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Communication SkillsSelling Skills

Probe, Question and Clarify

If you were trying to sell a meeting planner on using your hotel, and she asked you, “Do you have a freight elevator?“, and your understanding was that you had such an elevator in your hotel, how would you respond?

Would you say to her:
Yes, we do/ I believe we do.

Or would you probe and say:
Why do you ask?
I’m not asked that too often. Can I ask you why that’s important to you?

I have to admit that my response would be a simple affirmative; Yes, we do. But I’d be wrong to take that approach. I learned that today.

My presentation at the beautiful Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables was scheduled after Jonathan Howe spoke. Jon is a legal eagle, partner with Howe & Hutton, and friend, and boy, am I glad that I had a few minutes to sit and listen to him. (Contact Jon at He provided great legal advice to the client, and, really, it all centered on clear communications. Asking questions, clarifying terms and limits, and selecting the right words, he explained, makes the difference between profits and prison. Okay… he never said anything about prison, but it got your attention. Read on!

Do you have a freight elevator?

The meeting planner who needed the freight elevator had a 3,000 pound piece of equipment to move to the second floor of the hotel. She never mentioned this and simply assumed (yup, we all know the definition) that if the hotel had a freight elevator, it could handle the load. The hotel sales person, perhaps busy with other details, didn’t bother to ask her why she wanted to know if they had a freight elevator. Not only did he not probe, but he assumed (oops, here we go again) that a “freight” elevator and a “service” elevator were one and the same. So the hotel didn’t have a freight elevator and the service elevator could lift a maximum of only 2,500 pounds. You can imagine the rest of the story/

Try this today: Eliminate assumptions. Ask questions. Be certain that you and your customer have agreed on the same message and outcome.

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