Dont Walk Away From This Question

Channel Partners

August 17, 2007

5 Min Read
Dont Walk Away From This Question

By Dan Baldwin, director of sales ATEL Communications Inc.

Having a great prospect list and the lowest prices don’t help much if all your best prospects are in the middle of a long-term contract for their voice and data services. So what do you do to get your foot in the door and stay visible with them until their contracts come up for renewal? Sell them managed security services by asking, “How are you meeting your Internet security obligations?”

As in asking any sales question, delivery is key. This is called a “walk-away” question because it’s designed to be delivered “Columbo-style” as you walk-away from a sales prospecting situation. As any fan of the old 1970s Columbo TV detective show knows, the best way to get past the defenses of a wary questionee is to let them feel like they’ve defeated you and start to walk away. After seeing you take the first walk-away step the questionee assumes victory and lets down his or her guard. That’s the exact instant that you, like Detective Columbo, turn and ask the question, “How are you meeting your Internet security obligations?”

This question should be very effective when asked of a business owner that has an overworked or non-existent IT (information technology) or IS (information services) department. It’s equivalent to asking a CFO, “How are you preparing for a scheduled IRS audit?” Talk about touching a sensitive nerve.

How is the Critical Word

If you simply ask “Are you meeting your Internet security obligations?”, you’ll get a quick, “Sure, of course!” By adding the word “how” to the beginning of your question you’ll buy a few golden seconds. The seconds are golden because as the questionee stammers a bit while attempting to create some mental list to answer your question, each passing second creates and builds up excruciating tension for the questionee which you them mercifully alleviate by saying, “Let me ask you four quick questions to see if your business has Internet security obligations that you need to meet.” Glad to be released from answering the previous more difficult question, your prospect should gladly submit to your four quick questions.

Feel the Pain

While the pain exercise described above might seem a bit sadistic – it’s not. Salespeople do not create pain, we just help numb business owners identify and feel it. We do this professionally, much in the same way that an emergency room doctor might touch a nasty bruise and ask, “Does this hurt?” After screaming in agony the patient might say, “Not until you poked it. Stop poking it!”

Poking doesn’t create pain. Poking simply confirms and identifies existing pain that a patient may be ignoring. And like any good doctor, a salesperson’s job is to confide in their patient/prospect, “Looks like you might have a serious problem here. My not poking it won’t make the problem go away and it won’t prevent the problem from getting bigger and possibly killing you (wrecking your business).”

Relieve the Pain

Look at all the customers you currently have and consider the ones that love you the most. They don’t love you because you’re a nice person or because you saved them money, they love you because at some time in the past you relieved them from some torturous pain they were feeling about some business situation. More than seeking pleasure, business owners seek to avoid future pain. If you’ve successfully relieved their pain once, they’re likely going to want to keep you around to help them avoid or relieve future painful business situations.

Memorize the Questions & Watch the Videos

The best salespeople aren’t actually the best problem solvers, they’re the best question memorizers and storytellers. They commit to memory the quick and simple screening questions associated with all the services they sell. They know that if a prospect answers yes to any given question then they need to give their sales manager a call. And while closing their “yes-answering” prospect to a phone call with their boss, the best salespeople tell a story. “Another business owner I know just like you also answered ‘yes’ to that question. Here’s his story ”

Ask a friend or family member to explain the plot of the last five books they read or the last five movies they watched. Chances are they’ve watched more movies than read books or they just remember the movies better. Whatever the reason, movies and videos seem to transmit story information easier to a large audience then having them sit down and read the same information. That’s why ATEL created four short managed security videos. So those of you interested could easily learn the managed security stories.

Go to to read and memorize the four simple managed security questions and to watch and learn the four managed security video stories.

Dan Baldwin is founder of


and director of sales at

ATEL Communications Inc. Founded in 1985, ATEL is the largest NEC telephone equipment dealer in Southern California. Baldwin works with ATEL’s carrier services division that acts as an in-house telecom master agency to sell network services to ATEL’s embedded base of 2,000 phone equipment customers. For more information about ATEL’s carrier services division please visit

. TelecomAssociation is a membership organization founded in 1995 that serves the information & communication needs of its 2,500 members who distribute telecom and related services to businesses.

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