Category Archives: open-ended questions
There is one question that comes up in virtually every Richardson sales training session that I have conducted over the past 23 years. It is part of an activity in which teams practice coming up with and asking open-ended questions to buyers. This is the question that participants love to ask buyers — “What keeps you up at night?”
This was new, innovative, and fun back in 1997. Now, it is a cliché. It is a salesy question. If a buyer is interviewing four different companies to find the right partner, he/she can hear that question four times. In my training sessions, I work really hard with participants on asking open-ended questions that avoid this trap. The goal is to come up with classic questions that never go out of style. “What are your biggest worries when it comes to switching advisors?” If I am a buyer and you ask me a worry question, I’ll talk about my worries. You don’t have to make it a cliché about what keeps me up at night.
Another pitfall that I encourage sales professionals to stay away from involves trading questions: “If we are able to do X and Z for you, will you agree to do Y?” Asking open-ended questions with “If”; is a manipulative construction. Buyers see that you are trying to get them to say yes to something before they are ready. They hear the start of a » Continue Reading.
The three strongest words to begin good open-ended questions are what, why, and how. I discussed this in my previous post: Generate Deeper Sales Dialogues with Strong Open-ended Questions.
Now, I want to share another tool to help you develop your questioning strategy — directive statements. These are statements that don’t end in a question mark, yet they draw the buyer into sharing more information with you. Try mixing these directive statements with good open-ended questions to get your buyer talking.
Tell me about “Tell me about your decision-making process.” “Tell me about your top two concerns when it comes to X.” Please describe “Please describe the rationale for putting this out to bid this year.” “Please describe the different criteria that you will measure this decision against.” Share with me “Share with me what you’re looking for in a financial advisor.” “Share with me management’s top initiatives for this year.” Help me understand “Help me understand why you are shopping the business around at this point in time.” “Help me understand the two biggest issues that are preventing you from moving this forward.”
There is one nuance to this approach. Make sure not to sabotage these directive statements.
It is: “Tell me about …” Not: “Could you tell me about …”
It is: “Please describe …” Not: “Will you please describe …”
It is: “Share with me …” Not: “Would you share with me …”
It is: “Help me understand » Continue Reading.
When it comes to planning a questioning strategy, this is my philosophy: It is OK to ask people questions; it is not OK to question them.
What’s the difference? If the police show up at your door, put you in handcuffs, guide you to the backseat of their patrol car, and take you to the station, they’re going to question you. More to the point, they’re going to interrogate you.
When people feel questioned, they feel interrogated. It doesn’t matter if it happens at the police station or in their own office by a sales professional.
If, instead, people are asked questions, a dialogue can begin.
One of the more effective ways to generate dialogue is through the use of open-ended questions. These are the type that allows the customer or prospect to participate, engage, and elaborate in a discussion. Open-ended questions get customers talking and sharing information vs. feeling like the sales professional is drilling and grilling them.
Remember, we are all human beings, and human beings look for two things in an interaction. We want to be listened to, and we want to be understood. If I am a buyer, and I feel listened to and understood, then I will repay the favor and listen to what you have to say about your product, your service, and how you think that you can help me. So, if you want to ask me questions, first, let me talk » Continue Reading.
Providing a balance between asking good sales questions and providing good insights
Back before the days of Internet searches, salespeople could start conversations with, “Tell me about your business and what keeps you up at night.” Now, the answer would be: “I’m not here to educate you. I don’t have time to be your onboarding department. You’re supposed to know this stuff.”
If you ask sales questions that are too basic, to which you would have known the answer if you’d done your homework, you risk annoying the customer. And, if you ask too many questions, even good ones, one after another, it becomes an interrogation.
Moving Beyond Price: Differentiating Yourself through a Consultative Selling Approach
When we interview our clients to learn why they picked us for a sales training solution, the reason we hear given most often isn’t what you might expect. Although we offer comprehensive sales solutions, exceptional customization capabilities, outstanding facilitators, and many other tangible strengths, the reason we hear the most is that “you were the best fit.” When we look further into that answer, we usually hear phrases, such as “you really got our business and our culture” and “we had confidence in your ability to deliver what we need.” In a time when buyers have instant access to volumes of information at their fingertips, soft factors still matter. They can matter a lot.
As a sales professional, you work in a world where your competitors may be able to match you in price, product quality, and even features. So, how do you convince a potential client to buy from you? You must use a consultative selling approach to help differentiate your solution and yourself from your competitors. You don’t just offer yourself as someone who can supply good solutions; you offer yourself as someone who is fully vested in the client’s success, not just someone trying to sell to the client. You strive to be the best “fit.”
So, how do you become the best fit? This process starts with preparation before the conversation. You need to identify the decision makers » Continue Reading.
Best Sales Questions that Work
You may love watching police dramas on TV, but a good salesperson never recreates the interrogation room in a prospect’s office.
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 » Continue Reading.
The Best Sales Questions to Ask on a Second Call
Life would be fantastic if initial sales calls resulted in every question being answered, in full, with enough detail to go straight to the close. That rarely — if ever — happens. That’s why it’s necessary to plan the best sales questions very carefully for the second sales call.
In my previous post, The Art of Asking Sales Questions to Engage Prospects, I discussed the kinds of questions and strategy that salespeople should use in calls with prospects and clients. Now, let’s consider the best sales questions to focus on for the second call.
One of the first things to do is share your understanding of the initial conversation. The reason is twofold: it validates your understanding of the situation based on what you heard, and you can gauge reactions and uncover additional perspectives in various areas.
What I typically do is to put together a conversation summary, highlighting my understanding of the conversation and what the prospect is trying to accomplish. This makes for a good starting point for a second meeting, and I always ask if there are others who need to be engaged in these conversations.
The questioning strategy at this point should be designed to drill down into more detail of the initiative under discussion. Many of these would focus on implementation and on uncovering each individual’s point of view:
How do you see this working within » Continue Reading.
The Best Sales Questions to Engage Your Prospects
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin
Salespeople who call on prospects or clients without well-researched, well-prepared sales questions to ask are likely to walk away knowing little more than when they began.
The four main objectives in any initial sales dialogue should be these:
To establish yourself as a credible professional and partner by being prepared and thoughtful in the sales questions that you ask To seek to understand the prospect’s current situation, which includes an effort to validate what you’ve researched or the assumptions that you’ve made To uncover a broader and deeper range of information, from strategic objectives to immediate business needs To seed new ideas to either influence or disrupt the prospect’s current thinking Asking Open Ended Sales Questions
With those four objectives firmly in mind, your next step is to develop a series of open-ended questions that you will ask to engage clients in a meaningful dialogue. Sequence your sales prospecting questions to create a flow. Forget about yes-or-no sales questions. Don’t provide multiple-choice answers. You want each question to elicit a thoughtful answer from the prospect’s or client’s point of view.
What is the initiative we’re here to talk about today? What is the driving force behind this initiative? Why is now the right time for this initiative? How will you » Continue Reading.