Powerful Sales Questions to Ask Your Prospects

Sales meeting
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Asking sales questions of each and every prospect will make your sales process easier and more effective. Doing so will help you uncover your prospect's needs and concerns so you can deliver a customized pitch that focuses on what's most important to that prospect.

Any question that allows you to more closely understand a prospect's needs is a good one, but certain sales questions can be powerful and useful for nearly every prospect, whatever their individual situation may be.

What's Changed Recently?

This question can be phrased in several different ways, such as "How has your industry changed in the past six months?" or "What has changed in the way you do business?" or even "What changes do you expect to see in the near future?"

However you phrase it, this question digs at what has changed for your prospect and how they've reacted or expect to react. Understanding the changes affecting your prospect gives you an excellent look at their needs and how they may be changing as well.

Talking about changes will also give you a glimpse at your prospect's emotional state. When they talk about what's changed, pay close attention to whether they react with fear and anxiety or if they seem pleased and excited? That's an important clue that you can use to direct your next set of questions.

Show You're Listening

Make sure prospects know you're listening as they answer your questions. Take notes, don't interrupt, and repeat back what they tell you in your own words.

What Would You Like to Talk About?

This question is a powerful way to quickly focus the conversation on whatever matters most to the prospect.

The best time to ask this question is right after scheduling a sales appointment or other meeting with a prospect or customer. This allows you to get an advance peek at your prospect's needs and to come up with other questions (and comments) that are designed to appeal to those needs.

Another good time to ask this question is when you're having trouble getting an understanding of the prospect. Sometimes, even though you're asking all the right questions, you may get nothing but yes-or-no answers. Asking the prospect to pick a topic helps you to find a way through that resistance.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Asking open-ended questions allows your prospects to lead the conversation, open up, and reveal what's important to them. Avoid asking yes-or-no questions when possible.

Do You Have Any Questions?

This question is almost mandatory after you've finished a sales presentation. Another and equally relevant way to phrase it is, "Do you have any concerns?"

Asking this question in either form after a presentation is also a great way to fish for objections. The sooner you can get those objections out in the open and resolved, the sooner you can move along with the sales process.

You'd also probably choose this phrasing if you noticed the prospect's body language during your presentation was less than positive. In fact, if a prospect seems to react negatively at any point during your presentation, you should probably pause and ask this question. It's better to find out right away if you've said something that triggers a negative reaction in a prospect.

Ask Follow-Up Questions

Don't be afraid to ask for clarification or more information with these additional questions:

  • What's an example of that?
  • Can you be a little more specific about that?
  • Can you tell me more about that?
  • How did that affect your business?

What Do You Need to Move Forward?

This question is powerful because the answer usually tells you exactly what you need to do to close the sale.

Once you've uncovered the prospect's needs, made your pitch, and answered any objections, it's time to find out where you stand with the sale. In the best-case scenario, your prospect will answer this question with, "Nothing. I'm ready to move forward now." At this point, you can pull out your paperwork and get his name on the dotted line.

On the other hand, if you get an answer along the lines of "I'll need to think about it" or something equally vague, you could be in trouble. This type of response usually lets you know that you have a lot of work to do before you can hope to close the sale.

Many times you'll get a response somewhere between those two, such as "I'll need to look at a couple of your competitors first" or "I need to give your proposal to my boss and get approval before we can move forward."

Understand the Process

It's important to get an understanding of the prospect's decision-making process. That'll help you decide which questions to ask, when to ask them, and to whom.

More Effective Sales Questions

Other questions to ask of prospects include:

  • What are your top priorities right now?
  • What are your goals (both short-term and long-term)?
  • What's holding you back from meeting your goals?
  • What is the company's decision-making process like?
  • What's the outcome you're looking for with this [product/service]?
  • Who else is involved in this purchasing decision?