Asking the Right Questions to Make the Sale

Salesman and doctor in a casual meeting

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If you spend your sales appointments giving a lecture about your product and how great it is, you are using a presentation style that will cost you a lot of sales. A much more effective approach is to ask questions that draw your prospect out. When you ask the right questions in the right way, you can end up getting your prospects to do all the selling for you.

At the very least, you'll learn a lot about what the prospect wants from your product, which means you can laser-focus your presentation on just those points that will sell most effectively.

Asking Open-Ended Questions

Asking your prospect a series of open-ended questions during your presentation serves three important purposes. First, it helps you to confirm whether or not the prospect is a good fit for your product. Second, it helps you to identify their hot-button benefits, which allows you to fine-tune your pitch. Third, by getting prospects to talk about various benefits and what they think about them, you sneak the information past the prospect’s “salesperson filter.”

Not every question listed here is a perfect fit for every prospect, but these examples will give you a good place to start. Ideally, once you ask a few questions, the prospect will launch into an in-depth speech and you won’t need to do any more prompting at all.

Buying History

By learning more about the prospect’s previous buying experiences, you’ll get a glimpse of how that person's mind works and what their buying routines are. A prospect's buying history has a major impact on their opinion of salespeople and what they value most in a product.

  • What experiences, good or bad, have you had with this [product type] (e.g., “What experiences, good or bad, have you had with buying cars?”)?
  • When did you last buy a [product type]?
  • What process have you used in the past to buy a [product type]?
  • Has that process worked well for you? Why or why not?
  • What have you already tried doing to fix the problem with your current [product type]?
  • What have you purchased from us before?
  • How did that purchase go?

Purchase-Specific Questions

These questions relate to the specific transaction you are hoping to initiate. Purchase questions help you identify hot-button needs and to design your pitch around them.

  • What prompted you to meet with me today?
  • What qualities do you look for in a [product type]?
  • Which quality is most important to you?
  • Why would you like to have a [product type]?
  • What is your timeline for buying a [product type]?
  • What is your budget?
  • Who else is involved in the purchasing decision?

Rapport-Building Questions

These questions get your prospects talking about themselves and help you develop a relationship of trust. They can also help you identify the prospect’s likes and dislikes, which is valuable information.

  • How long have you been with the company? (for B2B sales)
  • Where did you buy that beautiful sofa? (B2C)
  • How old are your children? How many do you have? (If you see a photo)
  • What would you like this [product type] to do for you?

Clarifying Questions

If a prospect gives only a brief response to an important question, try drawing out more information.

  • Tell me more about that.
  • Can you give me an example?
  • Can you be more specific?
  • How did that affect you?

Objection-Seeking Questions

Until your prospect voices his objections, you can’t do anything about them. If a prospect hasn’t raised any objections then a little questioning can draw them out.

  • What are your thoughts so far?
  • Do you have any concerns? What are they?
  • What other subjects should we discuss?
  • Is there any reason we shouldn’t move forward?