The Best Type Of Question That Gets Quick Answers

What makes a great salesperson? Product knowledge? Great organisation and timekeeping? The ability to prospect effectively?

All these are, of course, vital in the armoury of the salesperson who wants to make a success of their profession.

But there’s one skill that I believe puts a salesperson head and shoulders above their competition, especially when they are actually face to face with the prospect, at the cutting edge of the decision-making process.

And that skill is the ability to ask hard-hitting, thought-provoking, stop-me-in-my-tracks questions.

Now, you already know how important questions are, and you’ve probably heard you need to ask open questions to get the prospect talking. That’s ancient sales talk.

However, the type of question that will set you above all other salespeople is what I call the ‘action-inducing’ question.

These are questions that focus not on what I think the prospect needs, nor the problems faced, nor what the current pain is. Instead, they focus on what the prospect is doing now and what the results of those actions are.

This way, we get a clear picture of what is going on, how they do things and what changes might have to be made to get the results they are requiring.

For example, we are currently working with a large European company in the construction industry. They approached us for help on how to develop their salespeople’s skills in the consultative process. Rather than just having the salesperson go in armed with all the knowledge of their products, this company wants to change the mindset so the approach is one of solution-oriented consultation.

Our first approach, then, was to find out exactly what the salespeople actually do and say right now.

We asked “How are you inducting and training your sales staff now in order for them to go out into the field? What continuous training and development do they receive to get them confident in asking for business? How do they currently approach challenges and concerns that they face on a daily basis?”

These questions are all about the actions the company and salespeople make in their day-to-day operations, and it’s vital we know the processes they go through before we can see if any changes are required and in what way those changes should be rolled out.

If we had simply designed a programme on consultative selling without finding out about the actions currently employed, we would most likely have missed the key points needed by this client, and any programme would have been sterile at best and pointless at worst.

The questions that are needed are based on current action, so you get a clear picture of what is happening now. This is essential if you are to identify the changes that are required to get different results from what’s happening at the moment.

Formulate your questions to ascertain what the prospect is actually doing now and you’ll find your relationship-building is easier, more meaty conversations are carried out and trust is built much more quickly.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

(Image by Stuart Miles at

Sales Blog Call to Action

Management Share Blog Button


Improve Your Chances With Better Qualification Questions

One of the most frequent questions we get asked on our sales courses is concerning the qualification stage of the sale. Many salespeople want to have a suite of questions that will get the client to open up and give them all the information they need.

Some of these questions are pretty lame, at best. Probes like ‘Do you have a budget?’ ‘Who are you currently using?’ and ‘What problems are you currently trying to solve?’ are always high on the average salespersons’ list of FAQs.

However, if we want to expand the relationship early on and want to get a whole lot more useful information, we have to dig deeper and get the prospect to open up more.

Try some of these questions instead, and you may get better results:

Instead of ‘what’s the budget?’ try saying ‘Tell me how you derived the budget for this project and whose budget will be spent’.

Here, you’re getting two answers in one question, and it increases your chances of having a more in-depth discussion. If the budget level will not cover what you know will have to be spent to cover the solution you know the prospect will need, then we have the opportunity to share our experience of what is required to get the results the prospect is seeking. It’s better for this discussion to come up now, early in the conversation, rather than two or three visits later.

Instead of ‘what are your problems?’, you can take it a little deeper with ‘How have you quantified the value of overcoming the challenges you are facing?’

Notice what this question does. It acknowledges that a problem actually exists and asks for information on how the value proposition of overcoming the problem can be justified.

You can ask if it would be helpful if you worked with the prospect to identify and define a business case so that he can see it’s worth considering the investment that’s needed to overcome it. That way, you are putting yourself up as trusted advisor, rather than salesperson.

You can now find out what timeframe your client is working to. If they say they have to make a decision within 2 weeks, you can ask what would happen if they didn’t.

This will identify if the timeframe is realistic, especially if you know that the two-week deadline is beyond your capabilities. If they answer that nothing bad would happen if the deadline wasn’t hit, then you know there isn’t much necessity to break your back to achieve the deadline.

Another question I often ask to get more information is along the lines of ‘How did you determine which suppliers to contact, and why were we one of the chosen few?’

This gets you to understand the decision-making process the prospect is going through, and it gives us an idea of what we are up against.

If you identify better qualification questions in your rapport-builkding sessions with prospects, you get high-level information, building knowledge of the current position and future needs of your client much quicker and easier. And you stand a better chance of forwarding the sale, as there are more reasons for your client to think of you as the main supplier of solutions to their challenges.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

(Image by Stuart Miles at

Sales Blog Call to Action

Management Share Blog Button


Are You Qualifying Hard Enough? 3 Powerful Tips On Qualifying The Decision Maker Over The Telephone

If you are still having problems with unqualified DMs (Decision Makers) when you show up, then perhaps you are not qualifying for the true DM on the telephone as strong as you think you are.

It is very common for even some of the most experienced sales people to under qualify or incorrectly qualify DMs on the telephone and there are three basic reasons for this. Watch out for these three telephone qualifying blunders and you will achieve more success in setting quality appointments.

#1 – The Title
Qualifying mistakes often happen due to the sales person seeking the prospect with a particular job title. In some instances, a person’s job title may prove a guarantee that he or she is the true DM for the related product or service. However, more often than not, this is not the case. The exact responsibilities for the same job title will differ from company to company.

While in company A the Help Desk Manager is the DM for help desk software, in company B, the DM may be a purchasing manager or the IT Director. Once you have found the person with the desired title, you should still ask some qualifying questions to confirm. Do not assume the person is the true DM based on job position alone.

#2 – Don’t Want to Mess Up a Good Thing
A very common reason so many sales people fail to qualify the DM properly on the telephone, is that they fear they will ruin a good call. The sales person makes a few dozen calls, all with little positive results. Finally, he gets a person on the telephone that is not only nice, but is willing to listen! The sales person is terrified to ask any qualifying questions out of fear of losing this great prospect. Instead, he deludes himself into believing that this person is indeed the DM.

Cold calling and even warm calling for appointments today can be tough sometimes. However, don’t make it worse by spending too much time with unqualified people. Ask!

#3 – A Buying Question
Another reason sales people fail to qualify the DM properly is because they feel that to ask direct qualifying questions is to introduce buying type questions too early in the conversation. When you ask someone if they are the DM with authority to BUY a certain product or service, the answer can be ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ However, the answer could also be, “Yes, but I’m not interested…” Or, “Yes, but we are happy with our current supplier….” Worse yet, “No. But we are not interested anyway…”

Many sales people are afraid to ask the qualifying question as they consider it a direct buying question to which the prospect can object. Understand and help the prospect to understand that at that point, all you want to know is who the DM is. You did not ask anyone to buy anything yet. Do not fall into the trap of trying to overcome a buying objection this early in the sales process. You are trying to sell the appointment, not the product or service yet.

Before you ask for the order, you have to have a qualified buyer.

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat
MTD Sales Training

( Image by 89 Studio)

Sales Blog Call to Action

Management Share Blog Button

Shift Your Buyer’s Focus With Quality Questions

We have spoken at length of value-based propositions, and we have discussed how buyers who understand the complexity of their needs are more open to value-added solutions.

The question is, how do we get buyers to understand that their needs are more improtant than price, so they are willing to pay more for a better solution?

Well, we begin by getting them to appreciate their needs and wants fully, by convincing and hard-hitting questions that put the emphasis on their busienss rather than the cheapness of the competitions’ offerings.

Much reserach has demonstrated that your undersatnding the quantatative value of your benefits to the customer hels you gain more value form your market. What value is your solution worth to your customers? What impact does that value hav eon their businesses or their lives? You can shift your buyer’s focus onto value and away from price with thse type of questions:

1) Questions that focus on non-price issues

See if you can get these type of questions into your discussions:

“What do your buyers look for from you?”
“What takes away some of your profitability?”
“How much technical support do you require as back up?”
What will you gain by finding a solution to this problem?”
What trends are you seeing in your customers’ buying motives?”

These will help you focus on things outside the question of price and identify other issues that are probably more important than price to them.

2) Questions that focus on your added-value

This builds the strength of your company in the propsect’s eyes.

“How much flexibility do you require from a supplier?”
“How can we make it easier for you to buy from us?”
“What issues concern you the most?”
“How important are back-up services to you and your customers?”
“Do you have special ordering or stock-level considerations?”
“Would it help if we offered training for your staff in using the product?”

3) Questions that create urgency

These focus on acting quickly, a motive that could reinforce reasons for using you.

“What impact do delays in process-ordering have on your customers?”
“What are your short-term objectives?”
“How much do delays cost your company?”
“Are you getting full utilisation out of your current solution?”

4) Questions that paint pictures of the future

Focusing on a successful outcome for the customer will encourage them to think of you as they associate success with your product.

“What do you see happening as you move forward on this project?”
“If you had the ideal solution, what would it be?”
“How would the future look for your business if you succeeded?”
“What pressures would be taken off you when you make a decision to go ahead?”

These type of questions shift the buyer’s perspective away from price because they get them to focus on ideas and concepts that build value, and the emphasis is on results, not processes. Get the buyer to think in terms of the benefits they can receive from what you offer, and they are more likely to see the value of doing business with you, as long as those values are aligned to their buying criteria.

Happoy Selling


Sean McPheat
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
MTD Sales Training

Sales Blog Call to Action

Management Share Blog Button

10 Cage-Rattling Questions to Ask Yourself in Your Sales Career

Seldom do salespeople give themselves the opportunity to reflect on where they are in their career or where they are heading. They are either too involved in the nitty-gritty, everyday operational view of their jobs and accounts, or they don’t think it an important-enough issue to consider it for a long time. Or, as I suspect is the case in most situations, they don’t know what questions to ask themselves to reflect on the direction and vision they need to take.

Here are 10 hard-hitting questions designed to rattle your cage when it comes to your sales style.

* If you could start your sales career over again, what would you change? What would you do differently and why?

* What do you do to ensure you prepare effectively for each and every prospect call? Could you find out more?

* What are the main objections you face and what are you doing to eradicate them all?

* What are you doing to improve your sales knowledge each and every day?

* What area of your sales process have you improved in the last week, month or quarter? Why? How?

* What specifically causes you problems when you’re selling? What are you doing to overcome them?

* Which area of the sales process would have the biggest impact on sales if you were able to improve in it?

* Where or how do you find you are wasting most time in the week?

* If you lose a sale, how do you react and why?

* If you lost one of your key accounts, what would the impact be? What are your plans to keep them loyal to you?

These are only a few cage-rattlers, but their answers should highlight areas that you need to work on while developing all your strengths.

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
MTD Sales Training

Sales Blog Call to Action

Management Share Blog Button

15 Ways You Know The Prospect Is Ready To Buy

If you listen and look carefully to what the prospect is saying, there is no need to depend on tricks or closing techniques to get them to agree to the order.

When you’re giving your presentation, your prospect will give signals or signs to communicate, sometimes subconsciously, that they are ready to move on to the commitment stage.

Here are some examples of what they say that will signal their desire to buy:

1) They will ask specific questions about price, or discounts, or rates; Why would they enquire about the investment they have to make if they are not interested?

2) They question your delivery schedule; This shows they are already thinking about using it

3) They question your stock availability; They’re already convinced it will work for them

4) They want to go over something you said earlier; This shows they were mulling it over

5) They tell you about problems with current or previous suppliers; They are sending subliminal messages that they don’t want that to happen again with you

6) They ask questions about specific features or options; Again, they’re thinking of how they are going to use it.

7) They ask questions about quality; Ditto

8 ) They want to know about guarantees or warranties; They want confirmation for security

9) They ask specific questions about its workability; They are thinking of using it

10) They ask specific questions about owning the product or service; They are considering it already bought

11) They ask for a reference; They just need confirmation to make them feel secure

12) They ask if they can speak to existing customers; Again, a security question, which will be easy to answer if the product is as good as you say it is

13) They ask to see a demonstration; If they weren’t interested, why would they waste their time?

14) They send positive buying signals; Things like ‘that’s interesting’, ‘that sounds like what we want’, ‘that sounds good value for money’.

15) They say positive things about you or your company; Those positive signals mean they have faith, respect and trust in you

Your job is to recognise these signals and make it easy for the prospect to go onto the next stage without forcing or pressurising. A natural conversational statement about what needs to happen next is the best way forward and should assist the prospect in identifying you as their next supplier.

Happy Selling!


ean McPheat
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
MTD Sales Training

Sales Blog Call to Action

Management Share Blog Button

Ask Deeper Questions To Unearth Treasures in Your Customer’s Business

There was a report in our local paper about a husband and wife who had lived in their house for over 30 years.

The husband was definitely not a gardener, and hadn’t done anything of any significance to his garden for all the time they had lived there. If he had done any work in the garden at all, it was purely superficial. He certainly hadn’t dug down any further than a few inches below the surface.

One day, the husband and wife decided they wanted the garden re-landscaped. He called in a firm to do it for him. On the first day of work, the foreman of the landscaping team approached the husband and showed him some coins he had dug up. They looked very old.

The husband immediately took the coins to the local museum and they turned out to be medieval, and worth a great deal of money.

How deep did the foreman have to dig before they unearthed the coins? No more than nine inches!

The husband was interviewed afterwards and asked how he felt about having such a find so close. He said, “If only I had been a keen gardener, I would probably have found them many years ago, because I would have dug deeper!”

It set me thinking about how many salespeople fail to uncover riches that exist in their current customer base, simply because they don’t dig deeper with their questioning to find out more about their customers’  businesses.

Questions are the life-blood of your communications. They uncover many rich gems of information that would otherwise be left hidden away. They create opportunities that others could take advantage of. What would happen if a competitor came along and uncovered those opportunities, simply by asking your customer deeper questions? Build on the answers your customers have given you so you can find specific areas of concern that your customer hadn’t unearthed before.

Are you aware of how much business may be hidden just below the surface in your customers’ business? Take some of the situations your customer is currently involved in and dig deeper to ascertain if there’s more hidden gems there. That way, you help your customer (and yourself) achieve more business. And you won’t need to say, like that reluctant gardener, if only I had dug deeper years ago!

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
MTD Sales Training

Sales Blog Call to Action

Management Share Blog Button