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Want useful answers from your clients? Ask better questions

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Salespeople tend to listen with ‘happy ears,’ hoping to get some indication that they are making progress within their opportunities, and that they are heading in the right direction. As a result, sellers tend to ask “hopeful” questions like: 

  • “Mr. Customer, does your boss like our proposal?”
  • “Would next Tuesday work for a conference call?”
  • “Are we still in good shape to wrap this deal up by the end of the week?” 

Unfortunately, asking hope-filled questions tend to yield less information that also tends to be less accurate than the alternative. In short, we live in a culture where it’s easier to sidestep the truth, or event tell a little fib than it is to share information that is different than they obviously wouldn’t want to hear.

In Question Based Selling, we leverage a strategy called neutralizing the disposition of your questions. It’s uncanny, but if you are open and willing to invite good news and bad news, instead of just thinking about your own goals, you stand to receive exponentially more (and more accurate) information about the status of the opportunity.

Therefore, it’s much more productive to invite complete information by asking questions like:

  • “Mr. Customer, does your boss have questions or see any problems in our proposal?”
  • “Would Tuesday work for a conference call, or is that too soon to get all the key people together?”
  • “Are we still in good shape to wrap this deal up by the end of the week, or do you think it could stall once it hits the CFO’s desk?”

Critics of this could argue that it gives the customer an “out.” But I believe most customers know that they don’t have to buy from you. Therefore, I will gladly trade all of the “outs” customers don’t know they have for the volumes of accurate information I receive in return.

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