Great Questions

Last week I spoke to a group about Consultative Selling. Not surprisingly, we started talking about the 17 attributes of Consultative Selling that we look for when we evaluate whether a sales candidate can and will sell consultatively.

questionsWith your permission, I'll focus on 3 of the attributes.

  • Asks Enough Questions
  • Asks Great Questions
  • Able to Ask Tough Questions

How many is enough? I knew a furniture salesman that was known for approaching a shopper in a store and saying, "That's a beauty. Want me to help you put it in your car?" One question was usually not enough, but

  • sometimes it was
  • it got the ball rolling, He could then ask why not or a more subtle question to determine what the shopper was looking for.

In my mind, "enough" is when the prospect is ready to buy. How do you know? Ask. Don't ask them to buy. That's closing and it's very 20th Century.  It's important to have a few 'secret weapon' questions. Try this:

"We've been talking for a while and I've asked a lot of questions which you have answered very well. You've also asked a fair amount of questions and I hope that I've answered them equally as well. Where are we? What would you like to do now?"

Don't be surprised if they ask, "So how do we get started?"

Another one:

"I apologize. I've asked a ton of questions and you've answered every one of them perfectly. How about if I give you a chance? Go ahead, ask me a question." They do and you ask, "Interesting. Why is that in the forefront of your mind?"

 My favorite:

"I feel like I'm missing something and if I asked the right question, it would put us on the same page. If you were me, what question would you ask you right now? What should I ask?" When they tell you, you reply. "Great question. OK, how would you answer?"

Last thing. If they don't have a question for you and they can't suggest a question that you should ask, use the first example and take their order. They're ready.

What the heck is a "great question"?

When your prospect says, "That's a great question!"

When your prospect says, "Nobody's ever asked me that before!"

When your prospect says, "I never even thought to look at it that way!"

... and you just have to ask "...and...?" and let them tell you why.

The problem is that there isn't a handbook on 100 great questions. They're specific to the situation. The best way to learn how to come up with them is to role play every day with someone that understands your prospects. A co-worker, tech guy, manager or coach. You need to learn how to create them on the fly.

Tough questions are my favorite! You don't need to use my style, but I tend to be confrontational.

  • Gotta tell you, I'm wondering if any of this really matters?
  • Is any of this worth fixing?
  • Whose idea was this? Yours? What were you thinking?
  • None of your people will accept this. How ill you handle the pushback?
  • You've been in business for 20 years. It's been like this for ten years. You're still in business. Why rock the boat?

Tough questions make your prospect sit up straight and think WTF? I can't believe you're asking me that!

I've asked business owners

  • Have you thought about shutting down your business and getting a job?
  • What if YOU are the problem?
  • Does anybody say "No" to you or are you surrounded by "yes" men?

So, I posted this to LinkedIn yesterday. What are your sales calls like?

Feel free to ask me anything.

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