Sep 092011

Sales Questions: Five Questions Salespeople Need to Ask, but Rarely Do

Sales Questions: By Craig James, Sales Solutions Founder and President, via

Salespeople won’t always get the call back, get the appointment, get to meet the decision maker, or get the order. Now it is, of course, unreasonable to expect to always get what we want. But, it is reasonable to believe that we might get what we want more often if we changed the way we asked for it. The sad fact is that one of the reasons we struggle to get sales results is because we simply don’t ask for what we want – or we don’t ask for it directly. Here are five types of questions that few salespeople ask that can move the sales cycle along and help you achieve your goals.

1) Qualifying Questions

Most salespeople are taught to probe for “pain” – to find out what’s wrong, and what the prospect is not happy about, what they don’t like about their current situation. But there’s another question that should be asked before that kind of question: “What do you like about what and whom you’re using now?” At first blush, it may seem self-defeating to ask a question that provides the prospect an opportunity to say something favorable about his current situation.
But there are two reasons why it makes sense: (1) it tells you what you need to – at a minimum – provide as part of the solution you will propose and (2) it builds rapport by giving your prospect an opportunity to discuss aspects of his current product or service that validate his decision to have selected them.

2) Money Questions

Many salespeople have been taught not to mention money early in the conversation. Nonsense. You should not be talking with any prospect who cannot or will not pay you what your product or service costs. Period. You need to find out whether the two of you are in the same ballpark; the sooner you do, the sooner you can stop wasting your limited time with those prospects that aren’t, and move on to those that are. After you’ve conveyed the benefits of your offering, simply ask, “Here’s approximately what this will cost. Should we continue talking?”

3) Objection Questions

Contrary to what most salespeople think, the immediate response to an objection should never be to try to address it. It should be to acknowledge it, then ask a question to determine the underlying concern. For example, let’s say the objection is, “Your guaranteed delivery time is 72 hours, and the other two competitors of yours I’m talking to guarantee 48 hours.” Your company has been doing business for a long time with a lot of customers for whom three-day delivery is perfectly acceptable.

A closed question (one-word) response to an objection like this would be, “Yes, that’s true. Tell me, how many times in the last two years would receiving this product in three days rather than two have caused you a problem?” The prospect’s answer will tell you how much of a concern it is. Your reply would then be, “Right – in fact, what most of our customers really love about us – and what we feel sets us apart – is…” You could also ask for an open question such as, “Tell me why 48-hour delivery is important to you.”

4) Trial Close Questions

Trial closes are questions that take a prospect’s temperature – they’re used to gauge how the conversation or presentation is going. A trial close question to use after presenting a feature of your product could be as simple as, “Is this what you’re looking for?” or “How does that sound?” The answers to trial closes tell you how to proceed. Think of the answers as lights on a traffic light: green means the prospect wants to keep going in the direction you are headed, yellow means he’s giving off vibes that indicate something’s not sitting well with him, and red means he’s explicitly raised a concern.

Fail to use trial closes and you risk going in a direction different from that in which your prospect wants to go or, equally bad, continuing to sell when the prospect wants to make a decision to buy. Trial close questions are always close-ended questions that can be answered with one word responses.

5) Commitment Questions

sales questions


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sales questions, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC