The Power of Questions, and Other Useful Sales Tips

Jun 24, 2013 by Prayson Pate

As a part of an Overture sales meeting in the summer of 2012, we had the speaker Marty Clarke ( address the team with some humorous thoughts on the sales process. Marty’s talk was aimed at senior salespeople, so it was beyond the basics of ABC (always be closing).  I found his material to be very interesting and useful. This blog describes some of his points.



  • There are three main values propositions that the sales person is presenting: himself, the company and the product offering. The first two are more important than the third.
  • The customer should be talking, not you. After he makes a statement, ask him “How do you mean?” to solicit more details.
  • Customer questions are a “buy sign”. When you get one, answer it, and then politely follow up with “Why do you ask?” The response will give you valuable insight into their thoughts.
  • Ask a customer the following question: “If you looked back on this deal as the homerun for this year because of A, B and C, what are A, B and C?” Usually items A and B will be price and service. Item C is the one that will really reveal their thinking.
  • When you visit a customer, they will usually offer you something to drink. Take the drink! Getting the chance to go into the break room is a great opportunity to build rapport with the prospect.
  • At the end of each session of questions by the TV detective Columbo, he would start to leave and then stop and ask: “Oh – just one more question”. This would often be the key question of the interview. Do the same at the end of a meeting. Actually start to leave, and then stop and ask “Oh – just one more question. Do you see any red flags?” This will often catch the prospect with their defenses down, and will elicit useful info.
  • When you have an account that goes quiet or is not moving forward, ask them “What if you did nothing?” This can either help them reach a sense of urgency, or help you disqualify the account.
  • Beware the rambling voice mail with the “mach speed” phone number at the end.
  • Spell check is the enemy. It will happily allow many foolish and damaging words to pass. Marty gave one example of a rising star who sent an email to a large distribution that said “Are you free at 2:00? We need to talk love.” Clearly a career-limiting move.

About the Author

Prayson Pate is Chief Technologist and co-founder at Overture. Prayson is a technology evangelist with a proven track record leading teams and delivering products. Since 1983 he has been building Carrier Ethernet and telecom products for service providers and network operators around the world - both as an individual developer and as a leader of development teams. Prayson spends much of his time driving adoption of Overture's new Ensemble Open Service Architecture, which includes aspects of automation, virtualization, SDN and NFV. He has a BSEE from Duke, an MSECE from NC State and is the holder of nine US patents.
Follow Prayson on twitter: @praysonpate


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