Sales training: Ask effective questions

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Q. How do you get sales reps to stop talking and start listening?

A. In a typical sales call, the sales representative is talking 80% of the time, and the customer is talking 20% of the time. What is wrong with this picture?

Your main goal as a sales rep should be to understand your customer's needs, challenges and pain points so that you can help them find a solution. How do you uncover these needs and challenges? By asking effective questions.

Asking more questions involves a different mindset. Instead of thinking that you have to persuade your customer into using your company, start thinking that you want to help your customer with their challenges. The more questions you ask your customers, the more you will understand their world. Effective questions will not only help you build an effective business relationship with your customers, but also show that you are interested in helping them instead of selling to them.

Open-ended questions allow your customer to open up and speak freely. These questions are formed by using words such as, "Explain to me, tell me, describe for me..."

Close-ended questions will give you definitive, one-word answers and are formed by using words like, "Who, when..."

Try using the questions below to enhance your business relationships with your customers. These questions will show your commitment to them and allow you to learn about their business, their needs and their challenges:

"What are the challenges of ..."

"What effect does that have. . ."

"What kind of impact. . ."

Asking more effective questions can dramatically change your business relationships with your customers. It makes me think of Brian Tracy, who said, "Here is one of the greatest questions you will ever ask and answer: 'What one skill, if I developed and did it in an excellent fashion, would have the greatest positive impact on my career?'"  hme

Susan McGinnis is a senior sales trainer for Philips Respironics Home Healthcare Solutions. Reach her at 724-387-4824 or