When working with a prospect about answering service, price always comes up. But even though it often becomes the focus, it need not. In fact, price is not as important as most salespeople think when it comes to selling answering services. Yet the conversation often gravitates to price because buyers don’t know what else to ask, prices are easy to quantify, and rates make comparisons simple. As an answering service salesperson, your job is to steer the conversation away from price and to more relevant issues. Guide the discussion away from price by asking probing questions. Then confirm how your answering service can maintain positive items and avoid negative issues: 1) What do you like about your current answering service? Even though they are talking to you about switching answering services, don’t assume everything about their present answering service is bad. They likely appreciate several things about their present answering service. Find out what each of these items are. Then explain how you can match, or surpass, each one of those characteristics. Provide assurances that you, too, can provide these much-appreciated traits. In some cases, however, your answering service may not be able to match an item. This may be because it’s impractical, runs counter to your answering service’s processes, or falls outside of the level of service you provide. If this occurs, address the discrepancy candidly. Explain why your answering service will not be able to match that specific element. If possible offer a superior alternative. Then end with a reminder of all the things you can match or surpass. That way you will leave this part of the discussion with a positive final impression. 2) What do you wish your current answering service could do better? Instead of asking what they don’t like, which focuses on negative phrasing, ask what they wish their answering service could do better. This helps you gain valuable insight without putting down your competition. Remember, whenever you talk negatively about other answering services, prospects will redirect that negativity back toward you. Keeping your words positive reflects positively on you and your answering service. Let them talk negatively if they wish, but don’t follow them when they do. Address each item of deficiency. You will be able to improve upon many areas of concern. Make sure the prospect knows this. Some items are not feasible, such as a guarantee to have a person answer every call on the first ring and never put callers on hold. Though understandable, as a shared service this is something that is impossible to provide. Make sure your prospect knows this as well. 3) What items are important for your next answering service to provide? While the first two questions will likely uncover all key elements, this third question, essentially asks, “What else?” Again this is the time to confirm you can address these items of importance, or explain why it’s not feasible or realistic. By this time you will have had a productive discussion to uncover what’s important to them. Now you can move the sales process forward. And finally you can chat about price. But if you’ve handled these first three questions with excellence, talking about rates will be a mere formality. Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry. Contact Janet at email@example.com or call 800-901-7706. Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan and a longtime member of the TAS industry.