As a sales manager and a sales consultant, I have witnessed literally thousands of sales calls with competent and hard-working salespeople—professionals who have done their homework on the prospect, prepared thought-provoking questions that make it obvious they know something about the prospect’s business, and who pose questions with a genuine interest in hearing the answers. Sometimes it is magical and they help the prospect clarify a specific problem that needs to be addressed or an opportunity on which they would really like to capitalize. And, sometimes, all they do is get their questions answered and move on. Too bad.
What makes the difference between an interactive conversation that engages the prospect and one that is rote and turns into simply an information-gathering exercise? Follow up questions. Good follow up questions are never scripted. Good follow up questions show you were listening, that you are interested, and that you really need to learn more about the headline the prospect has just shared. Some simple open probes can reveal a lot of context and detail you need to know about a problem or opportunity—information you will probably never get if you simply move on to your next beautifully-crafted question. For example:
- That’s interesting. Tell me why you say that.
- What do you mean by that?
- Really? Tell me more about that.