The worst error a salesperson can make is not asking buyers enough of the right questions.
Bad salespeople will monopolize the sales conversation by talking too much about their company and all their product's various features. But even decent salespeople can make the mistake of not probing deeply enough, and just accepting the first answer a prospective customer gives them.
The better your questions are, the more you will learn about your buyer and their needs.
These five types of sales questions can help you unlock all the answers you need to navigate through your customer's journey to help you close deals faster:
#1. Why? Why? Why?
Your job as a salesperson is to try to find the answer to these questions by asking "why" enough times until you reach the root emotional problem that they're hoping you can solve.
Why would someone be interested in working with you, and what do they hope to gain from doing business with you?
If you stop at the first answer someone gives you to these questions, you'll only scratch the surface of understanding their problems and priorities. But if you dig deeper, past the needs they initially state, you'll discover their core motivations.
When a prospect tells you, "We need to increase our sales numbers," you can probe deeper with response questions like, "What are your numbers right now, and what are you currently doing?" and "Why do you think [xyz] is not working for you so far?"
In order to close deals, you must learn the answers to these deeper questions so that you can be truly persuasive.
#2. Why now?
Every salesperson knows that timing is crucial to whether or not you will win or lose a deal, but not asking your prospective customers the right questions leaves you blind to objections and roadblocks.
What's prompting someone to be interested in having a sales conversation with you right now?
Is this something they've been thinking about for a while, or is this more recent? Have they tried to solve this problem before and failed? If so, why weren't they successful in the past?
Answer these questions and you'll have a much better idea of how to make your deals close faster, and also deal with potential objections before they even arise.
#3. Who will sign off on this?
If you don't ask the right questions, you might not even be talking to a decision maker.
You need to ask questions to understand the role the person you're talking to plays in the organization and the decision-making process.
A simple way to get the lay of the land is to ask: "What does your company's decision-making process look like? Can you walk me through it?"
(This is also a great time to ask about their budget and timing.)
And if you find out you're not talking to the decision maker, you should try to get an introduction to someone who is. If you can't, at least attempt to gather enough information about them and the decision-making process to approach them favorably on your own.
#4. Can I show you...?
Once you've asked enough questions to understand a sales prospect's pains and needs, you can start to bring your own sales goals into the equation.
You should never try to pitch a customer without first asking them about their priorities, or else you will come across as both self-absorbed and irrelevant to their needs.
A great way to prime your sales pitch is by asking them: "What would a successful outcome look like to you?"
After you know the answer to that, you can say something like: "Do you want me to show you how our product works, and how we can solve [xyz problem]?"
#5. What will happen if you don't?
The best salespeople are always thinking about their next move in advance.
To prepare for dealing with objections or tackling "radio silence" from prospective customers that go MIA you need to understand the buyer's alternative options.
Try asking either of these sales questions:
"What other options are you looking at right now?"
"If you don't go with our solution, what will you do instead?"
The answers to these will not only show you which of your competitors your buyers are also talking to, but can also give a deeper look into where their priorities really lie right now. If they alternative is to "do nothing," then maybe the timing and priorities are wrong. Or perhaps you just need to work harder on selling them on the value you can offer, as well as better educating them about the consequences of not resolving their problems.
For other tips on researching your buyers before you even engage in sales conversations, check out this short and actionable guide that you can use for buyer persona research.