Asking Isn’t As Easy As You Think

David L. Varner

We ask for things all the time…asking your dog to sit and stay, or your kids to go bed. Do you get what you want? Simply stated, it’s asking someone to do something.

Here’s another:

Rule One in sales is: “Did you ask for the order?”

Sound familiar? How many times have you said, or heard this?

What’s the typical answer? Do you get a sheepish look and a long “Um….?”

If you follow this up with, “Role play with me exactly how you asked for the order,” what are the odds that the role play will meet your expectations?

How is not asking for the order impacting your business?

  • Losing sales
  • Longer sales cycles
  • Competitive threats
  • Wasted resources

I have talked with literally thousands of sales leaders over the years. One thing has stood out to me; the almost universal agreement that salespeople are not good at asking for the order.

What’s the problem? It’s a seemingly simple task; just ask for the order. But it doesn’t happen. Why? What can be done to address it?

Before we address the hesitancy to ask, let’s define what asking is.

3 Steps to Successfully Ask For the Order

First: What is asking?

An important distinction: asking is different than questioning. Overall, salespeople are fairly good at asking questions; it’s intuitive and we likely have been taught effective questioning techniques. A question, however, doesn’t require a commitment, or an action, from the person you’re meeting with.

We ask questions such as:

  • What’s driving the need to make a buying decision?
  • Who all is involved in the decision-making process?
  • Is this budgeted?
  • What’s the timing?

The list goes on…

So Asks are significantly different; they require action. For example:

  • The order
  • To be specified
  • For a meeting
  • For a referral
  • For the opportunity to quote
  • To move to the next step in the sales process

Ensure that your team is asking for the action of receiving the order and not asking “closing questions” such as:

  • When are you going to make the decision?
  • Who will be involved in the decision?
  • Do you have any concerns with our proposal?
  • Is there anything that can keep us from working together?
  • Is there anything else I can get for you now?

None of these questions require any action. Instead, we’re looking a commitment to buy..

Second: Understand why there is hesitancy to ask for the order.

I consistently hear:

  • “I don’t want to be pushy.”
  • “I don’t want to damage my relationship.”
  • “I am asking, right?”
  • “I’m afraid of getting a no.”
  • “I don’t know how to do it.”

This is especially true of salespeople involved in technical sales where they are required to have in-depth knowledge of how to solve their customer’s problems; for example, sales engineers, medical product/device/service sales, business services consultants and similar professions. Their comfort zone is with the tech or techniques and much less so with the selling aspects of the equation.

Until you address the salesperson’s concern or hesitancy to ask, they are not going to be successful. So, how do you address the concern?

Third: Provide a basic framework for the ask and the confidence to effectively deliver it.

Framing an ask: An influential ask for the order very succinctly states the issue, or trigger event, the sale is solving, how you solve it, and when it is solved, how the person will be personally impacted. Essentially, an effective ask is a solution sale distilled down to a few sentences. It focuses in the issue, how it’s solved and what’s in it for the person. It is not a product/service pitch.

Once someone understands why they are hesitant to ask, what asking really is, and are provided a framework to develop an ask, we’ve solved 50% of the challenge. The other 50% of the challenge is to help the salesperson develop the confidence to effectively deliver the ask. Having an influential ask prepared is of no value if it is not delivered.

How do we provide someone with the confidence to ask? Once your salesperson has developed their ask, role play it with them. Ensure the salesperson role plays the ask exactly as he or she will in front of the customer. Get in the habit of asking your salespeople to role play with you.

Role playing is to sales skills what taking a lesson at a driving range is to golf. It’s an opportunity to learn in a low-pressure environment where we have the opportunity to build the muscle memory necessary to be successful asking or playing a round of 18.

And last, keep it simple. Ideas that are simple and easy to execute and coach get used. There is sophistication in simplicity.

David Varner is a speaker, author and founder of The Millau Group Global, a sales training company focused on providing clients with unique, easy-to-use solutions that produce immediate results. He can be reached at

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