Top salespeople don’t pitch. They never have and never will. Top salespeople ask good questions. They listen, ask more questions and extract information and perspectives from prospects other less-experienced salespeople miss. They are confident in their solutions and in their companies’ ability to deliver.

Top salespeople are willing to walk away if a sale is not a good fit. Actually, they don’t walk away. They tap into their referral network and introduce a trusted resource who can best help a prospect.

Hone your sales skills. Many salespeople ask one or two questions and then assume they’ve zeroed in on a prospect’s need. This is rarely the case. These salespeople don’t take the time to really evaluate the prospects’ situation and understand and define their significant problem or need. This is a sales strategy doomed to fail. Here are some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you have the skills to conduct an interactive, engaging business conversation?
  • Have you outlined a questioning strategy and anticipated potential responses?

Many salespeople rely on PowerPoint presentations and product demos to make their points because they don’t know how to have a business conversation. They get anxious that a prospect may ask a question they can’t answer. So they play it safe and get stuck in the depths of their cool technology.

Warm up your sales conversations. Think of questioning as “peeling the onion” to get to the core. Often, a prospect will tell you what he wants—especially after he’s researched your website and checked you out through social media and customer communities. When you ask probing questions, frequently a different solution arises that will more successfully solve his problem. Here are some great sales questions to ask your prospect:

  • What is happening in your business that you want to change?
  • What is the impact if the status quo remains?
  • What’s working for you now?
  • What impact will this change have on your business?
  • How will you measure the success of this project?

Don’t stop with just these questions. When your prospect discusses his business challenges, keep asking questions to ensure you both fully understand the problem and its impact.

Ask the right questions, get the right business. Thoughtful, provocative and probing questions have a huge effect on your close rate—and on your sales revenue. When you understand the real problem, very often the scale of the project increases and the client gets a solution that will actually solve his problem and create demonstrable business results.

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Joanne Black is a professional sales speaker, sales webinar leader, and author of “No More Cold Calling: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust” from Warner Business Books. Visit www.nomorecoldcalling.com. © Copyright 2011 Joanne S. Black. All rights reserved.