Partners in Performance Blog

Pitching Disguised As Questions

In the work I do helping sales people to become more effective, we focus a lot on questioning skills. Let’s assume it’s your intent to ask questions in order to uncover your customer’s needs, likes, dislikes and perspectives. Here’s a typical question that is used by many sales professionals.

“If I could show you a way to easily solve your problem, would that be of interest to you?”

Let’s look at this question and examine why it isn’t effective.

Here are just a few reasons:

  1. The intention behind the question is not one of curiosity about your customer’s needs; it is a leading question that is about you.
  2. It is a closed question and the only information you will glean is a “yes” or “no”.  More importantly, it is a ‘gotcha’ question because the only logical answer is yes.
  3. It is a question that leads right into a pitch.  As soon as the customer answers the question (yes), the next words that will come out of your mouth will be pitching words.

I call these types of questions ‘Pitches that are disguised as questions.’ I sometimes hear such questions during our role play practice in our Intentional Selling  sales training. People who pitch their products or solutions too early in the sales process are guilty of falling into this trap and using these types of questions.

Does that mean you should never use such questions? No, not necessarily.  Although leading questions are not my personal favourite during ‘Discovery’, they can be used to direct the conversation to where you want to go.  For example, after you’ve asked questions and uncovered the client’s needs, this type of question can be used as a way to transition to your pitch or message.

Here’s another example of how this might fit into your questioning approach:  When you hear an objection, resist the temptation to respond until you’ve asked several questions.  First you need to get clarification, check assumptions and get a deeper understanding of the stated concern. You could then use this leading question to transition to your response. However, do not let it be the first and only question.

The key point is to be clear about the intention of your question. Is it to understand their needs or to lead the person to your message?  If it is to understand and learn more, this question is not the best.

Tip: Create a ‘Questioning Toolbox’ which documents examples of high value, open-ended discovery questions. This best practice enables you to have proven questions on hand for easy reference. You can add to your toolbox, share with peers and hone your questioning skills as you explore the impact of new questions with different clients.  In my sales pursuits I am amazed at how a small tweak in a question can dramatically alter the response I get from clients.

What questions do you use that might lead to pitching too soon? How could you change it to discover more about your client? Leave a comment, or send me an email with your thoughts.

If you want to be more strategic with your ‘Discovery’ questioning skills, call me. Let’s talk. 905-877-5808.

This entry was posted by TanjaParsley on January 11, 2012 in Intentional Selling™, PRISMS Selling™, Questioning Skills, Sales Skills. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

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