There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that is your own self.”

-Aldous Huxley

Blog # 507…9/22/2019

(Previously posted 3/14/2010)

The Power of “I Don’t Know”

Last week my thought provoker for the Thursday morning Java Inspiration & Networking meeting was “What are the three most important words for creating credibility in a sales conversation?”.  I was surprised that the group of eleven did not come close to identifying the words as “I Don’t Know.”  My LinkedIn and Twitter postings also drew a blank.


Is it because we are afraid to look dumb, or not informed?

Or is it because we are afraid to be or are not in the habit of being honest?

Now please re-read the two questions above and put “you” in place of “we”.

I cannot remember the last time I heard an expert on selling, advise us to say ‘I don’t know’, when we do not have the answer to a prospect’s or customer’s question.  I know it has been at least fifteen years since I heard it.  To me, that reflects the cultural change that has occurred in my lifetime.  A change from honesty with yourself and everyone else, to one of fear and just maybe laziness? 

Fear of losing a sale; fear of losing the customer’s confidence; fear of being wrong, because you really have not done enough homework about the customer’s business and how your product will actually fit into and improve it; or are you actually using these three words regularly without realizing how important they are to your success?

If it is the latter, be glad; if not, consider this.

In a lifetime of selling everything from garden seeds and Fuller Brushes to computers when they cost a fortune and no one knew how they worked or what they could do for the user, ‘I don’t know’ has been the most powerful phrase in my vocabulary.  Powerful because it communicates honesty, builds trust and makes everything else I have said credible. Of course, I always followed it with “I’ll find out and tell you what I’ve learned.”  I then busted my tail to find out and went back with what I had learned.  It did not matter if I had been unable to get a solid answer, because when I told them what I’d done to get an answer, I also built credibility.

Nuff Said !!! 

Wes Zimmerman – click on book image and see the Arch
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©Wesley W. Zimmerman 3/10/2010, 9/22/2019

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