Your one mission – should you choose to accept it – on every sales call is not to abide by that age-old (and very well-worn) cliche:

Always be closing.

That, to be frank, is terrible advice. We are not car, or vacuum or snake oil salesmen. This is the 21st century! Customers don’t react and respond to sales tactics that might have worked in 1965. Sales reps must adapt to changing buying habits and adjust their sales call missions accordingly. What should sales reps really be focusing on with every sales call they make?

Gathering information.

Craft a full picture of the buyer

You might know what your Ideal Customer Profile looks like – for example, Sales VPs at companies with between 5 and 50 sales reps – but that doesn’t mean that every buyer looks exactly like that. Because of that uncertainty, sales reps need to help fill in the blanks on discovery calls, and that’s where their mission – to gather as much information as possible – comes in.

Think about the job a police sketch artist does, when trying to identify a possible perpetrator. They will sit down with witnesses to ask questions and get as many details as possible – some scant, others more explicit and clear – so that they can use their skills to draw a lifelike picture of who they’re looking for. “What color hair did he have? Any tattoos or scars? Did he have a crooked scar? Was he missing teeth?” The more details the sketch artist can extract, by asking probing questions, the better his picture will be.

Why this works (and why pushiness doesn’t)

We have two ears and one mouth, so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

- Epicetus

One mistake traditional sales reps make is talking too much on sales calls, and not allowing the buyer to get a word in. The modern buyer is naturally wary of being sold to; that’s why the cliched pushy, aggressive salesperson will instantly cause the buyer to raise their guard and be turned off. Nobody wants sales reps to “features-and-benefits” them to death.

Instead, sales reps must be consultative and treat each sales call as a fact-finding mission, with them serving as the intrepid explorer. By asking questions and talking the potential buyer through their problems and your possible solution, you can help them find their own way. The more they talk and articulate the day-to-day challenges they face, the more resonant their own pains will be. Once they feel that pain, they will come to their own realization that they might actually need your product. That self-realization is much more powerful than when reps twist the buyers’ arm into buying.


Asking lots of probing questions and allowing the buyer to talk more and reveal information about themselves and their pain points is the key to a successful sales call. To get to that point, it’s important to play the part of the police sketch artist and accept your one mission on every sales call; gather as much information as possible. Good luck!

Recent Posts