As a salesperson, you likely already know that understanding your potential customers’ needs and challenges is crucial to making a successful sale. But figuring out the right questions to ask during a sales conversation can be tricky.

In this article, we’ll give you some practical advice on the types of questions you should be asking to make your sales talk more effective and engaging.

Why did you decide to contact us?

We are bombarded with a lot of information on a daily basis and life, as you know, is busy. So when someone reaches out to your company about your products and services, you should never take that for granted. This is why it’s important to find out why they’re contacting you. Was it: 

  • a problem that motivated the client to do online research and contact several similar companies?
  • a sentence in the cold email you sent that they really liked?
  • specific information on your website that attracted the prospect?

It may also turn out that the potential client will say “I’m looking for someone to write me a business plan.” It is possible that your company does not deal with creating business plans, but instead conducts training on setting goals. Or your company advises others on what a business plan should look like. 

Finding this out at the start will avoid situations where the customer says, “But when I signed the contract, I thought…”

sales skills used on sales process

By asking “Why did you decide to contact us?” or “Why did you reply to our cold email?” you will learn:

1) how the customer perceives your company,

2) what the prospect knows about your product and its possible solution,

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

How did you find our company?

Salespeople often lament that they have too few leads, and the ones that they 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. This includes checking whether a potential customer found out about your company on a webinar, by recommendation, or Facebook advertising. 

prospect talking sales skills

By asking “How did you find our company?” you will learn where your most valuable leads come from.

How are you currently dealing with your problem?

Competition is not just about another company selling a similar solution in your industry. It is also the everyday reality that the client struggles with.

Example: A company offers time-tracking software.

Currently, the potential client 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, and sometimes mistakes happen. The company tries to analyze the data, but it takes time to draw conclusions from the raw numbers. Errors also happen during the analysis. 

With this information, the software vendor can provide a solution where the company can:

  • measure time with less work (because the tool is designed to limit the client’s 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.

Knowing the above, the company can describe the tool it wants to sell by directly referring to the situations the potential client is struggling with on a daily basis.  

By asking “How are you currently dealing with your problem?” you will learn:

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

2) what advantages of your solution they need the most,

3) how the client can easily understand the advantages of your solution.

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

Company A has never worked with a software house before. They most likely don’t know why it is worth doing workshops at the beginning of the project or why the “more or less” valuation actually ranges from $5,000 to PLN $200,00.

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 experiences working with an IT company, so they will now choose a new supplier more carefully.

sales strategy

By asking “Have you ever used a product/service like ours before?” you will learn:

1) how detailed you need to explain your service to the client,

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

What do you need to know?

Estimating that a business conversation lasts around 30 minutes, it’s crucial to use this time wisely. On the one hand, the more you ask the client about their needs, the easier it will be to tell them what to expect from your company. On the other hand, you could probably talk about your company and its advantages for a few hours. So how do you make sure you’re addressing the client’s most important issues? By asking “What do you need to know?” you will learn the specific details that are essential during the sales conversation.

What are you expecting from us?

Let’s assume that your company is focused on optimizing work in production plants. A potential customer has a factory and wants to reduce its costs. You agree on 200 hours of work and the amount, and you start the cooperation. It turns out that the client was not interested in just doing the audit and indicating what needs to be changed, but also in an in-depth training on how to use the machines that your company recommended buying.  You can provide the training, but it is an additional 40 hours of work that will generate costs you did not expect.

By asking “What are you expecting from us?” you will learn:

1) what exactly the customer expects from you,

2) what the client means by being hands off.

How will this affect your business?

Potential Client A wants to do a UX audit of their website. They noticed that a high percentage of users leave the website very quickly and never 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. The company cannot afford another year with 2% profitability.

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

all the rules of great salesperson

By asking “Let’s assume your problem won’t be solved for the next six months: how will this affect your business?” you will learn:

1) to what extent the problem affects their company,

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

Is everything clear?

Some clients won’t stop asking questions while others simply nod in agreement, even when it’s clear they don’t understand. 

By asking “Do you have any questions?” or “Is everything clear so far?” you will learn what needs to be better explained to the client.

The more accurately you understand the needs of your potential customers, the easier it will be for you to convince them to buy your product or service.