Asking Questions

Throughout college, I worked a number of different part time jobs.  I had bills to pay and free time outside of school, so it was less of a choice and more of a need. One of those jobs was working at a hardware store. I can’t name them, because I would likely get in trouble for name dropping. I started working in the flooring department and learned the products and information I needed to know, in order to be a quasi-expert in the subject area. I may not need to be able to recite the differences and advantages of material vs. face weight of carpet in my daily life, but I did learn something at that job that I have carried with me ever since.

As part of the orientation program, I had to have a small class with the general manager of the store. We’ll call him Bob. It was a really small class of me, the general manager, and a manager trainee. Bob sat us down and went through the basics of how the company worked and how our roles were important to the company as a whole. Once he got through the formal parts of the lecture, he started to discuss how to work best with customers. This was the most important thing I learned.

He gave us a situation. Say there is an older woman coming into the store, finds one of us and says she wants to buy a drill. Knowing our products, you know that we have three drills available (we had like 50 different drills, but this was a hypothetical.  I still don’t know the difference between half of them). There is a cheap and simple $20 drill, a decent $80 drill, and a contractor grade $200 drill. Which one do you try to sell her?

The manager trainee said proudly, “I want to sell her the $200 drill!”
Bob asked why.
“Because it is the most expensive and would make us the most money.”
Bob asked me the question.
“Probably the $20 drill – she’s older and probably just wants it for a simple chore. It would be cheap and easy-to-use to get the job done,” I said.

Bob surprised both of us. “You both could be right or you both could be wrong. We’ll never know because you didn’t do the most important thing. Ask questions. Carlos could be right. She could just need it for a small chore and the $20 drill could be best. Or, she could just be wanting to hang up some photos, so she could really just need a hammer and a few nails for $10. Maybe she is buying it for her son or grandson who is starting a construction business and would need the expensive one. Maybe she is getting her husband a replacement drill to help him finish building a deck, so the $80 drill is the best option. The point is not selling her something, it’s helping her find what she needs. Asking questions is important because what the customer asks for and what they need may be two wildly different things. Asking questions not only helps to build a better relationship with the customer, but also helps them understand that you are there to help them, not just sell to them.”

I’ve always taken that to heart. In any of my other jobs, including this one, whenever someone wants to buy something, I make sure to find out what they need, not just what they want. A customer may not always listen to my advice, but I always make sure they, and I, know everything there is to know so that we can solve the problem together.

About Automated Systems, Inc.
Since 1981, Automated Systems, Inc. has been a leader in providing innovative core banking, digital banking, and data processing solutions to community banks nationwide.  An array of integrated applications provide partnered banks with tailored, cost-effective, competitive choices.  ASI delivers industry-leading technology backed by unparalleled in-house conversion, training and support teams; paving the way for progressive, top-notch customer service.  ASI corporate headquarters are located at 1201 Libra Drive, Lincoln, NE 68512, 1.800.279.7312.  For more information about banking solutions from ASI, visit

About Insite Data Services
IDS data application hosting services combines secure and cost-effective core banking applications, enterprise-class servers and storage, and proven virtualization technology.  IDS hosts all of the bank’s servers in secure data centers that use state of the art security systems including identity verification and biometric scanning.  Insite Data Services also offers IDS On-Time, a full-service solution dedicated to back-office bank processing.  These operations experts allow partnered banks to focus on their most important asset, their customers.  For more information visit

About The Author

Carlos Sandoval
Carlos Sandoval is a Relationship Team Member and Sales Consultant for Automated Systems Inc., a leading provider of core banking software. He serves as a point of contact for banks and is the main point of contact for sales related inquiries. That can be anything from following up on a request, to generating quotes for hardware, or informing and advising banks on Insite Modules and services and solutions.

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