Sales people who want to make the transition from “sales clerk” to an “expert consultant” can learn an important lesson from how journalists approach a story.  When journalists graduate from school and get their first broadcasting job, they are trained to interview people and understand a story from a 360 degree view.  Only then can they accurately represent the story.  They are good at answering the basic Who, What, When, Where, Why and How questions.  However, when sales people finish meeting with a new prospect, something they have a hard time answering those same types of questions.  Why is that?


The Sales Clerk Rut

Sales professionals get stuck in a “sales clerk” rut when they are heavily trained in their products and services and taught to create value by providing “the best product”, for the “best price” with the “best service”.  While those are certainly important elements in any professional relationship, they are the same things your competitors are offering and promoting.  They are the minimum things prospects and customers expect, but they do not win sales, create loyal partnerships or differentiate you from the competition.  So where can sales people start when they are looking to create value and differentiate themselves from the competition?


You can start by using the basic list of questions below as a simple guide to help you determine what information you are good at gathering and what information you need more practice gathering during the sales meeting with the prospect.  Sales people who spend their time “gathering” information from the prospect, instead “presenting” the features and benefits of their products are viewed by their prospects as being “experts” and more “consultative”.  Positioning yourself as a consultative in the prospects mind always increases the likelihood of winning the sale.  Many sales managers also use this formula to test their sales people to see how completely they understand the prospect’s situation and circumstances.


Information Gathering Formula


  • Who does the goal/problem impact?
  • Who has authority to say YES or NO to this project?
  • Who will be involved after the deal closes?



  • What is the specific goal to reach?
  • What specific problem or issues needs to be solved?
  • What is new insight can be taught to the prospect?



  • When do they plan on making a YES or NO buying decision?
  • When would they like the project to start?
  • When would they like to see the results from this project?



  • Where is the prospects budget range?
  • Where will this solution make the biggest difference?
  • Where can the solution outperform the competition?



  • Why is the prospect addressing this issue now?
  • Why did the problem occur in the first place?
  • Why hasn’t this issue been solved already?



  • How do the decision makers make buying decisions?
  • How does the prospect typically pay for services?
  • How is my solution unique or different from what the competitor is offering?


Sometimes sales professional get into the habit of only focusing on their product or service.  When this happens the prospect treats the sales person like an order taker or sales clerk.  The value a sales clerk can create for a prospect is limited in our fast paced and competitive environment.  However, when sales professionals develop the habits and skills needed to better understand the 360 degree picture of the prospects needs and situation, they are in a much strong position to perform like an expert consultant.  Start with asking more questions, like those above, to uncover the real needs of the prospects and you will be well on your way to closing more sales.


Would your sales team benefit from a refresher on strategies to transition from sales clerk to expert consultant?  Email Terry L. Hansen ( with value code: “VALU2016” to receive a complimentary 1 hour training for your sales team.  Offer good through March 31st, 2016.



Terry L. Hansen is a popular speaker, consultant, trainer, and author on helping sales and customer service teams improve their ability to create value for their prospects and clients. He is regularly asked to train organizations on strategies to find more prospects, close more sales, and increase customer loyalty. You can follow or connect with Terry on Twitter (@TerryLHansen) or on LinkedIn ( To contact Terry please email or by calling 844-205-5054.