Asking Sales Questions -Don’t Fill The Gaps!

Do You Fill In The Gaps?

Our experience and intent can work for us and against us: do you feel that you know what your client/ Prospect is going to say before they say it? I bet sometimes you’re right and sometimes not- the problem is they often don’t tell you! This is because it’s easier to say nothing.

In the meantime we assume we are going down the right path and that momentum and buy-in have been created and that they have the same expectations as us.

This is something I see salespeople do a lot! There are a number of reasons this happens:

  • Past experience
  • Familiarity with the industry/ sector
  • Personal opinion
  • A feeling about the kind of business/ people they are
  • The assumption that a previously successful approach will work in this situation
  • Lack of focus on the unique element of the Prospect/ client’s business

Here are some parts of the process where we might fill in the gaps:

  • When preparing
  • When asking questions
  • When presenting
  • When probing about the decision making unit and process
  • When deciding when to follow up

Here’s an example focussing on the decision making element:

You’ve been working hard on an opportunity and were told by your main contact that they are the decision maker, they have sign off on the budget and that their team would be receptive to the ideas you have been discussing together. You get the go ahead to move the project forward and that the budget has been approved -you may even have a Purchase Order number.

You are then asked to speak to some of the team you’ll be working with to get their buy in and tie up the final details and no matter what you do they seem disengaged. Later you get a call from the decision maker to say they are cancelling.  The users don’t like the idea of the proposed solution after all. The decision maker says they could go ahead and force the solution but that’s not their preferred approach. What did we miss? Where did we fill in the gaps for ourselves?

The gaps are in our investigation of the decision making process. We didn’t ask the decision maker enough about the team members and relied on their assumption that the team members would respond positively.

We could have asked:

  1. Should we meet with them to discuss the ideas in the planning stage?
  2. What concerns might they have?
  3. How will involving them help with the overall objectives?
  4. What will happen if the team members don’t buy-in to the idea?

Questions 2 and 4 are focussed on exploring reasons for the opportunity not going ahead. If we had asked those questions earlier we could have identified the issues and potentially resolved them. Or the project would have got qualified out earlier with less time wasting and false hope!

We need to ask about the likelihood of an opportunity not happening as well as its likelihood of going ahead.  This allows us to deal with better quality information.

There’s a price to pay for not asking – clogged sales pipelines, unproductive follow up and reduced closing rates.

What kind of questions do you use to uncover this kind of information? If you feel this blog would be useful for any of your contacts please share it with them and please remember to like and comment!

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