Imagine that you go to see a medical specialist because you feel there is something wrong with your health. You walk into the doctor’s office and he welcomes you with these words: “Glad to see you. Let me tell you about the wonderful special we have this week on heart medication. You are going to love it!”

“How can he recommend something before he even knows what’s wrong with me?” you would think. And you probably would not take this doctor’s advice very seriously. But if he had first taken the time to ask you questions and do a proper diagnosis, you would be far more likely to listen to him. Right?

Well, it’s exactly the same when you’re selling your product or service: Your prospect wants to feel that you understand his situation and that you will recommend something that will be genuinely helpful to him.

In order to do that, you need to become a “gap” detective. In other words, you need to know:

1.  Your client’s actual situation … right now.

2. Your client’s ideal situation.

Once you know those two things, you have a “window of opportunity” to make a sale. You focus on the “gap” between where your client is and where he would like to be. And you then show him how he can close that gap by buying your product or service.

Let’s say you are a personal trainer, like my friend Joe.

His client’s ideal situation is to have a better looking body, have more energy, lose weight, tone up, feel better about himself, look good, and so on. His client’s actual situation right now is having a body he is not happy with, feeling unhappy with his physical condition, being overweight, tired, lacking energy, not looking good, and so on.

Identifying that gap gives Joe a window of opportunity. He can then help his client close the gap by explaining how his personal training services will move him from his actual situation toward his ideal situation.

Here’s another example:

I do a lot of work for a company that sells investment property.

In this case, the ideal situation for one of their clients might be to have a substantial nest egg so he can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle when he stops working.

But the client’s actual situation is that though he has a good income, he has very little money saved. And he is very concerned about having enough money to live well when he retires.

The window of opportunity for the investment company is to show the client how their services can help him own property that will create the nest egg and comfortable retirement he wants.

As a salesperson, your natural temptation is to talk – to tell your potential client how good your products and services really are. But this does not help you find the gap between where he is right now and where he wants to be. It’s only by asking questions – and listening carefully to the answers – that you will find your window of opportunity.

1: Ask questions about your client’s actual situation right now.

2: Ask questions about your client’s ideal situation.

3: Ask questions that give you more detail (especially emotional detail) on his answers to 1 & 2.

When you think you understand his gap clearly in your own mind, explain it to him to make sure he agrees with you:

“John, from what you’ve told me so far, it seems your biggest concern right now is X. And, ideally, what you want to achieve by using my services is Y. The reasons you want to do this are a, b & c. Is that the way you see things as well?”

You will then be in an excellent position to make recommendations that your client will trust.

No matter what you sell, your customer is always looking to be “better off” in some way by buying it. In other words, he wants to move from the actual situation he is in right now toward the ideal situation he wants to be in.

The clearer you are on his ideal situation, the easier it will be to position your product or service as a way to help him achieve it.

And the way to do that is to ask questions … listen carefully to the answers … and identify the “gap” between where your prospect is right now and where he really wants to be. That is your “window of opportunity.”

(Ed. Note: Graham McGregor is a sales and marketing consultant who has personally sold products and services in over a dozen industries. He has helped dozens of organizations and hundreds of salespeople increase their sales by using simple yet effective sales improvement strategies. Graham is the author of ETR’s Double-Your-Income Sales Program. This brand-new program will show you how to use his proven sales strategies to double your current income, regardless of your occupation.)

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