Management Matters : Is Asking Questions the Answer?

Some people think it is not polite to ask questions. Others are afraid of asking, for fear they will get an answer that they do not want to hear—a ‘no’, instead of a ‘yes’ for example

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If you don’t ask, what is the answer? If you do ask, what are the odds the answer will be in your favor? If you happen to get a ‘no’, did you lose anything?

But what if we asked permission to ask questions and/or take notes? Would that change the scenario?

Traditional sales techniques of show-and-tell no longer work in this new economy of buyers. Buyers today want to be engaged, as buying is all about them, not you. To be engaged requires the buyer be involved. How can you engage buyers in the sales process?

We, as humans are wired to be curious, and asking questions is one of the most effective ways of learning and growing… or is it?

Let’s first understand why you ask questions.

By asking questions you learn a lot, you uncover needs, you make the other person feel important and that contributes towards building a lasting relationship. There are millions of reasons for asking questions, but there is one reason that is most important for salespeople to understand, and to master.

It is the salesperson’s responsibility to qualify prospects, yet it is the prospect who qualifies the salesperson most of the time. This is witnessed by the prospect asking questions of the salesperson and the salesperson answering those questions and giving free consulting.

It is the salesperson’s responsibility to gather information, not give it away. It is when salespeople start to give information away – free consulting – that they start to lose control.

It is the salesperson’s responsibility to be in control of the sales process, yet it is the prospect that is in control of the process most of the time. Why? Because salespeople talk too much when answering questions and don’t ask enough questions, or listen as well as they should.

The main reason for salespeople to ask questions is to maintain control of the sales process – to build rapport and to gather information to determine if the prospect is qualified for the solutions you provide and then to make a decision to proceed or to abort.

When a salesperson is not in control of the process, they have fallen into the buyer’s system. This happens when salespeople start giving information away, as opposed to doing the opposite – getting information. So, how does one get information and stay in control of the sales process – ask questions.

It is always the person who is asking the questions that is in complete control. The person who is answering the questions thinks they are in control, but in reality, are not. Therefore it is the salesperson’s responsibility to be in control of the process but it is the buyer who should think they are in control.

Here are some questioning tips to be guided by :

Ask questions that will help you gather the types of information you need.

  • Use open-ended questions when you want people to open up and talk.
  • Use directing questions when you need a specific answer or need to move the conversation in a specific direction.
  • Use fact-finding questions to gather the information you need.
  • Use close-ended questions when you need to focus the conversation, reach conclusions, etc.

Use a deliberate sequence of questioning that will take you and your customer where you need to go. Start by first identifying the problems to which you have solutions for.

Then create a list of questions you need to ask that will help you uncover if there are any problems to which you have solutions for.

  • Determine what information you need.
  • Use a mix of open, directing, fact-finding and closed questions that will gather that information for you and keep the discussion on track.
  • Use the let’s pretend, or magic wand, techniques to get them talking about their ultimate desires as if nothing were impossible.
  • Constantly evaluate whether you are getting the information you need and, if not, adjust your line of questioning accordingly.
  • Don’t assume that a buyer will always “open up” with open questions, “focus in” with closed questions, etc. Be ready to rephrase questions or adjust your approach if you are not getting the answers you need, or if you are not moving the discussion in the direction it needs to go.
  • Stay in control. When asked a question respond with a compliment – That is a good question, John. Repeat and reverse the question back to the prospect – Would that be something important for you to consider and why? They will almost always elaborate on the question asked, and give you more information. When asked the same question twice, provide a brief answer, but end your sentence with a question.
  • Be sure that you don’t give your customer the impression that he or she is being ‘grilled’.
  • When asked a question about price or a solution early in the cycle, mention that you will give them an answer to that question soon but you need to gather more information first – ‘You are on page 7 and I am only on page 2’.
  • When you get answers like ‘maybe’, ‘leave it with me’, or any statement that is unclear, question it by asking what they mean. You need to be sure you fully understand where they are at.
  • If they are showing interest in your product or service, ask them what it is that makes them feel that way. It will give the prospect a chance to sell himself more.

Listen to the answers to your questions.

  • Listen 70% of the time. Ask questions for the other 30% of the time.
  • Focus on what the buyer is saying. Don’t be thinking about your next question.
  • Avoid formulating your next question while the buyer is talking – particularly if that sort of activity easily distracts you from listening.
  • Always question the answers for more detail. It is when you question the answer three or four levels down that you can get to the root of the problem.

Is Asking Questions the Answer? YES!


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– Bob Urichuck is an internationally sought after speaker, trainer and founder of the ‘Buyer Focused’ Velocity Selling System and a best-selling author in six languages.

His latest books, Velocity Selling: How to Attract, Engage and Empower Buyers to Buy, and Motivate Your Team in 30 Days are new in 2014.

Sales Velocity. Your Bottom Line. Our Passion


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