A Question From Annie

Today I’ll take a quick break from the “lessons from the road” series to answer a question from a blog reader:

Dear Colleen,

I have been told by my manager that I need to ask questions during a sales call. He thinks my sales performance will improve if I send more time questioning and less time explaining our product to the customer. I am willing to give this a try because I have not been as successful as I would have liked so far. Specifically I have been told to ask more expanding and clarifying questions. I am not sure what he means by this, can you help?

Thanks, Annie

Dear Annie,

First, congratulations on being willing to try something new! This is the first, and most critical step towards greater success.

Without knowing very much about your situation and product lines, I can tell you that I think your manager is on the right track. One of the most common mistakes sales people make is that, at the first sign that a customer has a problem we can solve, we stop asking questions and start pitching our product. What we should be doing instead is taking this as our cue to ask even more questions.

Expanding and clarifying questions are typically used to gather more information, once you’ve discovered an issue or problem that the customer wants to discuss. Learning how to use these questions effectively can make the difference between being an average performer, and a sales star.

Expanding questions encourage the customer to expand or elaborate on what they’ve already told you. Some sample expanding questions might include:

  • Tell me more about that?
  • Why are you interested in