As a sales coach and trainer, people occasionally ask me, “Out of all the selling skills, which one is most important?” Hands down, the master skill in selling is knowing how to ask purposeful questions. Great questions will advance the sale throughout your sales process, so don’t use them for sales needs analysis alone!
Beyond Sales Needs Analysis
Unfortunately, many sellers pay little attention to the questions they ask. They’re haphazard, even in their discovery process. They ask questions that are mundane, pointless, and uninteresting to the buyer. They ask questions that are self-serving, used to qualify the buyer or to try and get buyer agreement in an artificial way.
Due to poor questioning skills, these sellers miss the mark and never fully get a handle on the buyer’s needs. They also fall short when it comes to effectively opening relationships, overcoming objections, and closing their sales. In every part of the sales process, asking purposeful questions will make you more effective.
To be purposeful in your questioning, think about what you ask, how you ask it, and what you're going to do with the information received. Questioning for the sake of questioning is absolutely worthless. The whole point of asking questions is to open a two-way dialogue that gives the buyer an experience that creates value. This differentiates you. It makes the buyer think. It helps them self-discover what they need to do and how they will go about doing it. And, of course, it also gives you information about their needs so you can put together an appropriate solution.
When you're asking questions, you're leading your buyer. I don't mean manipulatively leading them to a place you want to take them. What I mean by “leading,” is that you are a leader. You are guiding your buyer from the place they are now to the place they want to be. Questions are the way you facilitate the conversation to help then make those progressive steps toward their destination.
Ask With Purpose
To be more purposeful in asking questions, you'll need to understand the eight essential purposes for asking questions. I’ve conducted over 20 years of research about why people ask questions, and I’ve found there are only eight reasons people ever ask a question. These eight purposes are words that make the acronym DISCOVER. In the book DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected, you’ll learn those eight reasons. They will help you to master any conversation.
When you’re purposeful in question-asking, you’ll be deliberate and focused rather than going on a fishing expedition. With those eight purposes in mind, you'll always understand what information you're trying to extract and how you'll later use it. To be more effective throughout your sales process, you’ll use these eight kinds of questions to simultaneously create value for your buyers. Purposeful questions alone are powerful. They make buyers think, and they inspire and engage buyers. Purposeful questions create a connecting experience -- a bond of trust between you and your buyer.
So if you have to pick just one skill to focus on to become more successful in sales, start here. Focus on learning to ask purposeful questions that you can use throughout your sales process.