Ask yourself, are you using sales questions that open doors and close deals?
By Steli Efti
I’ve said it before: The better you are at listening, the better you are at selling. Sales isn’t about answering all the right questions, it’s about asking them.
The problem is, most salespeople don’t know the difference between a good question and a bad one.
The Difference Between Good And Bad Sales Questions
There’s only one difference between good and bad questions: Value.
A bad question generates one-sided value at best, and no value at worst. A good question, on the other hand, generates tons of value for you and your prospect. You can probably guess which type most salespeople ask.
How To Ask Crappy Questions
Most salespeople don’t realize they’re asking really, really bad questions. Here are three warning signs to watch out for.
- Asking Closed Questions
A closed question is one that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” For example, “Have you used any of our competitors in the past?”
Although there is a place for them, closed questions rarely generate mutual value.
Instead, focus on open questions. An open question is one that facilitates conversation and produces insights. For example, “Which of our competitors have you used in the past?”
- Reading From A Script
Depending on how you use them, sales scripts can either be powerful tools or huge problems.
Pro tip: Don’t read off your script while talking with a prospect. They can tell when you’re walking them through a checklist.
Create a script, sure. Then memorize it, tuck it away, and experiment. Your sales script should be the foundation of your pitch, not the entirety of it.
- Being Inauthentic
If you expect your prospects to be authentic with you, be prepared to return the favor. Authenticity breeds trust, and trust is the core of any sale.
Here are three signs you’re being inauthentic:
- Over-excitement. Example: Responding, “Great!” to everything your prospect says.
- Example: Avoiding certain questions because you know your prospect won’t like the answer)
- Example: Being a completely different person to each prospect.
Be flexible in your communication, but stay authentic.
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers” – Voltaire
How To Ask Awesome Sales Questions
Now that you know how to identify a crappy question, let’s take a look at what it takes to ask questions that open doors and close deals.
Just like with email subject lines, using your prospect’s name is a great way to develop rapport and get their attention.
Be careful, though. If you overuse their name you look inauthentic and annoying. Use their name (or business name) in key questions where you really want their attention, but communicate normally otherwise.
Silence is awkward, right? That’s exactly why it’s such a powerful tool. Silence is so uncomfortable for most people that they’ll do anything to break it. That’s what you want. When you sit in silence, your prospect will be compelled to keep talking.
The more they talk, the more insights you get, and the more insights you get, the more value you can provide.
Even if you have a sales script (and you should), stay curious.
Don’t be afraid to stray from your script and ask questions to learn more about your prospect’s personal life, business goals, or challenges.
Every prospect will be unique and, generally speaking, you won’t sell to the same person twice. Treat them like that and you’ll develop lasting professional relationships and uncover powerful insights.
Three Killer Sales Questions To Close More Deals
Now that you know what it takes to ask effectively, try out these three sales questions during your next pitch.
- What are your must-haves, should haves, and could-haves?
Your prospect is going to have a million requests, and you can’t possibly meet every single one of them.
Ask this question to help them prioritize their needs. It’ll help them get clear on what’s really important, and help you decide whether or not the deal is worth pursuing.
- What do you need from us to be insanely successful?
This question communicates that your goal is their success, and gives them the opportunity to make their needs known.
Some prospects won’t want anything beyond the software, and others will expect a more involved and collaborative relationship. Make sure you understand their expectations in advance.
- What’s it going to take to make this deal happen?
Once you’ve successfully qualified your prospect, walk them through the Virtual Close.
This question creates a clear outline of the buying process from beginning to end. You can use that information to decide whether or not the deal is worth pursuing, forecast appropriately, and start preparing for each stage in advance.
They say practice makes perfect, but that isn’t true. If you practice the wrong skills, you turn mistakes into habits.
Use a CRM like Close.io that automatically records your calls, then set aside time to review your recent pitches. Take note of how you ask questions, and how your prospect responds.
What’s working? What isn’t? Be honest with yourself and, if you can, get someone else to listen and get feedback.
You have the sales tools you need to start asking powerful questions, so what are you waiting for? Start calling! Once you have your prospect talking, listen. The less you talk, the more you’ll learn. The more you learn, the better you’ll sell.
Now get out there and crush it.
Steli Efti is the co-founder and CEO at Close.io, an inside sales CRM for startups and SMBs that helps to minimize manual data entry and close more deals.