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The 4 Sales Questions You Absolutely Must Ask

Find out quickly which prospects might buy and, if so, exactly how to sell to them.


Once you've established that a potential customer truly needs what you're selling, asking the following four questions will help you turn that opportunity into a sales win:

1. "How would your company go about buying this?"

This question uncovers how the customer's firm makes the decision to buy and as the process steps that ideally will result in payment.  It also provides a map of the people and players with whom you'll need to work to bring the sale to fruition.

2. "Whose numbers determine the budget?"

This question separates the players identified in question #1 into two categories: deciders and influencers.  The deciders are the people who have financial responsibility and thus control whether money will be spent; the influencers are everybody else.

3. "Who else are you talking to?"

This question uncovers whether or not you're facing a competitive threat. If so, you'll need to adapt your campaign to counter the specific threat.  For example, if your competitor has feature "A" but not "B", you'll need to show why "B" is crucial.

4. "What happens if you don't buy?"

This question reveals the customer's priorities when it comes to the problem or goal that your offering addresses.  If not buying is a viable option to the customer, the customer will probably not buy, either from you or your competitors.

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Last updated: Sep 17, 2013

GEOFFREY JAMES did a lot of business stuff and wrote a slew of articles and books. Now he writes this column. Preorder his new book, Business Without the Bullsh*t, by May 12 and get an exclusive bonus chapter and a signed bookplate.

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