Asking Tough Questions Gets You The Business

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

QuestionsI get a real kick out of getting new business. Call it an ego thing, or whatever you like, but when a customer signs on the line that is dotted, it makes me feel good about myself, my company, my colleagues and my services.

About a month ago, a prospect emailed me to say that they were going to use our services. We had been courting them for a couple of months and had gone through the usual beauty parades. I was hopeful and enthusiastic for positive results, and so it was great to receive confirmation that we had the nod over our competition.

After setting the ball rolling, I had a conversation with the decision-maker over the phone, outlining resources and timings for the start of the project. Then I asked a question that I always ask to gain a clearer understanding of who we are working with.

I asked, “By the way, what made you choose us in the end?”

The answer pleased me and made me contemplate at the same time. She said, “You were the only provider who asked really tough questions that made us really think. Your competitors asked the normal stuff, questions we could answer in our sleep. But you asked us questions that stopped us dead in our tracks, making us puzzle over the answers and causing us to rethink our end goals. Those questions made us realise we need a partner who can challenge us and drive us forward in different ways”.

As you can imagine…music to my ears. And it made me realise that, as salespeople, we often don’t consider the really hard questions that will challenge the current level of thinking of our prospects and their future business orientation.

They’re called ‘Power Questions‘ and your job is to have a number of these that stop the prospect in their tracks and make them feel challenged.

I ask questions like:

“Whose job is on the line if you don’t solve these problems?”

“How do you keep up-to-date with what your competition is doing before they take your customers away from you?”

“What would it cost you if you didn’t do anything?”

“How will you sell these changes to the people who matter?”

You need to challenge the prospect to think in a different way. Imaging you are up against three of your biggest competitors, all pitching for business with the same client. How would you stand out against them? By asking questions that make the client feel you will challenge them to be better than they currently are. You must prepare these questions before the sales meeting or you run the risk of being lost in the pack and not standing out from the competition.

We were delighted to get the business, naturally, and the hard work starts now. But it’s a really good feeling to know that our approach and interest in their future business success (rather than price or discounts) got us the business in the first place.

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 9 January, 2014

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