Guidelines For Asking The Best Quality Questions In A Sales Meeting

ID-10046949 (2)The brain is the most wonderful computer on the planet. In fact, it’s pretty much an insult to the brain to compare it to a computer.

Even the most powerful computer built is left a distant second to the brain in efficiency ratings.

The interesting thing about human brains is it is always searching for meaning.


When it’s faced with a situation, new or old, it will automatically ask itself (hence, you!) ‘what does this mean?’

In other words, questions are the way the brain computes information and analyses what it should do with it. Think about it. Ask yourself a question now. Any question.

What did your brain immediately start doing? Trying to find the answer!

Asking questions, of course, has been the habitual way that most salespeople have started their meetings for years. But how about the quality of questions you ask? Have yours improved over the years you have been in sales? Or have they basically been the same, not stretching or challenging the buyer to think on a different level?

The fact is, the quality of the question will determine the quality of the response and information you receive.

So what would be the best quality questions to ask in a sales meeting? Here are some guidelines:

1) Ask questions that prove you’ve done your homework

By asking basic questions like, ‘What do you do here?’ and ‘How many people do you employ?’ you’re proving that you haven’t done your research and it takes a long time to get to the position of moving the conversation on. Instead, show how important the prospect is in your eyes with questions like, “I noticed from my research that your sales have levelled out after a promising start this year and that fewer customers are repeating their orders. What impact is this starting to have on your revenues?”

2) Have a few questions written down but make them conversational

There’s value in pre-planning questions so you get the relevant information to assist you in presenting solutions, but don’t get your notebook out and interrogate the prospect with a long list.
Instead, listen to the answers they give to your initial questions and frame conversational questions around them.
For instance, after one bit of information you gain, you could say, “That’s interesting, could you elaborate on that for me, please?” Or “I didn’t realise that. Why do you think that is happening and what are your plans based on those results?”

This makes the buyer feel it’s a proper consultative conversation, not an interrogative process they are sitting through.

3) Ask yourself, what information should I get that will help me find the solution for this specific situation in the most efficient and effective way?

The best questions you can ask are those that drive the conversation on to a level where decisions can be made. If the buyer gives you loads of valuable information through your quality questions, you are then armed with the ability to make concise and concrete suggestions, backed up with the knowledge that you are solving the precise problems the prospect is currently facing.

Each of these guidelines will help you establish a good standing with the buyer, as they will see you uncovering problems that might not have been obvious before. This will help you build a natural bridge to help them gain solutions quickly and more easily.

So, just as the brain is more efficient than the biggest computer, you are tapping into the one thing that will get you answers to problems more efficiently and effectively than anything else; quality questions!

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat
Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

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A Great Way To Get Information From Prospects

There’s a saying that sums up where most people’s careers end up, and it goes something like “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up anywhere”.

And it’s also true when you’re having a conversation with a prospect. The amount of information you obtain from them is concurrent with the quality of the questions you ask.

When we consider the type of questions that we ask of a prospect, we seldom think about the structure or the flow of the question. What I mean by this is we may go armed with a list of the information we want from the conversation, but we don’t always think about how we are going the build the questioning process. So we often just come out with a question that sounds ok, but doesn’t position it for the prospect or doesn’t add to the converstaion.

So you might want to try looking at the quality of your questioning technique, and I’ve got some tips that might help you achieve just that.

Called the ‘questioning framework‘, it gives you ideas that will help you produce powerful questions that help hit the mark and achieve end goals.

The framework consists of talking about the ‘event‘ that triggered the situation or the change, the ‘question‘ that will drive their thinking, the ‘person’ or ‘persons‘ who will be affected, and the actions that need to be taken.

It sounds a little complicated but some examples will make it simpler.

Imagine you’re talking about insurance to a prospect. It’s going well, but you want the prospect to actually make a decision. Here’s a question you could ask that covers all four elements mentioned above.

“When you think about your family’s future, how valuable would it be for you to have peace of mind that their needs are taken care of if anything should happen?’

The ‘event’ is covered first, then the question of value, then the person (you) and finally the action that will drive behaviour.

Here’s another example. Let’s assume your business prospect is thinking about developing their staff. Here’s  a question that will make them think:

‘As you develop your staff’s skills, would it be more cost-effective for you and the board to have a continuous programme assisted by e-learning and coaching?’

Those four elements cover all the points you want to make with a prospect, without putting them under any pressure. It makes them identify what the most important and value areas to consider are, and aids them in making specific decisions with your help.

Think about the types of questions you can ask that will fit this framework and see if it makes a difference to the way you gain information.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

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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

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The One Question Every Buyer Wants Answered

Over the years. most trainings and development programmes for salespeople have emphasised the importance of effective processes and techniques to be able to ‘sell’ their products and services. Most salespeople want to know how to ‘open the call’ or ‘overcome objections’. The skill development has revolved around how the knowledge and experience can be built so that they can capture interest, build desire and commit to action.

As time has passed, much of the development required by sales people has switched in its emphasis. The economic climate and the need to cut costs and overheads has changed the way that products need to be presented to achieve solutions.

Where previously we discussed how to present products, we now create images of the future when the product is in use. Where previously we discussed how to overcome objections, we now discover opportunities for the prospect to uncover where obstacles might occur before they come up.

So, how should we now approach our role as salespeople? Should we concentrate on technique, skills and knowledge? Or should we adopt a differing mindset that helps us build benefits and opportunities for the prospect?

One way we can think it through is by determining what is most important to the customer we are dealing with. Emphasis in the past has been on how we present the benefits and advantages of our products and why they are better than the competition’s. Now, we should help the prospect to see how they can improve or get better with our solution. Therefore, we should consider the customer’s mindset, and determine what is going through their minds before they make a decision.

The one question every buyer wants answered is “What solution will help me most to achieve my needs or desires?”

This question is going through the mind of the customer at every stage of the conversation and even before. When they are contemplating changes, whether it be new clothes or a new office location, they are always trying to answer the question of solving the problem. Knowing the problem that the prospect wants solving is the key to helping them make a decision.

Therefore, our emphasis when we are considering which direction to go with the sale should be on answering, “What problem is the prospect needing to solve? What benefits should be highlighted to the prospect that will help them choose our product? How will our choice improve their business opportunities?”

When we answer those questions, we laser in on what is most important to the prospect. You consider options that will be best for their business. You create conversations that focus on what is best for them, rather than us.

Approach every situation with that question in mind…what solution can I provide that will help this prospect achieve their needs and desires?

By thinking that way, your discussions will always assist the prospect to see the future involving your solutions.

Before I sign off, here are some more tips on becoming a great sales person:

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

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10 Questions To Ask Yourself Before A Sales Interaction – Video Blog

As a sales person, simply knowing the product or service that you are selling inside out is not enough to ensure that you will close every deal. In order to sell successfully you must understand what is going to make your prospects and clients buy, and the only way to find out this information is to ask the right questions.

The short video below gives you 10 challenging questions to ask yourself before your next sales interaction, to help you ask the right questions and obtain the vital information that is going to be the difference between losing a sale and closing the deal.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

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The Concept Of Inquiry: How To Get A Balanced View Of The Prospect’s Needs

Many of our programmes have exercises and activities that bring the best out of salespeople.

This is especially true when we run activities around the conversational quality of questioning techniques. Naturally, we as humans are inquisitive and want to find out information. Improving our questioning skills is one of the ways that we find information that will help us progress the sale.

But many times we find salespeople are more likely to make suggestions or give advice rather than dig deeper to identify rationale for specific ideas the prospect has.

We call this the difference between advocacy and inquiry, and it’s important that we know the difference and are able to consciously apply them at the right times.

Basically, the two terms are at either end of a communications continuum. At one end is the idea of ‘advocacy‘. This is where you give advice, make suggestions, tell your side of the story, direct or control the conversation. Your opinions or viewpoints are aired and the other person listens.

The other end has the idea of ‘inquiry’. This is where you are asking questions, making investigations, opening your mind to new ideas, following up on what the other person has said and identifying new ways of progressing. You listen intently to the other person, noting their views and ideas, without making judgement or counteracting with your opinions. You’re simply finding out information or digging deeper to gain more knowledge.

How many times have you been conversing with someone and then realised that they were only interested in their own opinion? Your viewpoint wasn’t relevant; it was simply a download of opinions or information from the other person, with no regard for your input or ideas.

How did that conversation make you feel? Sometimes, it’s good just to listen to what others have to say, especially if it’s interesting, absorbing and informative.

But oftentimes conversations like this are tiresome and frustrating. The other person is simply interested in letting you know what’s right and is not interested in changing or debating a viewpoint. This is the ‘advocacy’ position, where a person simply downloads information and is not swayed by any other opinion or fact.

Imagine if that was the stance you took in a prospect meeting. You simply regurgitated your product brochure, displaying your knowledge like a fountain gushing out flowing water, and your prospect was expected to act like a sponge, soaking up all you good stuff. What would the end result be?

The prospect would be far more knowledgeable about you and your products and services…but would that convince them to buy or make them feel yours was the best solution?

Not always. Taking the position of ‘inquiry’ opens up the discussion, making it more pertinent and applicable to the prospect. Inquiry increases the rapport between the two of you, highlighting needs and directing the conversation forward to a naturally conclusion, driven by the needs, wants and desires of the prospect.

Think about your next conversation with a prospect. How much of it has to revolve around you and your product, and how much has to concentrate on gaining facts, opinions and information?

Deciding on which end of the scale you should be in the ‘advocacy’ and ‘inquiry’ continuum is important, as it will determine whether you progress the sale through quality fact-finding, or lose the opportunity through forcing information when it’s not the right time.

Balance the two effectively and you create opportunities to advance the sale.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

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How Your Sat-Nav System Could Help You Sell More

Let’s say you’re going to visit a new prospect. You have all the details you need and you’ve prepared for the visit. The only thing you need to do now is get to their office or place of work to start the process.

Many will use their satellite navigation system to get there, especially if they’ve never visited before.

What do you do first? Yes, you set the destination, either the full address or post or zip code of the prospect. This is your end goal.

What does the sat-nav system then work out?

Well, many say it’s the route or the journey.

In fact, the system works out its current location first, the position it finds itself in, after finding a specific satellite.

Then it works out the best options to get there, using any criteria you may set for it. The quickest direct route, or missing out toll roads, or going via a specific location; it will direct you as you program it to.

What does it then do? It takes you on the route, offering changes to the route if it comes across traffic jams, obstacles on the way or better alternatives. Eventually, and hopefully on-time, you arrive at your destination.

Most of us take all this technology for granted, and simply switch off the sat-nav when we get there, forgetting how this little marvel helped us achieve our goal.

But what if we used the same principles in our discussions with prospects? What if the processes we followed were in line with how the sat-nav worked? Would that be helpful? Let’s see:

1) Set the destination. Ask the prospect what their end goals are, what they hope to achieve, what results they would get when they achieved them.

2) Determine the current position. Where are they now in relation to their final destination? What is wrong with the current situation that makes them want to change?

3) Plan the route. What journey do they need to take in order to go in the right direction? What changes are needed to achieve the final destination, the results they want to get?

4) Plan for contingencies. What has to change if obstacles present themselves on the journey? What contingencies might have to be put in place to deal with unplanned occurrences? How can you help the client as the journey continues?

This is a good process to follow if you need a plan to discuss with the prospect. End result…current position…gap analysis to close the distance…plan of action to achieve the result.

Try it out and see if the sat-nav way of working would help you help the prospect achieve what they want.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

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Sales Tales: How Stories Can Increase Your Sales Success

‘Let me tell you a story…”

I remember my mum using those words many times, and it used to grab my attention as I was whisked away into far-off lands, awed by mythical creatures and fairy-tale events. I was hooked on those stories, as they helped to generate ideas for play and increased my creative thinking skills.

Stories are the essence of many cultures, and most of us never grow out of the wonderment that stories provoke.

Why is this? Why do stories evoke such a feeling of creativity within us, even as adults?

I think it’s because they show a different side to life, expanding our experiences and enabling us to see things from different perspectives. They open up new opportunities and allow us to identify different directions, as we absorb new ideas and rationale into our expanded font of knowledge.

Expanding this into our role in sales, is it possible that stories, metaphors and analogies could have the same effect on prospects?

Well, just think about it. When someone you know expands on a point by detailing examples of what they mean, doesn’t it clarify ideas? Doesn’t it bring theory to life, taking them on a journey through possibilities that hadn’t manifested themselves before?

It can be the same when you’re with your prospect.

Of course, I’m not talking about fairy stories or silly stories that have no relevance. No, the stories I’m referring to are with reference to the prospect’s business, creating ideas on how your products and services can be utilised by their company.

You do this by finding what the connections are between your prospect’s situation and how you helped other similar companies in similar situations. Then you describe how that company changed their operations and their results by the use of your services.

You do this by describing how the changes took place and what they specifically did to gain the better results. This isn’t done in a matter-of-fact way, going through simple facts and figures; that would be sterile and boring.

You discuss how they faced similar problems, the problems escalating as time went by. The situation seemed difficult to get over, as they contemplated the end results if changes didn’t materialise. As they were wondering what to do, their research determined three or four choices. They needed help in decided which of these choices would be best for them.

Your presentation helped them to see how your products would not only help them now but also over the next few years. You described how their results would improve, slowly at first, then gather pace. Now, having used your products for some time, they have seen results turn round, meaning they can invest in future products and services that hadn’t been on their agenda before.

This opens your current prospect’s eyes to different possibilities, creating opportunities for them that hadn’t been seen before. Rather than the story being a simple testimonial to how you helped other companies, you add colour and vision to it, bringing a sense of extra value to your offerings that a basic statement of facts could never do.

Stories can bring alive results that would be staid and wooden on paper. They can add context and cultural awareness to ordinary references, and allow your prospects to use their imagination and see how their businesses could go on the same journeys that companies similar to their have enjoyed.

Think how you could turn your successful interventions into stories that would make new prospects’ mouths water, as you expand on the direction their businesses could take in the future. Not only does this make you a good salesperson to do business with; it also turns you into an interesting and informative person that your customers will turn to for guidance and advice.

Tell me your stories. Enthral me. I’m still a kid at heart, and would love to be whisked away again!

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

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The 2500-Year-Old Questioning Technique That Works With Modern Day Buyers

Imagine you’re walking around the shops and an elderly man approaches you, asking you some questions.

You try to ignore him, but his questions are powerful and engaging. He makes you think a lot and you find yourself drawn into the conversation which very quickly brings out how you see a current situation. Although he never really takes a position, you find yourself questioning how you see that situation. As you end your conversation and leave the shopping area, the ideas his questions have planted are making your mind buzz with curiosity and intrigue.

This is exactly the impact that the Greek philosopher Socrates had on the crowds that listened to him. His philosophies and ideas had people gripped. Yet, his style was effective, not just because of his vast knowledge or wisdom, but because of his method of questioning; something from which we can learn some very insightful lessons.

Very few salespeople have heard of his form of questioning, so it would be useful to identify how some of his thoughts can be brought into the 21st century.

To understand why he is the farther of questioning, one needs to understand how he viewed the world. Socrates discovered that having a person question a current belief or view would cause them to reconsider that viewpoint or current belief system.

So, what exactly did he do that we could learn from today?

Well, he answered most questions that were asked of him with another question.

Then, he used questions to discover what another person’s values and beliefs were. This is the foundation of persuasion.

After that, he would frame questions to direct the thoughts of listeners in the way he wanted them to think, while they thought it was their ideas and thoughts

This was followed by questions that were framed to overcome resistance, something that we could do if faced with objections.

So, how can you use these ideas with modern-day buyers to help you build better relationships and gain more sales

Well, firstly, answering a question with a question sounds very simple in theory, although many can get the wrong idea about this.

It’s not just a case of rebounding the question back. If the prospect asks: “Can you tell me more about your after-sales service?”, replying with the question, “Why do you want to know more about that?” would probably antagonise and puzzle them and you would lose rapport.

No, the question has to be in congruence with the idea the other person is contemplating. For instance, the above question could be reflected back with something like, “Naturally, after-sales service is a really important area for you. What would you specifically like to know about it?”

What this does is help you get a very clear and precise picture of what the prospect wants to know, rather than just giving a generic answer about everything your services offer, which may not be what the prospect actually wants.

Secondly, Socrates used questions to discover values and beliefs of other people. You may find this difficult or strange, but it opens up the conversation in a way that other salespeople may not be able to do.

You can ask things like, “What makes you feel that way?”, “How did you get to that conclusion?”, “Can you expand a little on that?”

These questions help you did a little deeper and encourage the prospect open up that bit more

Socrates also framed questions so that he could take conversations along a certain direction. We can do this if we want to redirect the conversation, or if it’s going a little off track.

Questions like, “How do staff costs influence your decisions here? Do the current ways of working have to change much to gain the results you’re looking for?”

These framing questions give you control and encourage the prospect to think in the direction you want them to go.

Finally, there’s the idea of using questions to overcome resistance. Socrates used these types of questions when dealing with situations where information was being held back, or delicate issues were being discussed. The idea is that you make statements that you know is wrong, so the prospect has to correct you. It makes them highlight the main issues and reduces the resistance that may be stopping them from opening up.

Examples could include, “So, you’re using XYZ because of their pricing structures, is that correct?” (You know it’s incorrect, but you want to find out the real issues).

“I understand your staffing costs have gone up. Is this the biggest concern you have?” (You want to uncover the real concerns the prospect has).

“The discounts from your current suppliers…are these the best deals you were able to obtain?” (You know they got very little discount, but you want to ensure you find out their real buying motives).

This type of question means you have probably build up a great deal of rapport, so they are more willing to open up with the real reasons. Probably, if you had asked the question directly, you would have got a deflecting answer.

Socrates lived over 2500 years ago. His ideas and philosophies worked in many circumstances back then. Used appropriately, they can be used effectively today, and clients would not be aware that you are using ancient and highly effective questioning techniques.

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

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3 Quick Important Trade Show Tips

After a recent visit to a trade show, I felt I had to point out a few of quick thoughts that we all need to keep in mind. I am going to make this short and sweet and not going to give you too much, because that is the problem—TOO MUCH!

#1 – Too Much Fanfare
Please, tone it down a bit. I understand that some businesses and products need a little more trumpet-blasting than others do. However, for most, it is just over-the-top. Usually, it is a professional fair, show or exposition—not circus. I also understand that you often need something to help draw attention, but if you would never do it at your place of business, perhaps you should not do it at a trade show.

Also, at least make sure the attention getter relates to what you do. Come on; if you sell accounting software, I don’t see how the clown doing balloon tricks makes any sense.

#2 – Too Much Stuff
You obviously need a lot of marketing material at your booth, but don’t go crazy with this. When you give people too many options of things they can pick, they usually choose to pick up nothing. Narrow the parameters.

Part of the problem is that many sales and marketing people realize that a select few pieces of their normal material is insufficient for a trade show. Therefore, they put out EVERYTHING. Why not create a piece or two specifically designed for the event?

#3- Too Much Talk
Why is it that so many sales people seem to take their normal sales process and throw it out of the window at a show? Even at the show, you still have to ask questions, uncover problems and expose need. However, for some reason, when standing at that booth, some sales people become automated-TV-commercials with no pause or off switch.

Prepare a list of questions to ask people that stop by. Have at least one powerful “hook” question that will make attendees stop and think and simultaneously, help you begin to qualify the prospect.

Trade shows are simply another prospecting avenue and deserve the same diligent and professional sales processes that you use with other prospecting methods.

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat
MTD Sales Training

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