How to Ask the Right Questions in Sales

Written by Guest Blogger on October 30, 2013

Posted in Lead Generation

A lot of sales professionals have fallen into the trap of asking mundane questions, even if it’s a highly desired account that they’re chasing. Part of creating a highly effective sales cycle is understanding the customer’s problems as early as possible in the cycle; this can then be used to limit the amount of wasted time for both of you if your solution doesn’t align with their problem.

The quickest way to do this is to ask those hard questions that many sales people fear asking or don’t dare to even think about. This is an opportune moment for the 8% of sales people that get 80% of sales to knock their quota out of the park, because they are willing to ask those questions.

Generic Questions
Age, Sex, Income – unless you’re specifically asking clients to fill out R&D questionnaires, these questions should be considered “fillers,” there to just make stagnant conversation.

It’s not an easy task getting to the decision maker, so it’s painful to see sales professionals put in the work and get to that destination, then completely destroy their chances with generic questions such as:

–        How many employees work here?

–        What is your position within the company?

–        What’s the CEO’s name?

–        What do I need to do to win your business?

These are straight out of the Sales 101 script book – from 1990. Most decision makers are going to report back to you with generic answers that are pre-programmed into their brain, simply because so many other sales people have asked the same questions.

For a salesperson, there’s nothing worse than being forgettable, but that is certainly achievable with a weak questioning process – this is where you should start to consider accounts that you lost and decision makers that turned you away. Why did they turn you away? How can you improve with you questioning?

Don’t forget that sales is a fluid process so rarely do scripts work; instead, you should spend time testing new questions with various accounts – test and see what works better and with which industry.

Smart Questions
How do you become memorable as a sales person? You ask smart questions, ones that create intrigue and that throw the client off their pre-programmed balance.

This doesn’t mean be rude or ask inappropriate questions,. It means asking questions that motivate an emotional response; a spike in a certain emotion tends to help the prospective customer recall your conversation.

Some smart questions for consideration:

–        What is the management’s view on … ?

–        Whose responsibility is … ?

–        Why change now?

–        How much of a problem is that?

–        How will this affect your business?

–        How do you think ‘X’ would react?

Each question is designed to not only create an emotional response it’s also designed to carry you through the sales process as quickly as possible. Stagnant accounts are not good for your quotas.

The easiest and most versatile way to ask the right questions is to go back to basics – listening. When you listen carefully, you can create pictures and scenarios that then construct personal intrigue, which correlates into in-depth, smart questions.

Many sales professionals have yet to learn how important it is to listen more and speak less, and ultimately their quotas are showing it. If you’ve got the ability to listen, chances are you’re already asking far more decent questions than you would be if you were doing all of the talking.

About the Author
Marius Fermi – Director of Online Communications at Tactical Sales Training. Tasked with growing the online presence of their sales training courses and increasing lead generation. Spends his spare time blending teas and coffees.