Sales Training Article: Which Type of Questions Should You Ask Buyers?

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

In my experience great sellers engage people in conversations by asking intelligent and insightful questions. The quality of buying experiences bears some relationship to how much talking sellers do. The most painful calls are those where sellers are in “tell” mode and dominate.

Neil Rackham’s early research that became part of SPIN Selling identified three (3) types of questions sellers can use:

1. Open questions require “essay” answers. The good news is that buyers feel comfortable because they can take the conversation wherever they’d like. The danger to sellers is that they may never be able to get the discussion back on track.

2. Control questions elicit short answers such as yes, no, a number, etc. The good news is the seller is driving the conversation but at the potential expense of causing a buyer to feel they are a hostile witness being aggressively cross- examined.

3. Confirmation questions are an attempt to summarize conversations and get buyers to agree they got it right.

Rackham’s research uncovered that if sellers begin with an open question to allow buyers to go wherever they want to go, they earn the right to ask almost an unlimited number of relevant control questions.

When creating CustomerCentric Selling® we created the concept of a framing questionthat allows buyer comfort while affording sellers the opportunity to steer conversations. The key is that the questions start with the words: How do you…? For example, when calling on a CSO the question could be: How do your sales managers assess and develop their sales staff?

“How” questions often yield more information than a series of control questions and allow buyers to do most of the talking. Going into calls with prepared framing questions can make calls more effective.   


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