You Won’t Get the Right Answer Until You Ask the Right Question

Staff Writer

During the sales training sessions I conduct, new and experienced sales people often seem to struggle with uncovering prospect needs. Too many times I’ve had to stop a role play when one of the participants poses the question “so tell me about your business?” or “what are your main advertising needs?”

To find out what the prospect needs are, their real needs, and the real opportunities requires strong questioning skills and a set of questions designed to uncover them.

In my recent article “The Secrets to Surviving Your First Year in Sales (or How Not to Become a Statistic)”, David Hefter, the National Sales Director at the Australian Radio Network had this to say:  “….it’s more about identifying the ‘unseen opportunity’. Clients are more sophisticated, they know what their problems are and often already have the solution if it's marketing related…”

So how can we uncover what David calls the “unseen opportunity”?

In reality it’s all about the right question. The right question delivered at the right time and in the right part of the meeting which is always after you have established rapport and demonstrated why you are different from all the other “reps” that have passed through his door.

Questions like these:

  • Can you give me an example of some of your current business / marketing challenges?
  • Which one is the biggest? Are there any others?
  • Do you know what’s causing it?
  • If nothing is done, what are the possible ramifications?
  • What are you currently doing to deal with this? How is this solution working?
  • What has been your least successful advertising or marketing campaign? Why?
  • How do you promote your key differences to potential customers?
  • Do you have any preference on how you advertise your business and attract new customers?
  • What do your customers expect from your company? or Why do customers buy from you?
  • How have your customers’ expectations changed over the last 5 years? Do you see those customer expectations changing again in the short term?
  • What steps do you take to ensure your customers’ needs are met (or exceeded)?
  • Do you measure customer satisfaction? How? What are the results showing?
  • How is your customer service compared to your major competitor? What do they do differently?
  • Can you help me to understand what's happening in your industry these days?
  • If we decided to work together what 3 key outcomes would you expect?
  • Describe your decision making process.


In professional selling asking quality questions and really listening to the answers are two of the most important skills you need to master. The reality is that effective selling requires very little selling and asking lots of good questions.

Maybe you might want to add some of these questions to your sales kit? After all they sure beat the hell out of asking “so tell me more about your business”!!

Stephen Pead is a media industry veteran of 30 years with significant experience in sales, sales management and general management. He is based in Sydney and specialises in providing training for sales people and sales managers. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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