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The Questions Sales People Ask?

by David Brock on July 19th, 2018

Questioning is critical for sales people.  Every sales training program focuses on the importance of questioning.

We ask questions to qualify.

We ask questions to understand need.

We ask questions to learn requirements.

We ask questions to understand alternatives the customer is considering.

We ask questions about the decision making process.

We ask questions to assess customer understanding/knowledge of our products.

We ask questions to understand their perception of our proposed solution.

We even have questions we ask to close.

To help sales people, we develop endless playbooks, battlecards, and scripts with questions they have to ask.

But too often, sales people lose track of why they are asking questions, what they are trying to learn, why they need to learn it, or what to do with the answers.  Or sales people don’t know how to ask the follow up questions, probing, understanding, learning about and with the customer.

We focus so much on training people what to ask, they forget why the are asking the questions, what they need to learn or know.  As a result the questioning process becomes very stilted—question/answer, question/answer, question/answer.  Often at the end of the interrogation–I mean conversation, we have the answers to the questions, but we don’t know what they mean or how to leverage what we have learned.

We also miss an opportunity, questions should be the starting point to a two way conversation.  Instead, we engage the customer in verbal ping pong.

Customers know this is what sales people do and push back—“Do your homework!  I don’t care about your questions, I care about my issues, you aren’t talking about what I care about.”

But in the spirit of “helping sales people,” driving consistent execution (read mechanizing the sales process), we generate endless questions, which sales people ask robotically.

Perhaps rather than providing our people the questions they need to ask, we should help them think about what they need to know or learn, why it’s important to learn these things, and how to engage the customer in deep conversations.

Focusing on developing these skills and capabilities force our people to think about what they are trying to achieve and why.  It forces them to think about how to engage the customer.  It enables them to be part of the two way conversation, not a robot following a question list.

Helping sales people understand what they need to know and why forces them to figure out how they get that information, developing questions and conversations that are engaging and impactful.

Perhaps we can help our sales people learn, it’s not really the questions, it’s the quality of the conversation.

 

Afterword:  My thanks to Tonni Bennett for articulating this concept.  She put into words an idea I’ve been struggling with for some time.

 Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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