Ask Tough Questions to Avoid Unpleasant Surprises

September 23rd, 2013 | Posted by Scott Stiver in Communication Skills | Sales Excellence | Sales Training

Are you often unpleasantly surprised by customers’ final purchase decisions or blindsided by delays in their decisions? If so, you may be operating in blissful ignorance throughout the sales process. Adding some tough questions to your Exploratory Process or even as reality checks during the Solution Presentation can help you avoid unpleasant surprises later in the sales cycle. In his recent article, Six Sales Questions You are Afraid to Ask, Sales guru Geoffrey James identified tough questions that will help you understand the reality of each sales opportunity:

1. Who else is selling to you?
2. What priorities are higher than the problem we’re addressing here?
3. If you had to make a decision today, who would you choose?
4. What might prevent you from doing business with me and my company?
5. Do I have an equal chance of winning your business?
6. If you don’t make a final decision by the date you mentioned, what will happen?

A word of caution here… a couple of these questions are clearly in the “Odds Are” of the sales professional, and are only appropriate if the broader conversation has been decidedly customer-focused. I suggest a couple of additions to James’ tough questions list:

• What is your budget?
• Does the solution I’ve recommended meet your needs?

Some sales professionals will see these questions as completely logical, while others will consider them overly bold. Having the courage to ask tough questions is indicative of the relationship you have developed with the customer or prospect, and whether it is a subordinate or interdependent relationship. While asking tough questions will help avoid unpleasant surprises later, the much bigger consideration is whether your relationship-building skills allow you to ask them.

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