“Answer a question with a question” is a Sandler Selling System rule that is sometimes controversial. Sales teams I’ve worked with often express the concern that using this approach could lead to them appearing evasive or “too salesy”. But as with all “rules” you have to apply them with skill and understand the objective.
Why ask so many questions?
‘Question asking’ is how we salespeople gain a true understanding of our prospect’s needs. The objective is not to avoid answering questions but to avoid shutting down the valuable conversation that leads to a deeper understanding of the prospect and their specific situation. Without this understanding, we may not really know whether our solution is a good fit for their problem and we may misunderstand the value that our solution holds for this prospect.
I think that we should think of ourselves as diagnosticians when we have a sales meeting. Consider this: If you go to a doctor with a headache, she will ask questions to identify the cause. Sometimes the cause is not obvious. If the doctor just treats the symptom, it is possible that the symptom might not go away, or it could disappear in the short term, but return because the underlying cause wasn’t addressed. Likewise, we have found that what is first expressed by some prospects as the reason they might need your solution, may only be the visible expression of a deeper issue. Solving this deeper issue is where our value lies.
So the message in this rule is that ‘question asking’ is integral to the sales process and we ought to focus on asking questions and having a conversation rather than showing that we have all the answers. It’s good for the prospect to know that we have the expertise, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of learning as much as we can about our prospects.
Apply this rule with skill
Always use your good judgment to assess whether you have learned enough about your prospect. Take your cues from the information that you’re receiving and from how your prospect is responding to you. Open-ended questions are key to uncovering hidden problems and key motivators that may be important to your ability to successfully close the sale. For example:
- Why is this important to you?
- Can you tell me more about this?
- What else happens when this problem crops up?
- Why do you think this is happening?
If we focus on the conversation first and foremost, we will learn enough to know when it is the right time to ask our favorite question, “What would you like to have happen next?”
At One of a Kind Sales, we love selling and we are experts at cold calling, in particular. If you would like to discuss how we can help you and your team please contact us at 908-879-2911.