Not Getting the Right Response? Maybe You’re Asking the Wrong Questions

May 28, 2019

Ask The Right Questions

Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by Julie Thomas, CEO of VauleSelling Associates.

No sales professional forgets a cringeworthy conversation. Whether riddled with radio silence or endless awkwardness, these clumsy chats speak to a disconnect that oftentimes is avoidable. Maybe you weren’t well prepared or maybe the busy executive who took your call was distracted. Regardless, there is a way to reduce the risks of either scenario.

Top sales performers know how to engage and to demonstrate empathy with someone’s burdensome business issue. This is crucial to moving a sales deal forward and comes from asking the right questions at the right time.

Here are some simple steps to raise the quality of your conversations and advance more quickly from salutations to contract signatures.

Show What You Know

We say it often, but it begs repeating: Do your homework, so you can go beyond generic questions—and get to the point quickly; most busy buyers don’t have time for long warmups. Stay current on a targeted executive and her company, as well as the industry. As a bonus, you’ll be prepared for both scheduled calls and chance encounters.

Prepare A Variety Of Questions In Advance

There are three main kinds of questions to ask, depending on the subject and situation. Each has a purpose and can be developed with assistance from sales management software such as the cloud-based eValuePrompter®.

Open-ended questions are designed to obtain the prospect’s view of current conditions. They elicit fuller responses well beyond “yes” and “no.” Instead of starting a question with “Do you...?” — think of those that begin with “How would you...?” The latter requires someone to go into more detail.

Probing questions, as the name suggests, go deeper. Based on someone’s response, you want to expand on the prospect’s view of a business problem or bring other issues to the surface. What’s important here is that you lead the person to self-discovery, rather than make such statements yourself. This deepens the level of engagement and shows you can identify with what someone’s going through—just by telling a story of a previous customer in a similar situation before adopting your solution.

The final type of question clarifies what you’ve heard to ensure a shared understanding. With such confirming questions, a “yes” or “no” response is appropriate. Your main aim here is to show you’ve been listening intently and to clear up any misperceptions before going forward.

Go With The Flow

With practice and genuine interest, you’ll become the consummate conversationalist and leave a positive lasting impression with a busy decision-maker. Be sure to jot down key questions around areas you must cover on the call or meeting. Then see where answers take you. If it’s in a different direction than expected, gracefully shift gears while maintaining your focus on ensuring the qualified buyer is interested in your goods or services.

A primary objective with any conversation is to gain knowledge and understanding. This comes from receiving information more than relaying it—at least during initial talks. If a conversation goes well, you too will be asked questions that allow you to discuss your product offerings without it appearing like a pitch. Always remember: It’s about helping someone else, not just you.

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