Two Questions You Don’t Want to Ask

by | Feb 6, 2014 | Communication Skills

There is no doubt that asking relevant questions to uncover a prospect’s needs is critical to a successful sale. But you may wonder whether there are any questions that can actually hinder getting the sale or building a relationship? The answer is absolutely yes.

On a sales call with one of my more senior representatives, the conversation was going fine and he was asking all the right questions. But just before the meeting ended, he asked one more question that I think changed everything.

He asked, “What questions haven’t I asked?”

Boom!  Now if you were the prospect, how would you feel? My first thought would be, “hey, you’re the expert -why should you ask me to tell you what you missed?”

According to Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas in their book, Power Questions, this is a typical mistake that can ruin the sales call. They say that the sales person is trying to make the prospect coach them through the process. And, it can be seen as a manipulative question which on some level really is saying, “Give me some more advice on how I can be a more effective sales person.”

Imagine you’re buying a car – you know what you want, you know the price range, gas mileage, etc. and the sales person says, so before we wrap this up, what questions haven’t I asked you about buying a car?  To me it’s an insult. It’s also like asking your prospect, “what keeps you up at night?” My answer, the dog barking, my wife snoring or my sleep apnea. While this may be important information to have, it’s a very difficult question to ask, and in most cases it does nothing to gain you credibility.

So how can you position these intrusive questions to be more amenable while gaining insight from the prospect? Instead of asking, “What question haven’t I asked?” try “Are there any issues we haven’t discussed that you think are relevant to this particular challenge?” You can also ask, “Is there anyone else you think I should get additional perspective on this issue?” This comes across much more professional and that you have the prospects best interest in mind. You’re focusing on their issues and not trying to impress them with your own questioning skills.

Instead of using, “What keeps you up at night?” use questions that address their critical challenges. Focus on the questions about the future – it’s where most executives have concerns. Here are some great examples from Power Questions to consider:

  • Where will your future growth come from?
  • How do you think your current strategy will change, given…? (Success of your competitors, the economic outlook, rising fuel prices, etc.).
  • If you had additional resources, which initiatives would you invest in?
  • Are there any things you need to deemphasize or stop doing?
  • Why have you been successful so far? How will that change in the future?
  • Which organizational or operational capabilities do you need to strengthen in order to achieve your goals?
  • As you think about the future of your business, what are you most excited about? What are you most concerned about?

Remember if you want better answers from your prospects, you need to ask better questions.

Good selling!