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Every successful sales person understands that asking the right questions is critical to making a sale, and yet, many of us don’t ask enough questions, and consequently miss potential sales opportunities, form strong relationships and excel as a sales person.

Asking questions is a skill you can develop. Here are a few things to keep in mind when asking questions.

1. Follow up with follow-up questions.
In any given sales discussion, questioning will identify potential customer needs. Refine your understanding of these needs with follow up questions; this demonstrates a genuine interest in what the buyer has to say, making them feel more respected and heard, which will improve your relationship.
The good news is follow-up questions don’t require much thought or preparation, since they are based on the conversation in progress. Don’t try to anticipate the answer, simply focus on listening.

2. Take care with your tone.
We can all be nervous, especially if we’re new to selling, but try not to show it. If you ask your questions in a casual manner, the buyer is more likely to reveal much more detailed information that they might otherwise withhold.

3. Pay attention to order.
If you’re trying to drill down sensitive business issues and feeling that the atmosphere is a little tense, start with the tough questions. It might feel a bit awkward, but people are more likely to open up if you ask questions in a sequence that gradually becomes less intrusive. If you’re looking to build relationships, however, the opposite applies. Start with the big overview questions, and then gradually move onto the more sensitive ones.

4. Keep your questions open.
A series of yes-or-no closed questions can make it feel more like an interrogation than a conversation. If you’re looking to uncover information, form relationships or learn something new, keep the questions open and indirect. This will give the buyer more freedom in how they respond.
Of course, closed questions are crucial in some situations, particularly when you’re negotiating or closing the sale. They take away wiggle room that allows the other person to avoid answering the question directly and disclosing the information or response that you need.