Overcoming The Sales Challenge: Don’t Answer the Unasked Question


In our recent series the 10 Commandments of Sales Success, my partner and our Chief Growth Officer Mark Trinkle, discusses why you should never answer the unasked question. Salespeople have a tendency of getting themselves in trouble when they do. I think we’ve all been in a position where we hear a slight interest or want for more information from our prospect and suddenly we turn into a prerecorded tape divulging the whats, whys, and hows of us and our business. But what I know is of the 10 things we say, the prospect is likely only interested in about 2 of them. The rest is unimportant and may even bring up concern or worry that they didn’t have before. Giving you another obstacle to eliminate, and unfortunately one you’ve created yourself.

But what do you do about it? We have 6 rules about asking questions and how they can help us overcome, or avoid all together, this common sale challenge.

  1. 3R- This means asking the right question, the right way, at the right time. This takes practice and preparation. But if you are listening with the intent to understand and learn, and NOT to just respond, the questions will come more naturally. This is not a sales pitch, it’s a discussion to see HOW you can help someone.
  2. Ask questions you know or can predict the answers to. This is the importance of pre-call planning. Not only do you want to be prepared for the questions you want to ask and the ones you expect your prospect to ask, but also the ones you DON’T expect them to ask and any curveballs they may throw as well.
  3. Don’t answer questions they didn’t ask. Easier said than done sometimes but I’ve found the key to this is to slow down, take a breath and ask for clarification if it’s needed. A simple “I’m happy to answer to that but out of curiosity, why do you ask” will likely gain you more insight into what they are really wanting to know.
  4. When you hear an answer you like, get them to repeat the answer. Simple as that.
  5. When you get the wrong answer, or an answer you don’t like, ask permission to re-ask the question. Reframing the question may get you a different answer. If not, you have validated what it is they think, feel or believe. Both are beneficial to the sales process.
  6. Emotional questions make the sale. Technical questions help you build the product or service. First, we need to identify if there is really a problem they HAVE to fix. Decisions and changes are made emotionally and justified logically. The technical conversation will be easy once the prospect is onboard mentally.

So when a prospect asks “how big is your company?” they likely don’t care about the number of locations you have, your yearly revenue, or how many people work on your team. In my experience, they are asking because they want to make sure you are large enough to have the capability and resources to solve their problem, but are small enough to want to.

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