To boost sales performance, ask provocative questions
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  • Blog post

To boost sales performance, ask provocative questions

In selling, your ability to ask great questions is highly correlated with sales success.

Great questions demonstrate your expertise and enhance your credibility, says sales maven Jill Konrath. And the best questions are provocative – forcing the prospect to look beyond the obvious, to analyze, assess and make decisions.

Plan, plan, plan
So how do you create provocative questions? First of all, it’s virtually impossible to come up with them on the fly, during a sales call. Provocative questions require planning. Start by asking yourself some provocative questions about your prospect or customer, such as:

  1. 1. How is my customer meeting its needs if it’s not using my product or service? The answer could be competitive offerings, your older systems, or even doing nothing.
  2. 2. What are the primary problems, difficulties and concerns prospects likely experience in each of these scenarios? State these in your prospect’s language if you can.
  3. 3. What are the business implications of these problems? How do they impact productivity, time-to-market, legal issues, profitability, costs, operational efficiency, decision-making and more?
  4. 4. What does the customer get if it replaces its current methods, systems or processes with my offering?

All customers live with less-than-perfect systems. They know how to work around things and get by. Plus, they’re too busy to analyze every aggravation or potential problem.

Nor do most customers know the total cost of continuing to do things the “same old way.” Questions about the business implications or the value of change are provocative! They demonstrate your expertise and position you as a valuable resource. And they get your prospect thinking about why change is necessary – and why action is needed now.

Some provocative questions
Let’s say you work with companies on new product launches, and your best prospects are those with ho-hum results on previous product/service introductions. Start by framing questions with statements:

  • In a recent study on new product launches, 75% of executives felt a poor value proposition and launch process were major factors in their lack of success.
  • Based on our work with other technology companies on new product launches, the biggest thing that gets in the way is how much they love their new technology.

Then ask questions such as:

  • Are you comfortable that your value proposition is strong enough to deliver the projected sales revenue?
  • What gaps or problems do you see in your launch process?
  • What is the impact on your company if your new product/service isn’t successful in the projected timeframes?
  • If it takes an extra 3-6 months to ramp up sales on your new product, how does this impact time-to-profitability? Competitive inroads?
  • What benefit would it be to your company if your salespeople didn’t have to create their own proposals and presentations?

Provocative questions like these focus on problems and the resulting business ramifications. They raise critical issues customers face, get them thinking – and move the sale forward.

Of course it’s important to ask good questions on sales calls, but top performers go further and take the time to plan really great, provocative ones. Developing provocative questions will have an immediate impact on your sales results. Are you willing to do what it takes to excel?

Source: To learn more from Jill Konrath visit

1 Comment

  • Thanks for the fresh ideas.

    Just knew this information that provocative information can
    drive sales performance. It’s not hard to set meet the clients face to face and set appointments on them. If you are prepared and well equipped with the knowledge of your company, it would be the advantage on your part plus coupled with the right techniques like what you said asking provocative questions that can maybe
    a great factor to win them.

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