Want to close the sale? Ask the right question!

by prmorris|September 24, 2018

Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John collaborated on an article in the Harvard Business Review (May-June Issue 2018, Pages 60-67) the title of which is “The Surprising Power of Questions”. One of their basics is: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Get”.  I found their article to be very engaging.

There is hardly anything more powerful than asking questions because that is the method by which you find out information.  And, the questions are not just any questions.  If you ask a “closed-ended” question you will get a “closed” type of answer will be short like a “yes”, “no”, “possibly”.  In sales, however, you want your prospects to answer you with more information. I’m sure that nearly every sales training seminar you have ever been to, including mine, will teach you to primarily stick to “open-ended” questions so that you can gather pertinent information. For example, you might ask something like the following: “What else can you tell me about this project?”, or “How will the changes affect the timing of this project?”  These types of questions can lead to a very informative conversation.

I know many of us aren’t certain that questions –  the right questions –  can teach us much more than we can know. That is why we need to perfect our questioning techniques. Brooks and John tackle the problem on page 62, writing that doctors, litigators, and journalists are taught to ask open-ended questions through their training because the importance of asking the right questions in their field is paramount.  Executives in sales, however, often don’t feel that their questioning skills can or need to be improved upon, according to the authors. This idea couldn’t be more wrong.

I agree that in sales, questions are powerful and can – as the number of questions increases – help quickly close the sale.  Make sure, however, that you don’t ask so many questions that the prospect becomes somewhat disinterested. In their article, Brooks and John cap the questions at about 14 because a person’s interest begins to drop off between 11 and 14 questions, according to the authors.

Your sales call shouldn’t be a “questioning drill”.  Work your questions into the conversation so that there is a flow and it doesn’t appear as if you are working from a list. Mix in conversational and specific, pointed questions relating to your purpose. If you have a well thought out plan before your call and know the result you want, it will go much better and you will be very near to closing the sale.

In my Consulting and Training business I emphasize asking the RIGHT questions.  The more questions asked, the more information gained. Being well organized long before your conversation is critical.

Want to learn more about how asking the right type of questions can help you close more sales? Then let’s chat. You can always reach me at prmorris@petermorrisconsulting.net.

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