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Changing The Questions

by David Brock on March 21st, 2019

We know questions are critical to our success as sales people. Sadly, we ask too few, choosing instead to pitch our products and solutions, hoping the customer has some interest in considering them, though we often don’t know why.

Most modern selling programs talk about the importance of questions, but too often they focus on the wrong questions:

  • Do you have funding for this project?
  • Who’s involved in the decision making process?
  • How will it be made?
  • What alternatives are you considering?
  • When will you make a decision?
  • What are your needs and requirements?

We can go on endlessly, whether they are BANT or other questioning approaches, we ask those questions to help us sell–but these questions and the answers to these questions aren’t very helpful to the customer.

What if we started changing our questions? What if rather than focusing on questions that help us sell, we focused on questions that helped the customer buy? What if we focused on questions that helped the customer assess their own situation, helping them identify new opportunities, possibilities to improve, identify things they may not have thought about but should.

What if our questions started looking like:

  • Why do you do things this way?
  • What problems does this create for you?
  • Is there a more effective way of doing it?
  • What would the impact be if you could change what you are doing?
  • How might you start assessing change?
  • What would be involved in deciding to chane?
  • What would be involved in implementing the change?
  • What would the consequences be if you chose to do nothing?
  • What would happen if you changed?
  • What if…..

Again, here there is no end to questions we might ask, or that we might encourage our customers to ask of themselves.

What’s important is these questions are about the customer, what they want to do, why they might want to do it, how they might make it happen, what would happen if they did–or didn’t.

They are questions that help the customer think. They are questions the customer starts asking themselves and others.

The magic of this, is they start asking you questions:

  • What should we be thinking about, why?
  • What could we be doing differently?
  • How can you help us…….

Questions are very powerful, that is, the right questions are very powerful?

Are you asking and provoking the right questions? Are you helping the customer ask the right questions?

  1. Dave, I always enjoy your posts but you are on fire lately. This is a great post.

    Years ago I worked for a company that didn’t have a defined sales process. With great intentions we set about to create one. Qualifying questions are a part of course.

    The initial cut of Stage I questions were almost identical to your first set. I was stunned. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as diplomatic then as I am today*, and observed something to the effect that “why would the prospect give us the time of day, much less answer these kind of questions before we’ve asked a single thing about them and their business???”

    We revised to a series of questions and narrative around the problems the prospect needed to solve, the opportunities they wanted to take advantage of, the regulatory items they needed to address and what any and all of those would mean to the health and welfare of their business. We wove into that what they would mean personally and professionally to the person or persons we were talking to.

    The time for the other, as well as a prospect’s willingness to answer those questions and help us get the business done, flows after paying attention to the important stuff.

    BTW, with respect to the “what alternatives are you considering”, I won’t go on a rant over that other than to say bad on us if we don’t who that likely is and are prepared for it.

    Great, great post Dave.

    * With respect to me being diplomatic today, and in the words of the esteemed Foghorn Leghorn, “that’s a joke son!”

  2. Hi Dave,

    This makes a lot of sense. Questions are conveying information so you have to be careful what kinds of questions you ask and how you ask them.

    What you are saying in this post is that you have to put your self in the other person’s shoes in how they will interpret the questions you are asking. Are the questions going to make the person open up or close down? If you are selling then the prospect will close down and you have to sell even harder and result in customer walking away.

    This post helps me rethink the questions I ask.


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