The Art of Asking Good Questions

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“What do we hate most about salespeople?”…. . they simply, never stop talking. How many salespeople have come into your office, sat down and proceeded to tell you every benefit about what they are selling, without ever knowing what you need. Typically, they don’t ask the questions, but rather tell you what they want you to know. So, the result is, a frustrated prospect who feels as if their needs have not been met. Difficult as it may seem, this very common problem can be addressed rather simply by just asking questions and listening effectively. By doing these two simple tasks, the prospect will tell you what they are looking for and more than likely, the sales rep will close the sale.

First, a good questioning system is essential because you want to keep the client talking. If questions are asked properly, you should never have to close a client. Your objective on an initial call should be to find out what they are currently doing, what they like about what they are doing, and what would they improve. Some ways to encourage the prospect to continue talking would be to use phrases such as what else, name another, how, why, be more specific, could you elaborate, and what do you mean. These phrases will allow you to get more specific information rather than vague responses.

The goal should be for each question to generate 3 pieces of information that allow you to move to the next step. Prior to that first face to face meeting, you want to find out some of the challenges so that your initial meeting allows you to confirm their biggest challenges and what some potential solutions might be. This will allow you, the salesperson to move the process forward.

During the sales process, many salespeople fall into the trap of not asking enough questions, posing a solution and basically, leaving money on the table. An example of this might be, a car salesman who is selling cars has just sold a brand new 2005 Buick LaCrosse to a woman in her mid sixties. She requested no extra options on the car, so the salesperson assumed she was not interested in any of the maintenance packages. Later after the woman had left the dealership she ended up calling the service manager to ask if they vehicle had Roadside Assistance, he replied “no, that is an extra option you can buy at the time you purchase the vehicle. ” Her response back was, “I was never asked and my husband is no longer able to change a tire in the event we should have a problem, is there any way we could add this?” The service manager was happy to handle this request, however the sales rep didn’t finish his questions, therefore missing out on a potential sale for himself. Essentially, he left money on the table.

Finally, after you’ve asked the correct questions it is important to restate what you have learned and clarify that you have it right. You can do this by restating two or three of the most vital things you learned from your conversation with the prospect. After you’ve gained agreement, go ahead and come up with a solution by using the phrase, “What if we… were to put together a scope document outlining what we’ve discussed today and schedule a time to get back together to confirm what might be some possible solutions. ” By using the statement “What if we…. ” You aren’t assuming anything and you are including the prospect in the decision making process. In addition, this allows for a smooth transition in the sales process, they are basically selling themselves.

The art of asking good questions is essential to increasing sales and achieving total customer satisfaction. They are definitely going to return to a salesperson that is able to effectively identify their needs and offer solutions that solve their problem. Asking the right questions is not only good sales but outstanding customer service as well. Good questioning should be used in every level of an organization, on an everyday basis.

Tim Hagen owns Sales Progress LLC a sales consulting and development firm which is located in Mequon, Wisconsin. He has worked with clients such as the Milwaukee Brewers and Bombardier Evinrude, and has increased sales between 15-35%. For further information feel free to check out the website at or email Tim directly at


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