The Art Of Asking Good Questions by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

The role of a sales rep has changed over time. The top salespeople today structure their time with clients very differently than meetings of a few decades ago. Increasingly, the role of a salesperson is to become a trusted authority for a client or customer, with the sales professional having the resources to solve the problem or challenge the customer faces.

Asking the right question is an art. The highest earning sales professionals in any industry have learned the art of asking questions in a way that creates an understanding and a partnership or shared set of goals between the salesperson and the customer.

Like any kind of art, asking questions is not a recipe that is the same for everyone. However, there are questions that all salespeople can utilize to help to create that sense of coming alongside their customers or clients to provide support, assistance, and the solution to their problems.

Asking Open-Ended Questions

There is very little benefit in asking a question a customer can answer with yes, no, or another one word answer. These are closed questions, and they are only beneficial to confirm understanding or to get a specific fact.

The best salespeople focus on using open-ended questions. These are questions that require the person to give a longer answer, providing more information and details. Asking open-ended questions such as:

  • What is one thing you would improve in your current operation?
  • What is one area where you think your company excels?
  • What is the one aspect of your work/process/system that takes up the greatest amount of your time?

Asking Deeper Questions

Asking deeper questions, or going beyond the initial answer, is another way for a salesperson to connect with a client. Asking a question based on the information a client provides adds two benefits. First, it shows you were listening and care about the answer. Secondly, it allows you to get better insight into the challenges/problems/issues faced by the customer.

A simple way to do this is by asking a “Tell me more about xyz?” question, where xyz is the problem or challenge identified by the customer.

Asking Thought Provoking Questions

In law, there is an adage that you should never ask a question if you don’t know the answer. In sales, the opposite is true, with questions that cause the customer to think helping your ability to solve the problem. A good thought-provoking question could be:

  • If you had the time, money, and professionals, how would you see fixing the problem?
  • What thoughts do you have on how this process could be improved?
  • Are there other companies using processes or methods that you see as beneficial?

Asking “What” Questions and Avoid “Why” Questions

Finally, asking “what” questions opens up a line of thinking and brainstorming, tapping into the potential for solving the problem. Why questions can make customers feel defensive or pressured to answer.

Focus on how people respond to your questions and focus on integrating great questions into your daily communication. This creates a natural transition into questions that count in your sales conversations.