Salespeople are often maligned, with quick associations to schiesters, peddlers, and a number of other less attractive descriptors. The reality, however, is that the world is far better off with salespeople than without them.
While many have written about the economic value of the sales function, I'd like to focus on an attribute that is less observed and of equal or greater value.
Oftentimes it is a salesperson, and only a salesperson, that is in a position to be able to ask an important question. Anyone who knows me knows just how much I value a good question.
Questions are far more powerful than answers. The mind cannot ignore a question ( it can choose to avoid or not answer a question, but it cannot ignore it). Answers, however, can be easily ignored.
Take a moment an think about the major breakthroughs in your life. How many of those breakthroughs were the result of a question you were pondering? In my experience, virtually every breakthrough is the result of pondering, often subconsciously, a question.
While there is no shortage of answers, there is a tremendous need for good, powerful questions. If you want to improve your performance, you must first find better questions to be answering.
It is here where salespeople are indispensable. Good salespeople are conduits to answers. Coming from outside an organization, salespeople are in the unique position to be able to ask questions that virtually no one else could. When a salesperson has am opportunity to ask a powerful question and doesn't, they are doing a disservice to both their employer and their customer.
So for all the salespeople who read this blog, make sure you never miss an opportunity to ask a meaningful question - [even if it makes your customer uncomfortable]. To all the executives reading this blog, if the salespeople you are dealing with aren't asking powerful questions (whether you are buying from them or they work for you), find ones that do - you'll be far better off as a result.