Five simple questions that can help advance the sales process

by on October 15, 2012 · 1 Comment POSTED IN: Top Sales Dog

As the Rolling Stones’ song says, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes – you get what you need.”

So it goes with sales. We won’t always get a callback, make the appointment, meet a decision maker or land an order. But we can get what we need more often – if we try changing the questions we ask, and how we ask them.

One reason many salespeople fail to reach their sales goals is they don’t ask outright for what they want – or ask only indirectly, beating around the bush.

Here are the kind of direct questions salespeople ought to ask that can turbo-charge the sales process and help you hit your sales targets.

1. What do you like?
Back in Sales 101 you were probably taught to uncover the pain issues – suss out what’s wrong, what the buyer is displeased with, and what she doesn’t like about the current situation.

There’s another question to ask before you pull out the scalpel and start probing: “What is it you like about the solution you’re using now, and the company providing it?” That might seem like shooting yourself in the foot. After all, you’re giving the prospect a chance to wax eloquent about the situation he’s in.

But it can pay off for two good reasons:

  • It reveals what you must include – at a minimum – in the solution you plan to propose.
  • You build rapport by allowing your prospect to discuss those aspects of the current solution or supplier that support his previous decision.

2. Can you afford this?
Have you been coached not to bring up money early on in the sales process? Many of us have. As children, some of us were taught that it’s impolite to talk about money. Still others have a “money ceiling,” where talking about dollars above a certain amount is uncomfortable.

Bunk. You shouldn’t be wasting time speaking with any buyer who can’t or won’t pay what your solution costs. So find out early on if you’re on the same wavelength. The sooner, the better.

That way you can move on, if need be.

After you’ve outlined the primary benefits, simply ask, “Here’s about what this costs. Should we proceed further?”

3. What’s the real issue?
Too often the knee-jerk response to an objection is a direct frontal assault. But it’s far better to acknowledge the prospect’s concern, and then pose a question that uncovers any deeper issue.

Example: The prospect says, “Your turnaround time on orders is 72 hours, but the others I’m talking to guarantee 48.” (Let’s say most customers you’ve been doing business with are fine with three-day turnaround.)

A good response would be, “Yes, that’s true. Help me understand what the consequences of faster turnaround would be for you?”

The prospect’s answer will reveal how big an issue it really is. An alternative is to ask something like, “May I ask why 48-hour turnaround is so important to you?”

4. How does that sound?
Something easy to forget is the value of “trial close” questions. We’re not talking about tacky manipulations like “Would you want that in red or green?” What we mean are questions used to gauge how your sales call or formal presentation is coming along.

Examples: After discussing a feature or benefit of your solution, you might ask, “Does that match what you had in mind?” or “How do you react to that?”

The answers point you in the right direction. They act like lane markers on the highway. Without them, it’s easy to drift off course – or, even worse, miss the exit ramp (that is, sell past the close).

Make sure your trial close questions are closed-ended, so they can be answered with a nod of the head – or one word. If the prospect hesitates or says more, that’s your clue to revisit the issue and probe further.

5. When can we start?
When you want a buyer to commit to something, you need to ask outright. Maybe it’s reviewing your proposal by a certain date, or scheduling a conference with the CFO – or deciding to buy.

Examples: “So we’ve agreed that you’re going to e-mail your team today and arrange a time and date for a follow-up meeting, right?” or “You’ll link me with the CFO by Friday of this week, yes?”

Of course the A-Plus commitment question simply asks for the order: “Are we ready to move ahead?” or “Can we start working together on this?” or “Let’s get going, yes?”

It may seem obvious, but way too many salespeople don’t actually ask for the order in a direct way.

That’s like taking the ball downfield and stopping at the five-yard line. You only get points for scoring.

Source: From a posting by Craig James. To learn more visit

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1 Comment on This Post

  1. Ayesha
    November 21, 2012 - 5:58 am

    Understanding is the Key to a successful sales career. These questions will help you to get in depth answers. Effective questioning techniques is a must to become effective salesman. 

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