Your Sales Reps Need to Ask More Questions. And You Need to Let Them!

May 1, 2019
Your Sales Reps Need to Ask More Questions. And You Need to Let Them!

Are you a sales leader trying to improve sales growth? Well, chances are your sales reps need to ask more questions. Similarly, you need to let them!

A while back, a sales VP told me that he was frustrated because his salespeople weren’t good closers.

I asked him to tell me more.

In the ensuing dialog, I discovered that he had arrived at this conclusion because he’d witnessed it first-hand on joint sales calls with his team.

I chose not to take this at face value and, therefore, asked him to describe a typical sales call in detail.

“Well, It’s a sophisticated sale. It’s consultative.  My salespeople don’t ask good questions.  They don’t even ask for the order.”

Hmmm.  I didn’t have enough insight into what was going on, but I had a hunch.

“How many times are you on joint sales calls?”  “Almost always” he said.  “How much talking does the salesperson do and how much time do you talk on the call?”  “What do you mean?”  “Who’s doing the majority of the talking on your team?”

He got very quiet.  “I jump in to save the deal when the call gets off track.”  “On most calls?”  “Yup!”

I saw something he could do to fix the problem, but I decided not to tell him.

It was more important for him to discover the solution for himself.

“How would you react if you were a salesperson and your boss kept taking over the conversation and closing the deal for you?”

He connected the dots.

“So, you’re saying I’m the reason for their failure to close?”

“What do you think?”

“I can see that this might annoy them, but why aren’t they saying anything about it?”

“Maybe you’ve trained them to wait for you to save the day.  Maybe they’ve tried and you haven’t heard them?”

The last question I asked was “But it doesn’t matter what I think.  What do you think?”

Salespeople Must Ask More Questions. And You Need to Let Them!

Whether they’re selling goods or services, or some combination, there are things your salespeople need to know and will have to ask for. While the buyer (who will have questions of her own) may be expecting some of their questions, some may never have occurred to them.

The clearer your salespeople can be about what they need and why, the more likely they are to get the information that will move the process along. It’s always possible that the buyer can’t, doesn’t, or won’t provide what they need.

You may ask, “what can my sales reps do as time goes by and they still need answers?”

First, ask them to rethink what they asked for.

Was it focused on what they really needed to know? Then, ask them how clearly they phrased the question and try it again.

Some questions miss the mark while others elicit all kinds of helpful information, for both seller AND buyer. Yes, I did say buyer. You would think that answers benefit the seller the most. But, this is not the case.

Think about when a buyer said “hmm, that’s a great question” and takes the time to think it though and give a good answer. They've been forced to examine an issue raised by your question.  The response can provide the seller with a wealth of valuable information and at the same time give the buyer clarity on something he needs to resolve.

Here’s an example of a badly phrased question.

“What keeps you up at night?” 

This is a poor question because it’s too broad. Worse yet, it can misfire. The answer may have no relevancy to a solution that the seller can provide.

A better question is one targeted to a suspected problem and is phrased in an open-ended way.

For example, “Tell me about…” or “Please describe…” are good starts to leading questions that encourage a detailed response.

For instance, “Tell me about why you think your salespeople are not prospecting enough?” invites a thoughtful response. By contrast, “Are your salespeople prospecting enough?”  will get you a quick “yes” or “no.” Then follow-on questions would need to be asked to get more to work with.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on asking questions during sales calls? What is your experience? Do you have a story about asking questions? Let's get the conversation going in the comments!

motivation - sales growth program - criteria for success

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