Continuing our monthly theme of questions, lets now briefly discuss the quality of questions you ask.

Simplified to the extreme, the quality of questions we ask as sales people is even more important than asking the volume of questions as discussed last week. The challenge that this presents is that there is no list of magic questions that always work. Each client is different, and hence each client needs to be handled differently, doubly so with questions. So how do you know which questions are going to be effective in determining need if you are aiming for the sweet spot of 11-14 questions that the study I mentioned last week recommends?

That’s a good question. The answer is applying enough variety of topics. In other words, don’t become target fixated on only one or two topics. The very same study shows a drastic improvement in closing percentages when the questions pace hits about 10 topics an hour.

Even more importantly, finding enough problems to ask about contributes to sales success. Most sales people dive deep as soon as they identify a pain point they think they can solve. But the problem the clients share first is rarely the real problem, or the one most likely to lead to a sale. Clients are smart and know that sales people can pounce, so they often lead with minor issues that they know won’t give you leverage to push for a sale. And there too, there is a sweet spot to aim for. Sales interactions where the sales rep keeps his/her questioning to one or two topics usually see about a 69% success rate (a massive increase from the calls where the rep doesn’t uncover pain at all). Finding a third issue to discuss increases that success rate to over 80%.

Finding a fourth issue bumps your odds up to 85%.

However, sales calls where the rep continued to dig and discussed 5 or more issues saw the success rate drop back down to 69%. In other words, the study shows that prospects will tend to get to the core pressing issues somewhere between the 3rd and 4th issue uncovered.

Keep in mind, this isn’t always true, but the data shows a trend, and trends exist for a reason, especially trends based on a large volume of data.

Your take-away as a sales professional is that you should make a sales plan (recipe for success) for your prospects based on identifying 3-4 problems, in 11-14 questions. That may seem like an impossible task. Sort of like a sales version of playing hangman, so I’ll share a short cut to improve your accuracy of questioning.

Knowing what the most likely problems are makes it a lot easier to pick which questions are the best to ask. Finding which problems cause your clients to buy requires a simple step on your part. Ask them.

That’s right. Ask them. Call 3-5 of your best customers, and ask them why they bought from you? What made it a good decision? What were they trying to accomplish when they decided YOUR product or service was what they wanted to spend money on? If you group those answers by verticals and decision maker titles, you’ve found your recipe for success, namely having a good idea of what the answers you want are, and then asking the right leading questions to get your prospect to vocalize those.