customer. (The argument will be made that the Army needed all the high tech add-ons, but in reality, working with a customer's budget should be your goal – they will thank you for it)

When I worked at Radio Shack in college, my manager harped on me to always step the customer up to the next level product. The reasoning was that by purchasing the more expensive product, the customer would be happier with the purchase once they got home. Yeah right. What really happened is that they refused to shop at Radio Shack again because of they got ripped off and spent more money than they intended. I threw their sales training out the window, and was the second highest salesman in my area. Why? Because people trusted me. I looked out for my customers and they came back. I sold them what best fit their needs, not what best fit mine. And that is what successful selling is all about.