By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of Ambro at

sales training tipsA universal buyer complaint is that sellers are poor listeners. Whether in business or personal relationships, people get frustrated when they feel they aren’t being heard. Some people feel a contributing factor is that sellers hear what they want to hear. I want to share another theory on why sellers have troubling listening.

An important part of a seller’s job is asking relevant questions, listening and reacting to buyer answers. Scientists tell us no two snowflakes are identical. I accept that as fact and would counter that by telling scientists that no two B2B sales calls (even selling the same offering to the same title interested in achieving the same business outcome) are identical, nor should they be.  
This reality seems to give sellers free license to adlib every sales call. I appreciate that competent sellers will align and react with different responses buyers give them. They can’t be inflexible in having a standard pitch they want to deliver. Most buyers won’t tolerate such an approach.

That said, during discovery/diagnosis of a buyer’s situation there is usually a common set of relevant core questions that could be asked. For a CRM salesperson calling on a CFO that wants more accurate sales forecasts, here are some questions that should be relevant:

  • How is the forecast created today?

  • What pipeline milestones are used and how are they enforced?

  • How is the achievement of milestones determined and by whom?

  • What is a sales manager’s role in making qualify/disqualify decisions?

  • How do sellers report progress on opportunities?

  • Are sellers below quota over-optimistic? If so how does that impact the forecast?

  • How do you adjust over-optimistic forecasts?

  • What has the level of forecast accuracy been over the last year?

  • What impact has inaccurate forecasting had on your organization?

Few sellers formalize core questions for titles/business outcomes they must discuss with buyers despite the fact that they make these calls every day.

My theory is that sellers without prepared core questions have to multitask during calls. While trying to give their undivided attention to buyer responses, sellers are challenged to ask the next question that should be not only be relevant to the topic being discussed but should align with the buyer’s response. Sellers formulating questions aren’t fully engaged in listening to a buyer’s answer.

Having core questions should help improve listening skills, allow more through calls to be made and provide better buying experiences.