You probably already know that the salesperson should research customer needs. If you are wondering what this research might look like on a daily basis, in this article you will find some tips about what to ask during a sales conversation.

The reason why they have agreed to spend their precious time talking to you

We are bombarded with a lot of information on a daily basis. Your company is not unique in its market either. Even so, some very busy person (everyone feels they are very busy) has decided to contact you. There was a mysterious factor that convinced them to shift their conversation with you over other important duties. It is in your interest to find out if this was…:

  • a problem that motivated the client to look for support on the Internet and contact several similar companies,
  • a sentence in the cold email that they particularly liked (perhaps this particular sentence should be used more often),
  • specific information visible on your website, etc.

It may also turn out that the potential client will answer “I’m looking for someone to write me a business plan”. And your company does not deal with creating business plans, but training on setting goals. Or, your company does not write business plans so much as advises on how such a business plan should be written – so you will learn that during a business conversation you will have to describe exactly what is included in the support bought by the customer. “But when I signed the contract, I thought…” – such situations are better prevented than treated.


Why did you decide to contact us? / why did you reply to our cold email?

What will you learn from it:

1) how the customer perceives your company,

2) the level of knowledge of the interlocutor about your product and solution

3) what exactly encouraged the potential client to invest time in talking to you

Where did the customer find us

Salespeople: “We have too few leads, and the ones that we do have are usually of poor quality”

The first step to increasing the number of leads salespeople won’t complain about is identifying where they came from. That is, checking whether a potential customer found out about our company on a webinar, we have been recommended by someone or whether the contact is a merit of advertising on Facebook only. Without systematic measurement of this information, it will be difficult to obtain more sophisticated diagnoses than:

“When it comes to valuable leads, they come mainly from recommendations. And sometimes from a search engine. How many search leads are there? Oh, it’s hard to say… ”.

The more often you forget to ask this question, the harder it will be to tell which activities your marketing should invest its efforts in.


How did you find our company?

What will you learn from it:

1) Where do valuable leads come from in your company?

What the client does to solve their problem

Competition is not only about another company in your industry. It is also an everyday reality that the client struggles with on a daily basis.

Example: A company offers timing software

Currently, the client’s employee measures time manually. So every employee has their own excel sheet, which they fill out at the end of the day. Sometimes they do it right, sometimes mistakes happen. The company tries to analyze the data, but it takes time to draw conclusions from the raw numbers. Sometimes there are capacities for such analyzes, sometimes there are none. There are also errors during the analyzes. So now a potential client:

  • measures employees’ time using Excel and a large amount of manual work,
  • doesn’t always have time to translate the data into real changes,
  • is prone to errors resulting from manual work.

With this information, the software vendor will be able to tell you that the company can:

  • measure time with less work (because the tool is designed to limit the customer clicking to a minimum),
  • receive reports created by the built-in functionalities of the tool on an ongoing basis,
  • save themselves the mistakes of employees – because the tool is designed in such a way that it does not allow entering incorrect data.

So the company can tell about its tool, referring directly to the situations with which the potential client is struggling on a daily basis. They struggle with them on a daily basis, so they know and understand them. Therefore it will be easy for them to understand that they will still enter data, but it will take 50% less time.


How are you currently dealing with [client’s problem]?

What will you learn from it:

1) what difficulties the client faces on a daily basis,

2) what advantages of your solution do they need the most – so it is necessary to mention them during a sales conversation,

3) what to say to make it easier for the client to understand what to expect from your solution.

What the client doesn’t know, and what they don’t want to hear again

Company A: has never worked with a software house before. They probably do not know why it is worth doing workshops at the beginning of the project, and the “more or less” valuation actually ranges from PLN 20,000 to PLN 900,000.

Company B: has already worked with a software house. They appreciated the flexibility of the local Project Manager, but were disappointed with the lack of transparency.

Company A must be introduced to what the creation of dedicated software involves. Company B has its own better and worse experiences in working with an IT company, so it is possible that it will choose another supplier for them. You better know these experiences.


Have you ever used a product like ours? / Have you ever used a service like ours?

What will you learn from it:

1) to what extent the client needs to be explained what our service is about

2) whether the client has previous experience with a company similar to ours

Things that interest the interlocutor the most

Suppose a business conversation lasts 30 minutes. On the one hand, the more we ask the client about their needs, the easier it will be for us to tell what to expect from our company. On the other hand, we could talk about our company and its advantages for a few hours. Then, the time and attention of the interlocutor are not endless. What to do in order not to overlook the issues that are most important to the client?


Suppose we are 5 minutes after our conversation – with answers to what questions do you want to get out of it?

What will you learn from it:

1) what you cannot omit during a sales conversation

The effect of cooperation expected by the interlocutor

Let’s assume that your company is focused on optimizing work in production plants. A potential customer has a factory and wants to reduce costs. You agree on 200 hours of work, the amount and you start cooperation. During its duration, it turns out that the client was not interested in just doing the audit and indicating what needs to be changed, but also in-depth training of employees in the use of machines that your company recommended to buy. “So what if you told us what machines we need if we don’t know how to operate them? After all, you are the specialists.” On the one hand, you can do it, on the other hand, it is an additional 40 hours of work, which you did not expect at the beginning, and the time of your employees costs money.


Let’s assume that we are 5 minutes after the end of cooperation – what does your company look like then?

What will you learn from it:

1) What exactly the customer expects from you

2) What does the client mean by “getting the problem off their shoulders”

Problem, and its consequences

Potential client A – wants to do a UX audit of their website, because they are concerned about the high percentage of users who leave the website very quickly and, what is worse, do not reach the contact form. If the situation does not change, there is no chance that the company’s sales forecast for the next year will be met – and the company cannot afford another year with a profitability of 2%.

Potential customer B – the company wants to do a UX audit, because the president of the company has read an article saying that 2020 will be a data driven and customer centric year.


Problem X – let’s assume it won’t be solved for the next six months. How will this affect your business?

What will you learn from it:

1) to what extent the client has analyzed how the problem they are talking to you about affects their company

2) what to refer to when the customer stops responding to emails and phone calls


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The worst objection is…

… the one that was never spoken out loud. There are interlocutors who need not be encouraged to ask questions. There are also those who are better encouraged. If the business conversation is long or includes long monologue moments, then the question “What questions do you have?” is worth asking more than once.


What are your questions? / What would you like to ask? / Is everything clear so far?

What will you learn from it:

1) what the customer did not have time to ask about.

The more accurately you understand the needs of potential customers, the easier it will be for you to talk about how much you need this cooperation. Consider when was the last time you lost a client because you understood his situation too superficially and what question was missing then.