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Posted: October 04, 2011

Get your “ask” in gear

Diagnose, don't assume

Liz Wendling

Asking questions in the sales process is vital to finding, qualifying and closing deals, as well as offering the best possible solutions for your potential customers. To be successful at selling, you must systematically approach your customers with a repertoire of impactful questions that ensures you clearly understand their business challenges, struggles and goals.

Asking questions is based on the theory that "what" salespeople ask and "how" they ask is more important than anything they say. Great salespeople know this approach makes sense, because to present solutions, you first must learn what your customer needs.

Knowing how to ask the correct type of questions is crucial for the survival of your business and affects the amount of money you earn. You must pay extra attention to honing this skill by getting your "ask" in gear. The ability to ask questions is a make-or-break factor in the sales process.

The most efficient way to uncover a potential customer's needs is to ask questions. Not just any questions; high-impact, open-ended, fact-finding and qualifying questions. Sales people who attempt to sell without asking questions, sell by making assumptions. Making assumptions about your customer's needs is a lose-lose situation. Questions enable you to diagnose problems prior to prescribing solutions.

Asking questions is a skill that is practiced to be mastered. Doctors, detectives, police, interrogators and members of the military study this skill. They know that the right questions at the right time get them the answers they need. Would you want to go to a doctor who recommends surgery or a radical treatment prior to examining you?

I work with many companies that tell salespeople "what to say" instead of teaching them "what to ask." The power is in the asking, not in the telling. Companies that embrace this fact will end up ahead of the competition and close more sales.

I don't tell salespeople to go out and ask a bunch of meaningless questions; I teach them to ask the right questions at the right time. Asking questions in a completely random fashion is unproductive and ineffective, especially in this competitive business environment. Instead, I teach them how questions can be used to pique the customer's interest and establish credibility within the sales process. They learn to use questions to identify greater needs and uncover more accurate information from potential customers.

Your job is to ask open-ended, non-manipulative, customer-focused questions that uncover your customer's needs. Asking strategic questions earns you the right to probe further and gain a complete understanding of your customer's needs. Once you have earned that right, you can escalate the impact of your questions to increase your value. How you phrase, position and line up your questions has a major impact on your customer's responsiveness.

The right questions at the right time create the right opportunities. The way to tell if your questions are having an impact is to check your bottom line and your sales results. If your questions are not yielding the results you desire, then sales coaching can help! Remember, it's not what you sell, it's how you sell.

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Liz Wendling is the president of Insight Business Consultants, a nationally recognized business consultant, sales strategist and emotional intelligence coach. Liz is driven by her passion for business and generating results for her clients. Liz understands the challenges that business owners are facing building a business and selling their professional services in today's market.

Liz shows clients how to tap into and use their innate strength, power and confidence to develop highly successful businesses. She teaches them to create effective, dynamic and fluid client conversations that turn interested prospects into invested clients who keep coming back.

Go to: www.lizwendling.com or email Liz@lizwendling.com

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

I don't care what you are SELLING you are filling a Customer's needs. If you don't ask what the needs are you will never be able to fill the needs of the Customer properly. Ask and not Tell is the Best Message of any Sales Person. Liz; your articles is dead on as usual. By Bob Silcox on 2011 10 31
"The power is in the asking, not in the telling." Very well said, Liz! Most people don't like to be told or "sold." I'm sure you'd agree that the second critical part of this is to really listen after you've asked a question - another important skill worth honing! By Julie Hansen on 2011 10 06

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