5 Keys to a Good Questions

When involved in selling, it is critical that we truly understand our customers' needs, interests and priorities. Otherwise it is nearly impossible to close the sale!

Need assessment requires good communication skills primarily probing and listening, which we have found are complementary in nature. Consider that by asking better questions we are able to uncover better information, which enables better listening and leads to better
need assessment.

But be careful!

It can be easy to get carried away and ask too many questions, in which case our sales call can take on the feeling of an interrogation!

Instead, it's best to prepare a series of strategic questions in advance. One effective exercise is to list at least twenty things we might like to know about our customers or prospects, and then craft five or six open-ended questions that might get us the answers to all twenty items.

If this sounds like an exercise you might find helpful, here are five keys to implementation and, ultimately, to better probing, enhanced listening (due to the "better" answers we'll get) and, ultimately, greater sales success:

  1. As you begin to think about the questions you will create, focus on what people hope to accomplish rather than what they "think they need" this is consistent with a consultative selling style.
  2. Create a list of questions in advance (in writing!) based on these guidelines:
    • Create both open-ended and closed-ended questions then you will be able to select appropriately during sales calls to control flow.

      Open-ended questions (those that can't be answered with a simple "Yes" or "No") promote conversation, while closed-ended questions tend to curb it.

    • Create polite "prompts" these are helpful for asking others to continue… to tell you more.
    • Create trial closing questions to test receptivity as opposed to "closing" questions, which seek decisions, trial closing questions seek opinions; they facilitate easier closing because we are gaining useful feedback throughout the process.

      What do you think so far?

      Would that be helpful?

    • Create statement / question combinations to promote or confirm understanding or to give people "amnesty" by explaining others have encountered similar issues.

      These combinations begin with a clarifying statement, such as, "Many people tell us they have trouble handling X, Y and Z... how does your organization deal with these challenges?"

  3. Ask only purposeful questions each question is asked for a reason, so it is important; don't accept vague or incomplete answers (see item #3-bullet 2); keep in mind that vague answers are often due to poor questions!
  4. Ask only one question at a time, and let others answer each question
  5. Use your list during sales calls. Conduct on-going post-call assessments were your questions effective? If so, use them again; if not, improve as necessary!

Communication and Questioning Skills