Why do car salesmen have a bad reputation? Why do we hate those nagging telephone calls from strangers telling us to buy something? The reason, I believe, is that the sales techniques they use are impersonal and we often feel that something is being forced on us that we do not want or need.

The fact of the matter is that even if we do need the product or service that’s being promoted, we are so turned off by their  approach, that we can’t wait to escape from the conversation. We say, “I’m just looking, thank you” and hope to be left alone or we hang up. Quite simply, we don’t like being told what we need and what we should purchase. Most of us like to make our own buying decisions.

With that in mind, it is important for anyone who is promoting their own product or service to be aware of how they themselves feel when they are being sold to. Very often, we are so focused on selling the product or service we provide, that we don’t take the time to tailor our message to the potential buyer. We don’t take the time to ask the right questions to see if, in fact, this person needs what we have to sell. If we use one generic approach for all potential buyers, we will not make the necessary connection with the person to close the sale.

Asking questions is, of course, a great way to ascertain if there is a need for what we are selling. Open ended questions such as, “how?”, “when?”, “where?”, “what?”, “how much?” elicit the information we need. The process of asking questions, listening, and responding, creates the foundation for  a relationship and it is the relationship that is critical in the end to closing the sale. When a stranger tries to force us to buy something, we get agitated, defensive, and immediately put up a protective wall.

So maybe you’re not a car salesman. Maybe you’re an entrepreneur who must promote their services in order to grow their business. How does this apply to self-promotion? Do the same sales techniques apply when you are promoting yourself? Absolutely! When you are in a conversation and someone asks you what you do, you are certainly in the position to talk about your business and the benefits and value it provides for your clients. But how do you know if this person is a potential client unless you begin to ask them questions to get to know them better?

Remember how you feel when someone tries to sell to you. How do you feel when someone gives you a generic one-size –fits- all pitch? Ask questions that will help you get to know the person better. Ask questions to determine their need; their pain. Then deliver your own irresistible pitch so that they understand very clearly what you do and the energy and passion you have for your business. It may be that this person is not a potential client, but by establishing a relationship, you are setting the stage for referrals or even a future sale.