Using Sales Questions To Unearth The Real Issues

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Solution and question

Some interesting studies by Dartnell Research estimated that prospects and customers do not verbalise their problems and concerns in around 80% of conversations.

This means that you as the salesperson may not be able to ascertain the real challenges the prospect is facing.

Unless, of course, you dig deeper to find the real issues that your solution may be able to deal with.

How can we do this?

One way is to ask questions that dig deeper and “lock down” the issue.

How To Use Lock Down Sales Questions

These are sales questions that take the areas of concern a prospect has raised and laser in on them to get more details.

Let’s see some examples of what we mean:

“Our company has been trying to improve our production rates for some time now”

“When you say ‘trying’, could you elaborate for me? What’s worked and what hasn’t?”

You can see here that the prospect has used a trigger word ‘trying’.

Instead of stating what your company could do to improve their production rates, you should ‘lock down’ the issue and find out more details before seeing what solutions you could come up with

Here’s another:

“We’re looking to save money on this next investment”

“May I ask why saving money is so important for you on this next investment?”

What you’ve pulled out of the prospect’s comment is the key issue, and you’ve locked down onto that before showing how you could save them money.

The deeper the question, the deeper the prospect will have to think in order to come up with answers that you can use


“We’re experiencing problems with our current supplier and are looking for a new one”

“Could you give me an example of some of the problems you’ve been experiencing?”

After the prospect has mentioned the ‘problems’ they are having, many salespeople would start to present their solutions to prove why they should be the new supplier.

Instead, by asking this ‘lock down’ question, you bring out the main pains the prospect is facing, highlighting even more why they should be moving away from their current supplier, and also giving you information you can work with later when the time comes to present your solutions.

And another:

“We anticipate the pandemic has increased our costs by around 20%, but we think it will be challenging to claw that back”

“When you say ‘challenging’ could you explain what you mean?”

You can see that the prospect has chosen the specific word ‘challenging’, so it would be appropriate to lock down onto that issue and find out specifically what they mean.

It could mean different things to different customers, and you don’t want to make assumptions on exactly what challenges the increase in costs have caused.

You can see from these short examples how ‘lock down’ questions can help you and the prospect dig deeper into the real issues they are facing, allowing you to clarify the situation and be more precise when it comes to recommending solutions. Next time,

  • Listen to the prospect’s words carefully
  • Ascertain the real challenges they are facing
  • Clarify what they want
  • Only move on when you know the real meaning behind the trigger words and have locked down on what are the real pains

By doing this, you stand a greater chance of recommending the right solution for this particular prospect’s needs

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How To Use Conditional Sales Questions

We’ve said this many times, and it’s worth repeating:

Your buyers don’t buy your products or services; they buy what your solutions will do for them or their business. This forms the basis for solution selling.

In other words, they are buying a better future in some way by using you and your company.

So, how can you employ this in your sales process, so the prospect or buyer sees you as the natural choice for their future? What questions can you ask that will make them think of you first?

We can use conditional questions. These are sales questions that, when answered with the conditions stated in place, will get better answers and lead to better decisions.

The best way to ask conditional questions is to think of them as ‘Generic Vision’ questions. That is, questions that get the buyer to think of the future with your products or services in mind.

Here are some examples to show what we mean:

“If we could get rid of that production issue that is costing you over £250,000 per year, what effects would that have on your bottom line?”

“If we could help you with that specific IT issue you keep encountering, what would be the overall benefit to the company and yourself?”

“If we could help you deliver those changes to your team, what impact would it have on morale and results?”

Do you see how these conditional questions immediately get the prospect thinking forward, identifying the results and outcomes they would get if (there’s the conditional word) they were to go ahead and use your services?

Many conditional questions start out with ‘If we could…? Or ‘What if…?’

They don’t hold out promises as yet, though if they could come to fruition, they would get the results the prospect is looking for.

Also, it stops you having to continually present solutions, as it gets the buyer involved in making the decisions.

So, next time you need to present a solution, form it in a conditional question format and get the buyer to think about what the results would be for them if they chose your solution. With this you’ll work through the sales funnel stages a lot easier and then you come to ask for the sale then it should be the only logical and emotional response!

That way, you get greater commitment to the solution you are offering. Check out our latest Sales Courses for all ability and experience levels. If you’re looking for a beginner’s course, then our Essential Selling Skills Training can help you.

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training

Sales DNA

Originally published: 25 May, 2021

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