Questions make the difference. The questions are the answers. The answers are in the questions. So on, so forth. There are so many cliches and sayings around asking questions in sales, I could literally fill up a whole book with them.

What questions do we ask and why? Do we ask questions we already know the answers to as a way to manage/lead the conversation, or do we ask open ended questions in order to get our prospects to share information we need to determine a fit?

If you listen to an average conversation between two people, especially in a sales or negotiating setting, you will often hear the questioning come from a place of seeking to confirm something, rather than disprove it. That’s a failure of Habit 5 (Seek first to understand, then to be understood) but it is also a failure of basic scientific methodology. If every question I ask seeks to PROVE that my product/service is a fit, then confirmation bias is going to ensure two things.

– I will see and focus on answers that confirm a fit.

– I will create an environment where the prospect feels more and more pressured and hence defaults to defense mechanisms.

Proper scientific method dictates that once you form a theory, your research is aimed at DISPROVING the theory. Only with a lack of success in finding evidence that disproves your theory do you solidify it’s veracity.

Aside from basic information questions (How long have you been in business? What’s your budget? etc), your sales questions should be slightly aimed at disqualifying your prospects from your solution. The efficacy of the needs assessment increases exponentially when this happens. This approach also has the benefit of not making prospects defensive.

Here is how to apply this concept. Audit all he questions you typically ask prospects before you present. Break them up into 4 buckets.

– Informational questions – basic data

– Observational questions – Aimed at getting the prospect to share how they see things

– Objective questions – What are they trying to accomplish

– Obstacle questions – What has stopped them from accomplishing this in the past

Now re-write the questions so that your intent on each of them is to identify why they would not be able to benefit from your product.

That approach will quickly give you everything you need to decide if it makes sense to present to this client. And your default assumption should be that it does not make sense, unless you are not able to prove that.