sales-team-complaints#1 My Salespeople Don’t Ask Enough Open-ended Questions

As a sales consultant for a number of years, I have heard countless frustrations and complaints from owners and business leaders about their sales teams, mostly because those owners are interested in an increase in sales and they don’t see it happening.  My next five articles will look at the top five.  This is #1.

My Salespeople Don’t Ask Enough Open-ended Questions.

Inconsistency or inability to ask good questions is merely a symptom of an underlying cause.   The reason they don’t ask could be caused by a variety of things.  Some of which you, as their sales manager or leader can help correct, and some will need a little bit more work to uncover.

Possible Causes of Poor Question Asking:

They were never taught the right questions to ask:  You can fix this and should through your comprehensive 90 on-boarding of a new salesperson.  Give them a list of awesome questions to ask, and the reason to ask them.  Also provide them with possible answers and what those answers might mean in terms of qualifying the potential customer.   Don’t assume that they know what to ask, when to ask it and how.  I cannot underscore the importance of sales management in this situation.

They are scared that they will offend the prospect if they ask too much:  I commonly refer to this as a Need for Approval.  There are MANY salespeople out there who are super self-conscious of coming off as pushy or offensive.  The extension of this is that they are nervous about asking too many questions for fear that the prospect will discontinue to like them or will become annoyed with them and they will lose the sale.  Unaided, you may not be able to diagnose this cause, but we can.  Just telling a salesperson to ask more questions will NOT solve this problem.  They must be taught a variety of skills including using effective phrases in advance of asking the question to get them comfortable to ask.  We call these pre-cursors.

They assume they already know the answer:  This is a constant cause of poor question-asking.  It is either because they have been around the block and have “seen it all” so they think they already know what the prospect needs, therefore, they don’t bother to ask enough hard-hitting potent questions.  Or it is due to their lack of emotional discipline.  They have a difficult time staying the course, probably because they don’t use a repeatable selling system.  This is difficult to diagnose without a tool.

They believe that they must demonstrate their knowledge:  Frequently ineffective salespeople spend a whole lot of time telling the prospect what they need and why, either because they think they will look smart or because they are too afraid of the questions the prospect might have.  You can have some impact on this.  First, be sure to prepare them for the most commonly asked questions and then further train them to say “That is a great question.  I don’t know the answer off the top of my head, but I will find out by 5:00 today and get back to you.”  The need to look smart will take additional work and specific help to change their beliefs about how to project the right image with a prospect, but at least start by letting them know that they don’t have to have all the answers.

As I said, some of these causes can be dealt with by you, the manager or leader.  For other issues, we use a diagnostic tool so that we get right to the heart of the problem and can work on what the actual cause is, rather than treating symptoms.  Here is a sample that we use in evaluating salespeople (Sample Salesperson Evaluation.)