A question about questions

Questions concept

I remember growing up there was a book called ‘All that you wanted to know about (insert topic), but were afraid to ask.’ I was reflecting on this recently and on my experience of working with over 15,000 sales people over the past (nearly) 30 years.

I find it extraordinary, that one of the most common ‘objections’ I receive, when talking with people about asking great questions, is that they often feel awkward about doing that and they are concerned about what they will discover as a result.

Most sales people are afraid to ask the ‘right’ questions

Those seasoned sales people out there reading this may be thinking “Well, that’s bonkers”…but ask yourselves “why would that be the case?”.

Is it because 95% of sales professionals that I come across are so anxious to share their story, that they cannot stop themselves ‘spilling the beans’ way, way before they have taken time to truly understand what is going on in the other person’s world?

Is it because they are afraid of finding out that actually, the customer doesn’t want what they thought they did in the first place?

Is it the fear of rejection?

Or is it any number of other ‘excuses’ that stop them from asking questions?

An interesting conundrum. The fear of the unknown seems to prevent curiosity, and as someone once said to me, “familiarity breeds lack of enquiry”. This is so true, as our assumptions, generalisations and second-guessing prevent us from taking the right amount of time to truly engage the other person.

Get curious

One of the most refreshing traits of the very best sales people, (no matter what industry, seniority, culture (and yes I really mean all cultures)), is that they are genuinely curious. They take time to prepare (AND WRITE DOWN) a series of questions that help them understand what is going on for the other person. These carefully thought through, OPEN questions are asked, without prejudice and with genuine empathy, engaging the customer around their world, their priorities and their needs.

It sounds so simple…and truly it is…but for many this takes courage, planning and rigour. For everyone, this is a transformational approach, and at the heart of it is the creation and skilful deployment of good quality questions.

Try it…you never know what you might find out, and you will no longer find yourself too afraid to ask.

Good luck and let me know how you get on.

If you liked this article, or think it would be useful for others, please like, share and comment, as you feel appropriate.

Alex Selwood

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