4 Rules for Creating Sales-Clinching Questions

Every parent knows the futility of asking, “How was school today?” Whether the place burned to the ground or everyone in the school split the Powerball jackpot, the answer will be the same— “Fine.”

It’s a vague and unproductive question, and it gets the answer it deserves.

But once in a while, a parent catches on and asks a question that deserves an answer; “What was one silly thing that happened to you today?” Now there’s a question that just might get an actual response from your surprised offspring.

What’s true for parents is true for salespeople. You really do want to get some good answers from your prospective client; but like a parent, every question seems to elicit a single syllable.

That’s when it’s time to change the questions.

Keep these four rules in mind when creating questions for your sales process—four ways to get past the monosyllables to the conversation that will clinch the sale:

  1. Good questions including the word you. There’s no use in pretending the sales process is about mutual decision making. You’ve already decided you want the customer. Now it’s time to convince the customer that the relationship will meet their needs. Include some form of the word “you” in as many questions as possible. What are your challenges? What’s going well for you?
  2. Stay away from “yes” and “no” questions. To avoid turning your sales process into a game of Twenty Questions, ask open-ended questions, which will eliminate yes and no answers. “Would you say you were happy with your previous bank?” is simply begging for a yes or no. “Can you tell me what features of your previous bank worked well for you?” will yield an information-rich answer.
  3. Keep questions simple. For maximum efficiancy, would you consider it preferable for sales people to phrase questions in complex forms riddled with multiple conditional clauses, or, alternatively, to phrase questions in a less convoluted but also less information intensive blah blah blah BLAH?? Get the picture? KEEP QUESTIONS SIMPLE! The confused mind never buys.
  4. Talk about the pain of NOT making the right decision. It’s a bit of the carrot-and-stick. Don’t just sell the benefits of buying. Throw in a question or two that points to the pain of NOT buying—all the ways in which they’ll miss out by not buying in.

A little time spent framing truly productive sales questions might be the best time a salesperson ever spends. Use these four rules now; they can make all the difference.

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