HOW TO ASK BETTER SALES QUESTIONS BY DEFINING INTENT – by Deb Calvert

The questions you’re asking buyers may be good. But you can ask better questions simply by thinking through the purpose of each and every question you ask.

Contrast these three question pairs to distinguish between the before and after versions of questions.

The “before” questions were vague because the sellers weren’t quite sure what they wanted to achieve. The “after” questions are better questions because the seller paused to get clarity.

Related: Which Selling Behaviors Are Your Buyers Looking For?

How to Ask Better Sales Questions

Better Sales Questions: Example #1

Before: You’ve been with ABC Company a long time, right?

After: Tell me more about your history with ABC Company.

Intention: To understand the buyer’s history and background, not merely to generate “small talk.”

Better Sales Questions: Example #2

Before: Do you have any plans to expand in the near term?

After: What is your strategy in this market over the next 5 years?

Intention: To learn about the 5-year strategy in one market.

Better Sales Questions: Example #3

Before: How are we stacking up so far?

After: What will the deciding factor be in choosing a supplier?

Intention: To identify the top decision criteria in supplier selection.

Starting with the intention enables sellers to craft more effective questions, like the “after” questions shown here. Before you ask a question, ask yourself “what do I really want to know and why?” This mental exercise will instantly improve the questions you ask.

Once you pinpoint what it is you’re interested in, your question will be more specific. The buyer’s answer will give you the information you’re looking for. You’ll be less likely to belabor the interview with follow-up questions that go in endless circles. The construction of your better sales questions will yield the content you desire.

 

Deb Calvert has worked as a sales productivity specialist and has been involved with leading edge sales research since 2000. She has worked with the newspaper industry for over 25 years as a Consultant, and she hosts the CONNECT! online radio show for selling professionals where listeners ignite their selling power in just an hour.

As President and Founder of People First Productivity Solutions, Deb also consults with agriculture and produce and other companies on boosting productivity through people and process development. This work includes leadership program design and facilitation, strategic planning with executive teams, team effectiveness work, and performance management program design. Deb is certified to facilitate The Leadership Challenge® and also works with executives, managers, sales trainers and sales reps as a Humanistic Performance Coach. She is certified as an Executive Coach by the Center for Executive Coaching.

Deb is also certified as a Master Sales Coach and Master Trainer. She is a charter member of The Sales Force Advisory Board, a Kellogg Graduate School think tank that analyzes best practices from sales organizations across the globe. She is a graduate of the “Accelerating Sales Force Performance” executive program at Northwestern University. Deb is also a member of the American Society for Training and Development, national chapter and the Mount Diablo chapter, the American Management Association, and the SF Coaches, a charter chapter of the International Coach Federation. Additionally, Deb is a Certified Practitioner with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and other assessment tools.

Deb’s blend of senior-level Sales, Human Resources, and Operations experience give her a unique perspective in understanding the challenges faced by companies and senior leaders. She is the author of Discover Questions™ Get You Connected: for Professional Sellers and the co-author of the newly released Stop Selling and Start Leading: How to Make Extraordinary Sales Happen.

 

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