Every day countless sales are lost because salespeople blurt out simple answers to what they mistakenly see as simple customer questions. The fact is that many customer questions, if answered immediately, will derail the sale.

Two classic sales errors can occur when you answer the wrong question too fast. First, the question may throw your presentation out of sequence. For instance, the customer may ask about price before you have had a chance to identify needs or establish the value of your solution.

If you don’t know the reason behind the question, probe for more information.

The second error arises when a seeming innocuous question is, in fact, loaded, and you don’t have enough information to answer correctly. If you don’t know the reason behind the question, your hasty answer may land you in trouble.

For instance, have you ever fallen into a trap like this?

Buyer: “Your product sounds great. Now, if we go with you, how would you handle shipping to our plant?”

You: “We ship via United Cartways. They give us good prices because we use them exclusively.”

Buyer: “Oh. We’ve had some bad experiences with United Cartways. They’re usually slow, and when there’s a problem they take forever to track our shipments. I guess we’ll stick with our current supplier.”

Sure, all you did was provide a prompt and honest response to a “simple” question. But look what happened. The solution is to probe for the reason behind the customer’s query by answering the question with a question:

Buyer: “Now, if we go with you, how would you handle shipping to our plant?”

You: “You tell me, Carol. What’s your preferred method?”

Buyer: “We’re happy with the service we get now from Ameritruck. They’re a good outfit.”

You: “Have you ever used United Cartways?””

Buyer: “Oh, yeah. Never again! Their service was awful. They gave us fits.”

You: “What do you like best about Ameritruck?””

Buyer: “They’re always on time, and they’re excellent at tracking shipments. Dependable delivery is critical for us.”

You: “Well then, let’s plan to use Ameritruck. Okay?”

Buyer: “Okay!”

In both of those scenarios, you discovered some important information about a shipper who may be alienating any number of your company’s clients. The difference is that when you answered the question with a question, the discovery didn’t cost you a sale.

Whenever you suspect that there may be more to a customer’s question than meets the eye (and you should suspect this often), probe for booby traps by answering the question with a question. You’ll rescue a whole lot of sales.

Action Selling in Action

“My reps give Action Selling’s questioning modules rave reviews,” says Barbara Wright, area sales manager for 3M/Media Networks in New York City. “Action Selling lays out the most logical and sensible approach to the sales process that I’ve ever seen. And the training program allowed us to customize the questioning modules to our particular business during the workshop.”

Action Selling’s “open architecture” enables training to be tailored to the specific selling situation of each salesperson. Students develop their questioning skills by plugging in the concerns and issues of actual clients while they practice and learn.

“Because the questioning skills are geared to our division, Action Selling is the only program I have seen that allows the learning to transfer directly into the field,” Wright says. “The program keeps right on training after the students leave the workshop.”

Contact us to learn more about effective questioning techniques.

Duane Sparks - Answer A Question With A Question

ABOUT DUANE SPARKS

Duane Sparks is founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source of practical and leading-edge information about the art and science of selling. He has created Action Selling sales training products and learning systems that transform sales organizations. Duane is author of these best-selling books: Action Selling, Selling Your Price, Questions (the Answer to Sales), Masters of Loyalty (How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force), and Sales Strategy from the Inside Out (How complex selling really works).

Discover how the best sales training process can make spectacular improvements in sales skills. Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional (Even If You Think You are One).