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5 Reasons I Disagree with Most Sales Experts

When it comes to sellers asking their buyers questions, the majority say sellers should prepare a set of questions before the meeting.

I don’t agree.

I’ve spent over 20 years observing how questions are asked by sellers and received by buyers. My conclusion is this: the single greatest barrier to sellers forming and sustaining meaningful connections with buyers is over-dependence on pre-scripted questions.

Sellers who write a script for their own half of the conversation miss out by anticipating and assuming what the buyer will say in response to predetermined questions. They follow the conversational course they imagined instead of engaging in two-way dialogue. They get flummoxed when their questions don’t produce the desired responses, and they are ill-prepared for adjusting course and keeping up with the buyer.

Here are five misunderstandings about the purpose of questions used in sales that will help reveal why canned questions are ineffective.

  1. You are not an attorney.

Going into the courtroom, attorneys write questions in advance. They ask carefully worded questions to deliberately channel the witness down a narrow path without opening up any other avenues. They are taught not to ask a question if they don’t already know the answer.

  1. You are not a doctor.

Doctors are trained to ask certain questions in every patient encounter. The purpose of a doctor’s questions is to quickly assess ailments and determine the best course of treatment. Their questions use a process-of-elimination approach rather than one that is expansive in exploring a range of possibilities.

  1. You are not a journalist.

Journalists prepare questions in advance. The job of a journalist is to pursue a breaking story. Journalists follow information breadcrumbs, seeking clarification and facts to accurately convey what’s happened. The questions they ask are direct and narrow to efficiently pursue the sound bite or “gotcha” that sells the story.

  1. You are not a teacher.

Teachers ask questions with one purpose in mind –to find out who knows the factual answer. A teacher’s questions test the recollection and understanding of what has already been taught.

  1. You are not an interrogator.

Interrogators prepare questions in advance to extract essential information. They use high-pressure questioning tactics to compel the sharing of information that others do not want to share.

Your purpose for asking questions is not to unduly pressure the buyer. It’s not to get a recitation of known facts. You’re not aiming for the “gotcha” moment, and you won’t succeed if you try to force the buyer down your own narrow path.

Conversations between sellers and buyers serve two purposes. First (and this absolutely must come first!), you ask questions to build trust and rapport. Second, you are asking questions to surface and probe buyer needs while creating value as your questions bring salient issues and insights to the forefront.

In other words, the purpose of asking questions is different for a seller than it is for the professions mentioned above. To get a more accurate comparison of the question/answer component of the conversation, think about the reasons you ask questions in your non-seller relationships. You ask your family members and friends questions about their preferences, their hopes and dreams, their fears, and their ideas. Those questions create bonds and engage others.

That’s how it ought to be when you’re selling, too. You’d never grill your significant other with a list of pre-written questions. You wouldn’t adhere to a script when having lunch with your co-workers. You don’t sit down at the dinner table with your children and survey them. It’s unnatural.

You’re far better off mastering the skills of purposeful question-asking than jotting down the questions you plan to ask. Those skills will serve you well in any conversation, allow you to stay “in the moment,” and dignify the person you’re talking to instead of boxing them in to your self-serving script. DISCOVER Questions™ Get You Connected can show you how to do this with finesse so you advance the sale without a contrived questionnaire.

It’s perfectly okay to select a few topics you’d like to discuss. This is equivalent to a business meeting agenda, and it’s both efficient and respectful to put in that time and thought. Avoid the temptation, though, to come across like a census taker by asking a question, recording the answer, and moving on to the next question. That’s not conversation, but it happens nearly every time a seller prepares a list of questions before the meeting with a buyer.

You can’t connect unless you are authentic, interested and paying attention. When your objective is to robotically work through a list of questions, you aren’t connecting human-to-human. To sell more effectively, take a different approach to asking questions.

The CONNECT2Sell Blog has been discontinued as our focus has shifted to leadership at every level. Research with buyers demonstrates that buyers respond favorably when sellers show up as leaders. If you'd like to step into your full potential as a leader (and boost sales!), take a look at our free and affordable courses on