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Not Getting the Customer Relationships You Want? You May Be Asking the Wrong Questions.


In today’s sales world, successful reps are curious and empathetic. They are always looking to help their customers and become valued and trusted advisors. Much of this happens because successful reps ask a lot of questions.

So, are you asking the right questions to get the most out of your relationships?

Let’s take a step back for a minute and think about much of our communication today. We order Alexa around to do whatever we want. We quickly text and send emojis. Our communication in general has been diminished to something that's one-way and focused on just getting what we need. We need to rethink how we enter our relationships and conversations — especially in sales.

At the root of a conversation with your customer, it’s important to think about how you would want to be treated, what the person needs, and what you need, too. Many salespeople will go right in and ask questions that are closed-ended. If you actually recorded and analyzed your conversation, you might find there are 55 questions altogether, 49 of which could be answered with just a yes or no. That’s not a healthy conversation — or relationship.

Conversely, when you see a conversation that has 10 to 15 open-ended questions with two-minute answers, you know there's a true interaction there. Asking these open-ended questions and listening and finding out what that person's needs are is crucial. We all want to be heard and recognized.

Let’s look at a couple of different scenarios for how you might structure your questions.

If you’re looking to identify a problem, do you ask things like:

  • May I ask you some questions about your business?

  • Do you struggle with [common problem]?

  • Is this a priority for you now?

  • Are you interested in our [feature name]?

Those are the types of questions and phrasing that will give you a simple yes or no. On the flip side, you could try and pose your questions like this:

  • What's holding you back from reaching your goals (revenue, profit, or other)?

  • What’s working well with your current process or solution?

  • What objectives and goals do you have this quarter/year in this area?

  • How do you envision your challenges being solved?

  • Can you tell me more about how you’re doing [A, B, or C] today?

  • Why do you think [problem] is happening?

Or try these type of questions to dig deeper:

  • Why isn’t this particular product or service working for you right now?

  • What is motivating you and your company to look for a new solution?

  • What will make this call worthwhile and successful for you?

  • What other options have you tried to solve [problem]? Who has your business now? Why did you choose that vendor?

  • Many of our customers had issues with [A, B, or C] before implementing a solution like ours. How are these issues affecting your company?

  • What do you see as the next steps in our discussion?

  • How am I doing so far? What else would you like me to cover?

The difference is, you’re asking customers for real input and experience, trying to get to know them, and showing your concern about their challenges.

Of course, your response to the answers is just as important. Think about how you are actually digesting as well as confirming their concerns. You can respond by paraphrasing what you’ve heard, with "What you're trying to say …" or "What you just said is …" or "What you think is…" It’s an incredibly important part of the communication process.

In sales, we’re automating our communications more and more. What will separate the world of great salespeople and not-so-great salespeople is the ability to have productive conversations. Show them your curiosity, problem-solving skills, and desire to make a difference. By demonstrating that you’re investing time in your customers, you can set yourself apart from the others and, in turn, elevate your product or solution and company. And it all starts by asking the right questions.

Discover how the ability to ask the right questions leads to far more productive sales conversations, ultimately separating the great salespeople from the not-so-great salespeople.”

Howard Brown | Founder and CEO, RingDNA

Learn More

How to Craft the Perfect Sales Pitch By Annie Simms,
Account Executive, Salesforce
The Simple Client Meeting Rules Every Salesperson Should Follow By Laura Stack,
President and CEO, Productivity Keynote Speaker and Author, The Productivity Pro, Inc.



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