The foundation of a good sales questioning strategy is creating a well-paced dialogue based on asking open-ended questions.
Here is a list of questions that I typically draw on in developing my pre-call strategy. They can be easily honed for specific situations and are intended to draw the other person into a meaningful conversation.
What is the opportunity?
- What is the initiative we’re here to talk about today?
- Why is now the right time for this initiative?
- What is the driving force behind this initiative?
What are the expectations?
- How will you recognize or define success?
- What changes do you want to see in your organization?
- What do you want your people to be doing differently
- How do you see this working within your organization?
- What are the roadblocks?
- Are there any champions or other stakeholders with an interest in this initiative?
What are the circumstances?
- How have you been addressing this issue?
- What is your time frame for getting started?
- What does your decision-making process look like, and who will be involved?
- What are next steps and your time frames for implementation?
- When can we schedule time for a presentation to all of the decision makers?
Who else is in the running?
- Who else are you considering as a partner for this initiative?
- What criteria will you use in making this decision?
- What have I not addressed that you’ve heard about and are intrigued by from other potential partners?
What else might you ask?
- Have you thought about this aspect? It’s something that we’ve helped other clients address with XYZ.
- What sensitivities do I need to be aware of?
- What have I not asked that I need to know?
Whichever questions you ask, keep these tips in mind during any sales questioning:
- Avoid yes-or-no or multiple-choice questions.
- Avoid asking multiple questions at once. Pose one question at a time, and wait for the answer.
- Listen closely to the prospect’s answer and, when appropriate, let it set the direction of follow-up questions.
- Never answer your own question; let the prospect speak instead.
- Never formulate your next question while the prospect is answering the previous one. Keep your attention on the prospect’s answers. Good listening goes hand-in-hand with good questioning.
Questioning is one of Richardson’s Six Critical Skills for sales.
- Presence: Ability to project confidence, conviction, and interest in body language and voice
- Relating: Ability to use acknowledgment, rapport, and empathy to connect
- Questioning: Ability to explore needs and create dialogue
- Listening: Ability to understand content and emotional message
- Positioning: Ability to leverage client needs to be persuasive
- Checking: Ability to elicit feedback
These are the skills that allow salespeople to create a meaningful dialogue; establish themselves as trusted advisors; understand client needs, priorities, and perspectives; and close profitable business. Each skill builds on and supports the others — and, at the heart is the ability to ask the right questions to move your sales opportunities forward.