Simple Sales Tracking Blog

Where Are Your Questions Leading?

We have been looking at developing a questioning process for our presentations and how most salespeople are so desperate to talk about their products and services and all the solutions they can provide they end up talking too much and presenting solutions too soon therefore losing potential sales.

The trouble is the salesperson has seen the prospects problem many times before and therefore knows which solution would work best for them so jumps from problem straight to solution without helping the buyer to understand how big an issue they have.

There is only one perception that counts in a sales presentation – the buyers! We have to help them understand through our questions the need to take action. Asking the right questions will uncover the real issues and more importantly uncover the true buying motives of the prospect.

When I ask participants in my sales training workshops why they don’t ask more structured questions typical replies are –

“I don’t feel confident”
“I’ve never been trained”
“It takes too long”
“Prospects may be reluctant to answer”
“I’d be embarrassed”

The real result of a lack of structure in questioning is lost sales and increased costs of making sales.

Great questions require your prospects to think, they demonstrate your understanding of their needs, and they give you a clear picture of your prospects exact needs which in turn positions you to present the best possible solution.

Old sales training used to focus on only using open questions – questions that require a greater response answer as opposed to closed questions – questions that only require a yes or no answer.

Project Sigma sponsored by IBM and other corporations and conducted by Neil Rackham and his team observed over 35,000 sales calls in 23 countries found that calls high in closed questions were just as likely to lead to orders and advances. This is not so strange as it may at first appear. In theory, open questions result in open answers, while closed questions produce one-word answers. But in practice, this is not always the case. In the context of a sales call, 60 percent of all closed questions receive an answer that is longer than one word. In other words, closed questions very often get open answers. And about 10 percent of all open questions get a closed answer. The important thing is to ask skillful questions that move the call forward. “If you are worrying about things like how many open questions you’re asking”, Neil says, “You’re rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. What you should be worrying about is: Are your questions focused on issues that are important to the customer?”

If you only ever buy one book on selling I would recommend that book be SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. Neil has lead the revolution in selling. The key of course is to then read it and take action.

Structured questions channel the buyers thinking and help THEM tick off their own buying signals in their mind as the interview progresses.

I’ll deal more with the question of questions in the next article.

Quote of the Week:
“Generally speaking you aren’t learning much if your lips are moving”

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Moss and Associates International.

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, , , ,

Are You Listening for the Buying Signals?

We have been discussing buying signals loosely defined as –  “cues given by
the buyer that they may be ready to commit”.

In a typical sales presentation where the seller has identified a key need
of the buyer, the buyer will give buying signals.  This is great if our
salesperson is following a logical planned presentation process however in
the majority of presentations, in fact by study 51% (this is still a
majority!) there is no planned process.  So what we end up with is fairly
random questions with buying signals here and there – the result for the
buyer is mixed feeling as to their exact needs and for the seller mixed
buying signals hence the reluctance to ask for the business.

A planned process helps both parties to get a clear idea of the need, if one
exists, to progress.  For the buyer consistent buying signals create the
clarity and urgency to address the needs or opportunities and for the seller
it creates the confidence to present the best solution and ask for the

There are buying signals that many salespeople miss that are embedded much
earlier in the selling process.   To catch them requires listening and
thinking about whom you are working with and what type of buyers they are.
Salespeople should listen to determine what the buying style of the prospect
actually is.   Some people buy based on logic.  Some people buy on emotion.
Some people buy on what they perceive to be the ultimate consensus, or just
plain politics, which is how they think the other people in the organization
will perceive their buying action.  If you listen, those people will tell
you how you can sell them.

Buyer questions are good buying signals.  Some examples are –

  1. Questions about availability or time – “Are these in stock?…”

  2. Questions about delivery – “How soon can someone be here?”…”How
    much notice do I have to give you?”

  3. Specific questions about rates, price, or statements about
    affordability –  “How much does this model cost?”.”What is the price of this
    fax machine?”.”I don’t know if I can afford that model.”

  4. Any questions or statements about money – “How much money would I
    have to put down to get this?”

  5. Positive questions about you or your business – “How long have you
    been with the company?”.. “How long has your company been in business?”

  6. Wanting something repeated – “What was that you said before about
    financing?”.”Tell me about the.again”

  7. Questions about productivity – “How many copies per month is this
    machine rated for?”

  8. Questions about quality, guarantee, or warranty – “How long is this
    under warranty?”..”How long will this last?”

  9. Questions about qualifications (yours or the companies) – “Can all
    of your people answer questions on the phone?”

This is not the entire list but I’m sure you get the picture.

We will continue with the subject of closing in my next article.

Have a successful week!

Brett Burgess is a Sales Trainer and Programme Developer for Moss and
Associates International.

Quote of the Week:

A mediocre salesman tells
A good salesman explains
A superior salesman demonstrates
Great salesmen inspire buyers to see the benefits as their own
Carolyn Shamis

Filed under: Sales Techniques and Strategy, ,


Simple Sales Tracking is web-based sales CRM software for the tracking, analysis and forecasting of individual and team sales pipeline and contacts.

Built with simplicity at its core, focus is kept on key sales tasks, while eliminating unnecessary ones, helping to ensure buy-in of the entire sales team.
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