In Carew's sales skill training programs, we often talk about the importance of information gathering as a means to fully understand the customer's needs, motivations and challenges. Strong exploratory skills and an intentional exploratory process are essential to diagnosing gaps and providing valued solutions to our customers. Given the critical nature of the exploratory process, is it possible to overdo it with our questioning? Is there such a thing as too much exploring? Indeed there is!

When sales professionals become over-zealous in our questioning, asking too many questions and forcing the customer to do all of the talking, we take on the role of interrogator. The interrogator is so focused on information gathering, he forgets about the dynamics of quality and comfortable interpersonal communication. This behavior reflects an individual who is in his own "odds are," or functioning in self-interest to get what he wants, detailed information about the customer, without consideration for the customer's experience. From the customer's perspective, interaction with an interrogator may feel manipulative and induce distrust, anxiety or even anger. Of course, this is completely counter to what the sales professional is trying to accomplish.

How can we gain the insights we need without taking on the role of interrogator?  Balance is the key. A balanced application of information gathering and information sharing, and facilitating the natural back-and-forth flow of conversation is a good recipe for productive dialog. We may walk into a sales call knowing the specific information we want to obtain, but we must also be mindful of the information that would be of interest and value to the customer. After all, shared information is the foundation upon which strong and productive relationships are built.