How BAD are the questions you're asking?


Firstly -- and I can't stress this strongly enough, be in no doubt that your sales results will be directly influenced by the quality of questions you ask.

So how good are YOUR questions?
The subject of "open questions" figures in just about every sales manual ever written and every sales course ever delivered. That's not a coincidence.
To sell effectively you need information. Your prospects hold it. You need to acquire it. If you can conjure up a bank of well crafted open questions, you're in business!

If you're new to this game let me quickly define an open question as a question that cannot be answered yes or no. And when you're looking to open up a conversation with a potential customer, just about the least useful answer you can get is yes, or no.

Open Questions
Asking open questions will get your prospect talking, which relaxes them and helps to build genuine rapport in no time. They'll get a sense that you're really interested in them and their needs.

What you get in return is the vital information you need - initially to make an internal judgement on how (or indeed if) you can help your prospect. Secondly you'll be able to match your offering specifically to their needs, the very needs which you beautifully elicited earlier with your fabulous open questions!

Listen to their answers
By the way, listen to their answers! I find that good listening skills are lacking amongst many sales people. Your sales conversations will flow much more freely if you relax and focus on their answers, not what your next question will be. Listen properly and with good intent - and your next question will just appear naturally.

Here are some ideas for open questions - tailor them accordingly to your specific needs whether you're selling to other businesses or direct to consumers.

Examples of Open questions...
What's going on for you in your business right now?
Currently, what are your biggest challenges?
What's going well for you?
What's not going well for you at the moment?
Which areas are you most concerned about?
Where does your business/team need to be in x months/years time?
How do you see your business developing?
What action have you taken so far to...?
Where are you in terms of....
What's the next stage?

And if in your business the potential customer arrives/phones up and asks about the availability of the 'XYZ' product, you'll need to know the reason they chose that product from your vast range. For example you may be out of stock and want to offer an alternative, or have an even better version more suited to their needs. Or just want to build rapport as you process the sale.

The question to really open up any conversation in these circumstances is... "What attracts you to this xxxx". When answering this question the customer will give you their full buying criteria ("it's got this, it hasn't got that") -- golden nuggets of information to help you complete the sale.

Avoid questions starting with 'Why'...
...as they can be confrontational - no matter how fluffy and soft you make them sound. When you ask a 'Why' question you are asking for justification of their response. Your client will probably become defensive and give you an emotive response.

It takes practice
Think of your next selling or networking scenario. Think of crucial information you need to successfully promote your product or service and construct five open questions which will help you get that information and help you increase your sales success.

Until next time.

Leigh

PS; Remember to grab your copy of "The 9 Biggest Sales Mistakes"

The 9 Biggest Sales Mistakes identifies those key mistakes that are stopping sales teams, companies and business owners fulfilling their sales potential. The report establishes how to identify these errors, indicates how they can be eliminated - and sets out how to avoid them.

For previous 'Tricks of the Trade' go here
Leigh Ashton
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leigh Ashton> website | all articles
Hi I'm Leigh Ashton of The Sales Consultancy

Whether you're a small business or a leading brand, an area manager or a Chief Executive, whether you're new to sales or an experienced sales professional. Even if you're not in sales at all but want to understand it, you've come to the right place.

The World of Sales is changing.

Today's conventional sales training doesn't address the psychological barriers that get in their way.

My approach takes your sales team through a process that:

* Helps them identify their psychological barriers and gives them the tools to overcome them
* Teaches them how the mind works so they can keep motivated and stay focused
* Gives them the ability to identify the psychological patterns of their clients and prospects so they connect with them at a deeper level and close more sales

And at a higher level...

* It creates more success in other areas of their lives so they are happier generally...and happier sales people generate more sales

Wherever you are on your personal sales journey what's the best course of action for YOU.

- Sales Training - that actually gets results
- Leadership and Management
- Personal Coaching and Mentoring
- Sales Mentoring Programme
- NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and how it can help you accelerate your success
- Keynote Speaking
  • /data/userPictures/2D9D22D6-D7C3-487D-BAD2-AE761F3EE556.jpgPaul Lowe8/3/2014 11:01:05 AM
    Hi Leigh,

    Nice article. First impression is a lasting one and a successful consultative relationship can be denied by the wrong choice or line of questioning or probing. I'm a little curious to your objection of utilizing 'Why' when conversing with a prospective client. Are there any circumstances in which this particular question can be posed in a positive way?

    Thanks!
    Paul

  • /data/userPictures/3243AF74-6C14-4A30-9F93-4A87DE5AAC5A.jpgLeigh Ashton8/5/2014 7:13:15 AM
    Hi Paul
    Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting!
    Asking a question starting with "Why..." is more likely to result in an emotional response - something that's not usually the requirement in most sales and business transactions. The person, consciously or unconsciously feels that they need to justify their response from a personal point of view, which leads them away from the facts of the matter in hand. This can lead to a lapse in rapport and with it, in a sales scenario, lowers the possibility of doing business.
    If you need to know why, (and I'm sure you will) just ask the question in a different way... "What's your reasoning behind your decision to...?" for example. This will remove that potential for emotion and result in a better answer too.

    If you are a personal "life" coach, it's possible that emotion is more likely and acceptable, and the use of "Why" questions is much more common. In business, generally no.

  • /data/userPictures/3243AF74-6C14-4A30-9F93-4A87DE5AAC5A.jpgLeigh Ashton8/5/2014 7:16:09 AM
    You may have heard of the "5 Why's" questionning technique, which is an exceptional tool for getting to the bottom of problems. I use it in my training sessions to ascertain exactly why people are present, there, on that day. It really helps concentrate the mind. I frame it - it's the only time I will use "Why" in the whole training prgramme. Check the link out for more details.

    http://www.imsworld.org/images/docs/Doc%206i%20issue%201%20guidance%20notes%20on%205%20Whys%20Technique.pdf

    All the best

    Leigh