Asking incisive questions is an essential part of any sales conversation.
Great sales questions help you find out what's going on in your buyer's world. They help you connect with buyers, understand buyer needs and what's important to them, and help you drive the sale forward.
In this guide, we share 50 of the most powerful sales questions you can use in your conversations.
According to Forrester Research, 1 million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs by 2020. This represents a 20% reduction of the B2B sales force.
They go on to categorize sales positions into 4 groups, indicating where the greatest sales job losses will occur:
The more sophisticated and advanced sellers become, the more they make selling about conversations and collaboration, not presentations and pitching. Even their presentations become interactive collaborations when done right.
The classic selling model has taught sellers to uncover needs and craft compelling solutions. It goes something like this: the buyer needs something and asks for it. You provide it. It's straightforward, but buyers are operating in their comfort zone.
Since Mack Hanan coined the term in 1970, consultative selling has been the most widely accepted—and most pursued—sales approach. The approach is characterized as understanding buyer needs and positioning offerings as solutions to problems.
While this has been the go-to approach for many sellers, massive changes in buying technology and the vast amount of information on the internet is significantly changing how buyers buy at an unprecedented pace.
For the last 50 or so years, consultative selling has been the go-to approach for most sellers.
In traditional consultative selling, the buyer states a need and the seller positions their offerings as solutions to problems. This used to be enough to win the sale. But today’s buyers often perceive sellers and their capabilities to be somewhat interchangeable.1 This leaves sellers stuck in a capabilities battle, fighting price pressure.
Since the term was coined in 1970, consultative selling has been the most widely accepted—and pursued—sales approach. For the following forty years, advice for how to sell had mostly been a variation on the consultative selling theme.
We've written a lot about our What Sales Winners Do Differently research, in which we studied more than 700 B2B sales purchases by buyers representing $3.1 billion in annual purchasing power. We've shared with you how sales winners don't only sell differently, they sell radically differently from second-place finishers.
57% of the purchase process is complete before buyers have their first interaction with a seller.1
This is one of the most cited statistics in the sales world these days—as if it's some kind of big news.
Wait...so you mean buyers do research and talk internally before they bring in outsiders? No way, dude! That's, like, revolutionary!
There's been a bit of a gold rush around the term "insight selling" in the last several years. Research from a variety of sources, including RAIN Group, has confirmed a simple fact:
Buyers buy from sellers who are sources of ideas.
One of the major findings of our research on What Sales Winners Do Differently is that today's sales winners don't just sell the value of their products and services, they are the value. They are knowledgeable experts who bring ideas and new perspectives to the table. Essentially, they harness the power of ideas when selling, and it gives them the winning edge.
A long time ago, I was fly fishing with a grizzled, old, big company leadership consultant. I asked him what he thought differentiated good consultants from great consultants—those at the pinnacle of the game.
He said, "Let me think."
What do James Franco, Daniel Craig, and Mo'Nique all have in common? They're described as actors who bring gravitas to their roles on the big and small screens.* Another is Sir Patrick Stewart, who embodied gravitas as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Picard had power and authority. He commanded respect. When he spoke, the Enterprise—and everyone else in the universe—listened.
There’s a revolution underway in sales. What used to work, even just a few years ago, is no longer enough to win major sales today.
As a result, a new breed of seller, who's beating out the competition and winning the sale, has emerged: the insight seller.
Insight sellers share new ideas and perspectives with their buyers, and they collaborate with buyers to develop the best solutions. They don’t just sell the value of their products and services, they become the value.
Perhaps the most respected voice of all time in sales is SPIN Selling author Neil Rackham. John and I were honored to have him write the foreword for Insight Selling. It's a great commentary on the state of and changes occurring in the world of modern sales. We hope you find it as insightful as we did. Without further ado...
A couple of years ago, I was involved in a major rebranding effort for a Fortune 100 financial services firm. Based on extensive research, their chief marketing officer decided their new brand positioning should be focused on "easier."
Easier to do business with. Easier to conduct banking transactions. Easier to get a mortgage, car loan, or business investment from.
There's been a lot of noise the last couple years declaring relationship selling dead. "The Internet has changed everything." "Personal connections don't matter anymore." "Selling is not about relationships." "Throw out everything you thought you knew about sales, Armageddon is coming!" Blah, blah, etc.
In the latter half of the 1700s, German astrologist and physician Franz Anton Mesmer treated his patients by looking deeply into their eyes and waving magnets in front of their faces. Mesmer believed barriers in our bodies disrupted the natural flow of the processes that gave us life and health. He further believed his penetrating eye gazing and object waving restored natural order inside his patients and relieved all sorts of maladies.
Lots of things have changed in the world of sales, but some things have not. Building trust was important 50 years ago, and it's just as important today.
When buyers trust sellers, they depend on them, listen to them, give them access, and spend time with them.
Since articles like "The End of Solution Sales" and "Selling is Not About Relationships" were published in the Harvard Business Review, there's been a lot of disagreement in the sales world about what's working and what's not. The arguments behind these articles were steeped in data. The arguments against these articles seemed more based on experience and belief. Which were true? We didn't care one way or the other, but we certainly wanted to know.
So we decided it was time to collect and analyze fresh data to find out what's really going on in sales.
After studying over 700 B2B purchases, sifting through hundreds of pages of data, talking to tens of thousands of sellers and sales leaders, and more than a year in the writing process, we are thrilled that our new book, Insight Selling: Surprising Research on What Sales Winners Do Differently is finally here.
In Insight Selling: Surprising Research on What Sales Winners Do Differently, we reveal the results of our extensive analysis of over 700 B2B purchases from the buyer’s perspective.
In our research, we found that sales winners consistently exhibit behaviors on three levels: they connect, convince, and collaborate.
The sales landscape has shifted in the last few years.
Buyers are more informed than ever, competition is stiffer, and products and services are increasingly seen as replaceable, leaving most sellers at a loss for the best way to add value and differentiate.
Insight selling is an old concept that has recaptured the fancy of the sales world, and rightly so, because it’s about adding value. Specifically, it’s about the seller adding value over-and-above the product or service.
Too many folks, however, think insight selling is about educating buyers through presentations. They’re about half right, but without the other half, they’re missing out on the full impact of insight selling.
Building confidence in the validity of an idea. Inspiring action.
The sellers who do these best sell the most.