A college professor went to visit a Zen master to find out about enlightenment. During the conversation, the professor went on and on, sharing his knowlege. The Zen master went to fetch tea for the two of them. As he was filling the professor's cup, he kept on pouring after the cup was full, until it overflowed onto the table, and onto the professor. Shocked, the professor asked the Zen master, "What are you doing, you're getting tea all over me!" Nonplussed, the Zen master calmly replied, "you are like this cup, full of knowledge. In order to receive anything new, the cup must first become empty."
In order to be of true service to our prospects and clients through the sales process, it is imortant for us to learn as much about them as we can. We must learn about their aims and goals. We must learn about their expectations of us, and of our product or service. We must learn about their decision process, and their budget. Ultimately, we must learn how they like to be sold.
Like the college professor in the story, each of us has all kinds of prior assumptions that we bring to our relationships, even when we have never made contact with this person before. In order to be successful, we must become like an empty cup. We must become genuinely curious about this person we are dealing with. This entails asking questions, and listening to the answers. In addition, we must never allow our curiosity to be easily satisfied. The first answer to any question is rarely, if ever, the true or complete answer to the question. We must be thirsty for this knowlege which will allow us to win "100 victories in 100 battles." We must be willing to go one more step and ask one more follow up question, until we reach an answer that has the ring and weight of that person's truth. The other person may not even think that they know the truth of their situation, but through a genuine dialogue, mutual discovery can occur.
In asking questions, we must be mindful of our own intent. We can ask a question from three basic positions:
- We can ask a question in such a way that it is a true invitation to explore, an open process of discovery. If this is done in integrity, the open space created between us will elicit some truth from the other person, and they will feel connected to us.
- We can ask a question in such a way that it is a demand or some form of manipulation. Usually, in this case, we are striving for some specific answer that we have predetermined as valuable, ahead of time. This approach may be successful, in the short term, but will not help to build the type of relationship with the other person that leads to success in the longer term.
- Thirdly, we can ask a question from rote, as if we are reading from a script. This gives the person no feeling that we have any real interest in them or their situation.