Everyone understands that every salesperson should be selling consultatively; selling consultatively means asking questions. 

Objective Management Group data notes that only 35% of salespeople have the Consultative Selling competency as a strength.  The percentage is lower as hidden weaknesses will cause a salesperson to not be effective at Consultative Selling.

The goal of these types of questions is to help a prospect feel your solution creates are better future for the prospect. They need to feel it.  It is the solution not the widget – stop talking features and benefits.

This is really important because many salespeople will not ask right type of questions, and they will make the prospect feel like they are being questioned by a police detective.  The questions should be in the form of a conversation and have a  conversational cadence.  The questions cannot feel like an interrogation.

I believe that salespeople need to understand and implement six types of questions to be effective at Consultative Selling.  The goal is to find Pain or compelling reasons for the prospect to do business with you.  

However, asking questions is only part of the process.  Listening is critical. 

The salesperson must really listen to the prospects answers and be able to have a meaningful conversation with the prospect.  Often this means being able to think on their feet and pivot; not just ask the next question on their list.

I have listed the six types and an example of each question.  These do not necessarily follow this order and can be used throughout the conversation.

  1. Engagement Questions – allows the salesperson to share their opinion about something occurring in their industry. A great way to open a conversation and bring one that has stalled back to movement.  I attended a SIA Webinar on when and why legacy security system upgrades can best be managed. The conclusion was risk assessments, regulations and costs were the top metrics when considering upgrades.  Which of those are most important to you?
  2. Good Impactful Questions – allows the salesperson to build on a issue or problem that the prospect has already identified.  I heard you say that understanding all the risks associated with your current system is a concern and staying on top of technology when Security is a small aspect of being Facilities Director. Can you explain a bit more about your concerns?
  3. Tough Impactful Questions – gives the salesperson the opportunity to acknowledge a difficult situation and challenge the thought process of the prospect on how the problem might be solved.  With concerns around flexibility for future growth, and pressure from your Franchisor to upgrade quickly the current legacy system to approved equipment, why has more progress not been made?
  4. Great Impactful Questions – causes the prospect to say “that’s a great question” because it forces the prospect to see the situation for what it really is…sometimes for the first time.  So even if you found a way to upgrade as well as equipment approved by franchisor the issue is how will you learn and manage the complexity and demands of Smart Technology?
  5. Compare & Contrast Questions – the salesperson compares one issue to another in order to establish a priority of a need, an alternative or to clarify a next step or point in time.   Can you describe for me the ideal qualities you look for in a technical vendor relationship and that compares with your current situation?  or  Can you tell me about what is working well versus what’s not working well with the security process?
  6. Future Questions – the question guides the prospect to seeing a future state that addresses their hope, dream, need or desire because of your solution. These can work well in a series of questions to help illustrate the Future.  If we were to develop a system that provided flexibility for future growth, meet the Franchisor requirements and the learning curve was minimal, what would that mean to the organization? To You?   If you could implement the changes, how do think that would benefit the department goals?  If you successfully implemented these changes, how would it affect you personally? What would be different?

 As David Sandler said, Sales is a Broadway show, performed by a psychologist.  Sales is an art and a science. There is not a magic script, but the ability to improvise.  Working on these concepts with a sales manager, sales coaching and a commitment to get better is essential. Listening skills, understanding the value of your solution and product knowledge is required to navigate the interview of a prospect. 

If you would like to learn more, please reach out at walter@waltercrosby.com

Walter has been working successfully in Sales, Sales Development and Sales Management for over 31 years. He is passionate about developing sales professionals for CEOs &Business Owners. If you are frustrated and fed up with sales people who are not accountable, a sales team that is inconsistent and fail to meet objectives, and you want to fix it once and for all, we should have a business conversation.  walter@waltercrosby.com