In The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi explained that you could walk on the right side of the road and you would be fine. You could walk on the left side of the road and you would also be fine. But if you walk in the middle of the road you would be squished like a grape.

He was advising his young student that he could not learn karate and he’d be fine. Or he could work hard to master karate and he’d be fine. But if he did it halfway, he’d be in trouble.

Salespeople often end up halfway across the road. Selling, like karate, is counter-intuitive. We naturally attempt to sell by telling. We give presentations and demo’s.

Top salespeople approach sales differently than their peers. I have studied this for 30 years, using recordings of buyer/seller conversations. Top performers, for example, ask more questions than their peers. They view selling, not as educating, but as a diagnostic process.

A diagnostic salesperson leads a process of self-discovery through questions.

Those who get to the halfway point, become meandering question askers who are uncomfortable with what they are doing. They make their customers uncomfortable, too.

Halfway to mastery we:

  • Fail to understand the mutual benefit of each question we ask
  • Fail to frame why we are asking questions
  • Ask questions with unclear or selfish intent
  • Ask the wrong questions
  • Ask questions in the wrong order
  • Meander
  • Ask rapport-destroying questions

It takes 6 – 12 months of hard work to master a diagnostic sales process.

Halfway to mastery, salespeople are less effective than someone who is giving a polished presentation.

Heed Mr. Miyagi’s advice. Do it all the way or don’t do it at all.