Sales Tip of the Day: Ask “Why do you ask?”

Sales Tip of the Day: Ask “Why do you ask?”

By Scott Sambucci | November 5, 2012

Questions, questions, questions. Everyone will tell you that sales conversations are a series of questions. You’re told to ask open-ended questions and to ask leading questions and to ask questions that follow prescribed formulas like as SPIN.

You’re told that if the prospect begins asking questions then that’s a buying signal. But is it really? All the time?

Ever been in a sales conversation where it feels like the prospect has turned the tables and now you are the one getting interrogated? Sometimes when the prospect goes on the offensive, their questions are not buying signals. They are resistance questions.

To overcome this situation and take back control of the conversation, simply ask this question:

The “Why do you ask?” question requires the prospect to unveil the reasons for their inquisition. For example, let’s say you’re selling an enterprise Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution. As you’re walking through your product demo and mixing in questions to the prospect about their current situation, number of users, other alternatives explored. Then suddenly, the prospect begins firing off questions like:

  • What programming language is your product built on?
  • How many customers do you have?
  • Can you send me over documentation and case studies to validate what you’re telling me?
  • How big is your company?
  • How long have you been with the company? Are you one of the founders?

Sound familiar? These are all resistance questions – the prospect is looking for reasons to maintain status quo, or at least looking for a reason not to buy your product. They’re throwing up artificial barriers to the sale. By asking:

WIth the “Why do you ask?” question, you can dive into their reasons for asking. What’s the underlying motivation? Maybe they’ve tried other solutions like yours that didn’t work out. Maybe their purchasing committee requires proof of success. Maybe they are considering a “build” versus “buy” scenario and they’re looking for free market research. Maybe this person isn’t really a decision-maker and they are asking these questions so that they can compile all of the information to look like a superstar to their manager.

If feel like you’re getting peppered with questions, then you probably are. Before answering the next one from the prospect, pause and ask –

They’ll usually tell you.

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