Sales is about decisions, thus master questions and get better decisions.
Despite all the science, the input of experts and top producers, the majority of salespeople still create more resistance, objections and price wars by focusing on product!
In the past decade psychology has examined the decision/buying process of people and the science does not support the old sales approaches. In fact, much of the research by Dr. Eric Knowles *and his associates find that most sales approaches actually build up resistance, cause objections and focus the sale on price.
So what is a salesperson to do?
Answer: Master the ability to lead decisions through questioning! This eliminates most resistance, minimizes objections and reduces the importance of price.
The challenge is understanding what this skill really is, how it works and how to implement it. The balance of this section will provide an example of how this powerful tool could be applied.

The abbreviated scenario: Susan sells for Novac, a software developer and has an appointment with Richard, president of a growing service company. Underlined phrases are cues to decision making and motivation, yet missed by most salespeople. Each could be a five-minute conversation.
Susan opens up with a few pleasantries and local news that Richard has been involved with. (She verifies his community commitment through this.)
"Richard, you have been very successful over the years, so I would assume you have some very specific future objectives for the organization and yourself. Would you share those with me? (This creates the future picture and reference for decision-making)
"Of course, the next five years are critical for efficiency and productivity with the growth goals we have. We see 60% growth the next two years through better management of what we have along with some sales growth, but the internal efficiencies are the main focus."
"Richard, that is very interesting, what causes this type of focus now and how does it impact future goals?" (Clarify and probe deeper, the picture is not clear yet)
"The real objective in five years is 300% growth through acquisition, increased sales and market share. We have talks going on right now, but we want our infrastructure to be solid and not be a roadblock when the acquisitions come about. I've seen too many grow too fast and have the infrastructure pull them down, because it was not up to par."
"I want to get this right Richard, your major focus is developing your infrastructure and effectiveness in preparation for some massive growth three to five years from now, to prevent failures you have seen in other organizations?" (Clarifies the picture for both and cements it in the customers mind)
"That is absolutely on target, we'll need all our efforts going into other areas when the acquisitions occur and building infrastructure is not one of them."
"How would you describe the difference between what you want in place two years from now and what you have in place today?" (Establishes the current day situation and creates a gap between the have and the want)
"Susan that is the real issue. We have some real inefficiencies that are limiting our capacity to perform at the levels we need. We are not getting the information to the right people on time, workflow is cumbersome and time consuming, staff overtime is out of control. If we put any more load on them now it will implode, so acquisition right now is out of the question."
"I see Richard, what action are you currently taking to address these issues?" (Probe deeper into the situation, causes more vivid gap)
"Well that is one issue we are struggling with. Right now we are isolating all the issues and defining them so solutions can be created. It is tough with the overload the staff has right now to really get this done effectively. This is probably our biggest barrier."
"Assuming this continues as is Richard, what might be the outcome?" (Probe to create a greater gap and loss, third probe on same issue.)
"I really don't want to think about that. We have a lot riding on these acquisitions for both parties and if we are not ready, the acquisitions will most likely disappear from the table. It wouldn't kill our company, but it would cost us potential millions in lost revenues."

"I can see how important this is and why your focus is on infrastructure. What do you feel are the two key things that need to change today to get you on track?" (Gap is established; now establish what changes are needed from customers view)
"That is a good question! I think clarifying the real issues so we can work on them. Second, finding the best solution to address the issues in the quickest fashion."
"So who should be working on this or be accountable for these steps?" (Note how this puts accountability on customer)
"That is probably my biggest barrier, the staff is maxed, the systems seem maxed and we are not getting the problems identified. I think we need some outside help to get this done."
Emotional Value:
"Richard, you obviously have a lot at stake here personally, how would not attain the two and five year outcomes affect you as president?" (Probing for emotional buying, motivation to take action)
"That would not be a desired outcome for me or the company. Personally, I feel the opportunity to grow is perfect right now and we may not have this great an opportunity later. Succeeding would surpass any dreams I had of what this company could be when I started it and give the employees and me a very bright future. The reality is we need to make this work as best we can."

Willing to Do:
"Thank you for the candor Richard. Let's assume there is a solution to both identifying the issues and addressing them. What actions are you and the company willing to take today if such a solution existed?" (This puts the action on the customer, not the salesperson; the customer has to make these choices at some point)
"If the right solution were here today I would be acting on it. We need to address this quickly or lose opportunity. I know it, my team knows it and so does the staff. I believe it would relive a lot of tension and stress so we could focus on the solutions instead of band aids."
Conceptual Agreement:
"Just to clarify our conversation Richard; the capacity to identify issues and implement solutions is key, yet your current staff does not have the capacity to address this and an outside solution should be implemented as soon as possible. Is this how you see it?" (Clarifies the interview, obtains an agreement on the decision to act)
"Absolutely Susan, I hope you have something for us!"
"I do Richard; do you feel ready to commit to the solution provided it can be implemented effectively and meet your two year goal?" (Getting a conceptual agreement, or Yes IF)
"If you can do that Susan, we're in!"
Summary – Review:
Now Susan can provide her solution with targeted pinpoint accuracy to address all the issues Richard has exposed. She has a commitment that Richard will act provided Susan can perform.
Let's recap what is happening
1. By starting with the outcomes desired, we create a hopefully and positive environment. We also establish a high reference point for the decisions and choices to be compared to. Without reference point's decisions are not made.
2. Once we have the future picture and reference point established we now establish the current situation. The greater the "gap" between the future and today the greater the action possibilities. Also the gap creates a sense of loss or potential loss of something they want.
3. The reality is, the customer has to make changes in order to purchase a product. By having them think through the changes needed they address potential objections and resistance. They have thought through these barriers and created solutions rather than the salesperson trying to solve them.
4. Emotion is what drives all choices, whether we are aware of these emotions or not. Having the customer think though their motivations attaches the emotion and makes the customer aware of the emotion, rather than creating a hidden objection.
5. Ultimately, it is up to the customer to take action and make choices. By asking about these choices, the customer takes full ownership and responsibility for the decision or non-decision.

Please note, this is all about the customer, their situation and what the customer is willing to do. The salesperson is a facilitator in helping them through the decision process. WHERE IS THE PRODUCT!
Because of the limits in size of this article, the conversation is limited, yet the basic concepts are exhibited. Just remember, persuasion is not about you, it's about what the other person perceives!
*Dr. Eric Knowles – Resistance & Persuasion
HG :)

Author's Bio: 

Harlan is a results oriented, high creative that is driven by obtaining positive outcomes. Having been in sales of some sort since the age of 10, he understands the challenges of sales and business. After successfully growing a family Agricultural operation by 300% and operating several other business ventures with growth in the 400% area. Harlan began a 20 year career with Dale Carnegie Associates of New York. As a regional manager he successfully trained a team of sales people and develop many successful trainers for the organization.