Misconceptions About Using Questions in the Sales Process


Advice abounds on "asking good questions" during the sales process. I believe much of it is confusing or even misleading.

My clients and readers have enjoyed Power Questions, but have asked for more detailed guidance about the use of questions specifically in sales and business development. In response, I have just published a short ebook entitled Power Questions to Win the Sale. My next few blogs are based on it. 

Here are some examples of what I mean by misleading advice about asking questions:

Hamster and barbell


"Always start with questions. You have to make the conversation all about your client's issues."

This depends on who asked for the meeting. If call a prospect and ask to meet, you can't go in and immediately start peppering them with questions. You have to set the agenda, explain the purpose of your meeting, and first add some value by giving a brief overview of some client examples or trends that you're helping your other clients grapple with. If your prospect or client asked for the meeting, that's different–then, you can start with some well-chosen questions. 

"Inquiry-based sales is dead"

Really? What they mean is that a sales approach that relies entirely on asking questions doesn't work. That's true. But it's a strawman, because we always knew you couldn't  just walk into a prospect's office and ask them 30 questions and expect to walk away with a contract!

"You must provoke your customer"

That's great–but only when you have a truly provocative idea and only once you've built some rapport and trust! That's like a career strategy founded on becoming a professional basketball player or a supermodel. You need a broader set of value-added conversational strategies than having a breakthrough, provocative idea for every meeting.

"Ask only open-ended questions. Don't ask closed-ended questions"

Well, if I never asked any informational questions I would be rather ignorant about my client's business. You almost always need to ask a few closed-ended questions, especially at the beginning of a relationship.

"Always start with a few general questions about the client's business"

Maybe. It depends. "How's business?" is OK for someone you know pretty well, but if you walk into a Senior Vice President's office and ask such casual, jaunty questions, it will most likely communicate a complete lack of preparation.

For my next post I'll highlight some "Strong" and "Weak" questions you can use in the sales process. These are all taken from my new, short ebook that John Wiley & Sons has just published, Power Questions to Win the Sale: Overcoming Nine Sales Challenges. It's available in Kindle, Nook, and iBook formats. 

What general principles work for you as you use questions during the sales process?




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