02/08/2013 12:45 BST | Updated 01/10/2013 06:12 BST

Dummies Sell More

These 3 phrases will close more business than anything you've said before:

  • "Help me understand..."
  • "I think i'm a bit confused here..."
  • "Can I check I've got this right?"

How does it work? Read on...

Get information, don't give it

In a typical sales meeting or pitch scenario you answer every question, try and dazzle the prospect with your expertise, and may even give away free consulting - all because you're worried that if you don't you'll look stupid.

But here's the amazing thing - 'dummies' sell more. Why? Because:

  • Letting your prospect do most of the talking will get them to share their wants and needs (and avoid you pitching them the wrong thing)
  • When they talk they are engaged in the conversation, they feel like they're buying rather than being sold to (people LOVE the former but HATE the latter)
  • If you give away too much information your prospect may no longer need you or just use your proposal as ammunition to beat down prices from their current suppliers

Acting like a dummy is smart

Intentionally acting like a dummy (asking dumb questions, asking for clarification, asking for help, 'confessing' you're struggling) is a fantastic tool to get a prospect to open up and talk, or when you're faced with an awkward question.

The most famous dummy of all is Columbo from the TV detective series. Remember how he looked a bit rumpled, struggled to make sense of things, and his seemingly 'dumb' questions? By 'dummying up' he got suspects to lower their guard and talk more frankly, and as a result caught the guilty party.

As well as my 3 favourite dummy phrases above, you can use ones such as:

  • "Did you mean..."
  • "I don't suppose..."
  • "Tell me more..."

...or find your own phrases.

Here are a couple of examples of dummy phrases in action:

PROSPECT ONE: "I like the proposal, why don't we try a 30 day free trial before we commit to the full package?"

SALESPERSON: "Help me understand, what are you hoping to get from the trial?"


SALESPERSON: "I've forgotten, Roy, did you say delivery was important to you?"

(The salesperson remembers exactly what Roy said about delivery and knows it's one of their proposal's strengths.)

Tip: If you're worried about appearing foolish in front of a prospect, channel your expertise into asking intelligent questions. This demonstrates your capability in a more subtle way and lets the prospect draw their own conclusions about your brilliance.