Why Your Prospects’ Questions Are Invitations, Not Obstacles

Learn how to turn prospect questions into golden selling opportunities. Stop pitching and finally start selling with these tips and best practices.

December 1, 2016

  • questions-are-invitations

Asking good questions is the hallmark of a top performing salesperson. Sales reps are trained from the beginning to ask probing, open-ended questions to expose potential avenues for solutions.

So, why do these same sales reps see it as a nuisance when prospects turn the tables and ask questions of their own? Prospect questions aren’t an interruption to your sales pitch—they’re the entire reason you’re there.

Prospect Questions Are Social Selling Shortcuts

Sales has gone social. Buyers are more informed than ever by the time they come into contact with a sales rep. Sellers may complain about this abbreviated buyer’s journey—and the difficulties they have engaging with prospects early on—yet many still see questions as an annoyance. And that’s where they’re wrong.

Instead of a hassle, sales professionals need to recognize prospect questions as rare insights; moments ripe for engagement in an increasingly sterile sales cycle. Social selling practices gather insights through software, advanced searches, and social engagement, but a question from a real prospect is worth more that any of that. A customer is telling you their concerns in real-time: questions are a social sellers dream come true.

Better yet, this motivated buyer is asking you—point blank—to solve their problems. Prospect questions aren’t an obstacle, they’re an invitation. If no one asks questions, your sales pitch is worse than a failure—it’s a waste of time.

Don’t Pitch, Provide Value

When a buyer interrupts your prepared pitch with a question, they’re letting you know exactly where to put your focus. Top performers not only thrive when questioned—they create an environment that encourages questions.

Sales expert, Tibor Shanto, urges sellers to embrace questions to get out of tired sales pitch routines. “Answering a question is a great way to introduce your expertise and talk about how you have been able to drive specific outcomes and impacts without sounding like a pitch,” he writes.

No one likes to be pitched to, but everyone wants their concerns to be heard. Nothing creates a relationship like an open dialogue. Pitches are one-sided; questions are a conversation. Which is more likely to build trust?

Questions Equal Trust

Prospects don’t always ask questions. In fact, a lack of questions during a sales pitch isn’t a sign that you’ve nailed it—it’s a sign that they’re not interested.

Hamish Knox, points out the dangers of accepting vague positive sounding statements at face value. “When they say, ‘We really like your presentation,’ and ‘Your service is top notch,’ find out what they really mean,” be writes. In sales, politeness isn’t interest—it’s indifference.

People ask questions when they’re confident that they’ll receive a helpful answer. The asker grants the sales rep implicit authority, and if you fulfill that role and answer to their satisfaction, you’re one giant leap closer to making the sale.

It’s far better to have a rude, or even combative question than complacency. A rough question means a prospect has found something interesting in your pitch—even if it’s a perceived flaw. Something reached out and grabbed them, and that’s your opportunity.

Don’t Just Answer Their Question: Answer the Next One

Once you do find yourself in the midst of prospect questions, it’s important to maintain control of the conversation. Luckily, answering prospect questions is a chance to steer the discussion and position yourself as an authority in your field. The quickest, most effective way to do that is to provide social proof by weaving case studies and testimonials in your answer.

Providing social proof via satisfied client testimonials or case studies—especially from industry leaders or recognizable brands—not only answers the question at hand, it answers the next ten questions before they’re asked.

Prepare and Personalize Your Answers

Prospect questions are only a bad thing if you’re unprepared. One of the strengths of a strong social selling strategy is your ability to gather significant amounts of timely, relevant client information before your sales pitch.

Awareness of the business’s needs allows you to prepare for their objections and concerns—especially if you can tailor your response to the organization’s size, location, seasonal needs, projected growth, or competitive landscape. If you answer questions with industry-specific relevance aimed at your prospect, your offering has a tangible usefulness.

Prospect Questions Are About Solutions

Prospect don’t ask questions to gather information—most prospects are already through the research phases of the buyer’s journey. No, prospect questions are about solutions.

All a buyer wants you to answer is, “How is this going to help me?” How you respond to that simple request is everything. Will you add value, provide social proof, and starting an engaging dialogue, or will you plow ahead with your static sales pitch? The choice is yours, but make no mistake: once questions start flying, the real selling has begun.

Download How to Use Social Selling at Every Stage of the Buyer’s Journey for even more tips and best practices for engaging with prospects in new and interesting ways in sales pitch meetings and beyond.