How to Make A Sale by Making Your Questions Count

Sales Presentation Expert and Executive Speech Coach - Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE
Sales Presentation Expert, Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker, and Executive Speech Coach – Patricia Fripp

This is a follow up to my post on how you can solve “who cares?” syndrome in your sales presentations. We discussed the importance of asking good questions in order to discover how a client can benefit from your product or service. With that, here is a strategic approach to several aspects of asking questions within the sales process—and how you can use questions to move the process forward.

Basic Openers. The first priority is to learn as much as you can about pain points and what the current environment is like. For example:

  • What is your biggest challenge, and what do you think the cause is?
  • How long has it been going on?
  • Are you doing anything about it currently, or have you in the past?
  • If you could solve it, what would it be worth?

Staying on Track. While you don’t want to control the conversation too overtly, you need to focus on gaining an understanding of how they can benefit from a relationship with you. Use follow-up questions for clarity, such as:

  • Can you give me a little more detail about that?
  • Could you give me a specific example?
  • How often does this happen?

meetingShow Me the Money. Finding the decision maker and/or economic buyer (the person who can sign the check) is paramount. If you are not sure, ask:

  • Whose budget would this come from?
  • Who can immediately approve this project or support this initiative?
  • Can you help me better understand your purchasing process?

Back Pocket Questions. These are all-purpose but particularly useful when you hear objections:

  • Why do you say that about…?
  • Can you help me better understand…?

Of course, the above questions are purposely generic to show the principles—your questions will need to be tailored to your own circumstances.

Consider this example from my own business. As a sales presentation skills trainer, all my inquiries are incoming. Usually I hear, “What is your approach to sales presentation skills training?”

My goal is to gracefully ignore the question and find out more about them. So, I start the conversation by finding where the inquiry came from. “Can we step backwards for a moment? Were you referred or am I the end of a Google search?” No matter the response, my next question is, “May I ask what just happened for you to be looking for a sales presentation skills trainer?” Quite often I hear, “We just lost a sale we were confident we were going to win.”

Now I go into mission mode, asking some of the following questions as fit the circumstance:

  • May I ask, how much would it have been worth to your company if you had made the sale?
  • Is that a small, medium, or large sale?
  • How long is the life of a normal client?
  • What is the average client worth to you?
  • How many sales professionals do you have?
  • How many final sales presentations do they deliver?
  • Do you keep statistics on your closing rate?

Can you see what I discoveries I am making? 1) What the problem is; 2) How big the problem is; and 3) What it’s costing the company.

HandshakeBut here is the key: You must let the prospect work out the cost for themselves. Notice at this point I have not told them how I will solve the problem. Their itch, however, is now a welt.

Until you have the right information from the prospect, you do not know what approach to take to solve their problem. Remember, the prospect is more interested in themselves than you—which means it is impossible to give a great presentation until you know where your focus needs to be.

This article is a follow up to my previous post, “How You Can Solve ‘Who Cares?’ Syndrome in Your Sales Presentations.”

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Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp is works with individuals and companies who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.