4 Forgotten Benefits of Questions - 9th May 2019

Impatience is common in sales and it does nobody any favours. People try to sell too quickly too often. Their call is answered, their time to pitch arrives and they think “This person is so busy and I don’t have long. I must quickly tell them everything they need to know and then see if they’re up for it! Pack in the info, load up the benefits, watch the money roll in.” Rarely, if ever, is this best way.

My company’s recommended 4-step structure to sales conversations, as some of you will recognise, is: E.A.S.Y and, yes you’ve guessed it, step 3… STEP 3 OF 4… is to ‘Sell’. Not step 1.

In a recent blog, I wrote about earning the right to speak at the beginning of a call or meeting (‘Wing’ it OR start well every time). If we don’t give our clients or potential clients a compelling reason to speak to us today, then why should they give us their time?

Once we’ve earned the right to speak, we should hold back from selling. Before you sell, you need to find out who you are selling to. How best to find out? Ask them of course!

I want to talk to you today about the wide-ranging benefits of questions (Step 2 of EASY) and the enormous difference it makes to you as a sales professional. From the wide range of forgotten benefits, I’ve selected four.

Benefits of Questions #1: It takes the pressure off

When we sell to people quickly, before we understand them well, we make life very hard for ourselves. Even the finest ‘sales-pitchers’ will find it difficult to sell for 2 or 3 minutes, giving benefits here and features there with the odd case study thrown in for good measure. Don’t make it so tough for yourself. Asking questions, getting your clients to talk, takes the pressure off you. It gives you room to digest what they say without having to talk all the time. Let them do the work.

Benefits of Questions #2: It makes clients feel important

Asking questions, particularly good ones, shows that we’re interested in people. Asking more questions, probing to find out more is even better. People, once they get started, love talking – particularly about themselves. The 19th Century American philosopher and educationalist John Dewey was both prominent and influential and one of his central beliefs was that we are motivated by a desire to feel important. In sales, if you can make someone feel that way, they are much more likely to interact with you.

Benefits of Questions #3: It makes you likeable

The knock-on effect of making the client feel important, feel valued, feel listened to is that they tend to like you. We are much more comfortable buying from people we like because we feel a kinship with them and with that comes trust. Dr Robert Cialdini identifies likeability as one of mankind’s six ‘Weapons of Influence’ in his outstanding book Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion. Asking questions and showing an interest makes us more likeable.

Benefits of Questions #4: It makes clients think

This is the most important of all the forgotten benefits of questions in sales conversations. In order to move someone towards making a decision, we need their brain to be working hard. Not just half-listening (if that) to long, dull lists of benefits. Their brain needs to process information, digest benefits and move towards a place from which they can make a decision. If their brain is working hard, they’re less likely to finish conversations with ‘Send me an email and let me think about it.’ and more likely to make a decision by the end of the call. That’s an enormous benefit to anyone in sales. To make clients really think, we need not just to ask questions but to ask great questions.

There are many other sales benefits to questions but these are arguably the top four that are often forgotten. Of course, whilst gaining these benefits, you’re also learning about the client, their needs, their business, their worries, their buying patterns and so much more. That informs and shapes the next step in your sales conversations: Selling. You now know who you’re selling to and how to sell to them.

Asking questions well will allow you to sell more products and services to more people and companies at better profit margins with more referrals. 50-70% of your time in each sales conversation should be spent on questions. Do it well and you’ll sell more whilst, at the same time, making your clients feel like they’re buying rather than being sold to.


Paul Owen