Real and perceived barriers to asking questions keep many sellers from genuinely connecting with their buyers.
Some of these barriers to asking questions are self-inflicted. Others are situational. Some stem from previous experiences when asking questions backfired. So what’s a seller to do?
Perceived Barriers to Asking Questions
There are right ways and wrong ways to ask questions.
Savvy sellers know that ill-timed, awkward, and low-value questions are poorly received by buyers. That’s why some sellers feel asking questions is too risky. Their perception is what causes there to be significant barriers to asking questions on sales calls.
It magnifies the feeling of risk when a seller doesn’t have business acumen about what it takes for buyers to be successful. Asking a question may trigger answers the seller won’t understand. There is a fear of exposure if the conversation turns to something the seller is unfamiliar with, so sticking to talking points about his or her own product seems safer.
Actual Barriers to Asking Questions
Along with an element of perceived risk, there is also the constant time pressure for both sellers and buyers. Sellers may not see the value in inviting lengthy discussion, and they may believe buyers don’t want to spend time answering questions either. They opt instead for the expedience of a generic product pitch.
Add to the mix that many sellers feel questions are intrusive, pushy or nosy. Some feel it would be downright rude to pry into the buyer’s business. Some sellers believe they are on a “need to know” basis, and buyers will tell them whatever it is they absolutely must know. The perception, coupled with the reality of limited time, makes it all too easy to skip asking questions altogether.
Furthermore, questioning others tends to have negative associations attached to it. Words like interrogating, cross-examining, investigating and scrutinizing come to mind and then drum up imagined reactions like defensiveness or retreat. These hostile images of how people think of questions cause sellers to feel it is inappropriate to ask questions. Others avoid asking because they abide by the philosophy of the classic courtroom attorney who says “you should never ask a question unless you already know the answer.”
Finally, since question-asking is a skill, but it’s not formally taught in most circles, many people truly don’t know the difference between a well-constructed question and an awkwardly phrased one. Even if they sense the difference as they ask the question, most people cannot pinpoint or explain the difference and cannot replicate a good question nor avoid asking an awkward one again.
It’s easy to understand why so many sellers shy away from asking questions! It’s risky, scary, time consuming, potentially rude, may be discouraged, and is an undeveloped skill for most. Whether real or perceived, these barriers to asking questions on sales calls result in too few questions.
Despite all that, the case for asking questions is compelling. It’s worth your time to develop the skill of asking effective questions. The bestseller DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected was written to help you develop those skills and overcome these barriers so you can become the ONE seller buyers actually WANT to talk to.
- To learn more about DISCOVER Questions® and how to get connected in meaningful ways with your buyers, order your copy of this bestseller from Amazon.com
- When you need sales or management coaching, customized sales training, or a dynamic speaker call us at 408-779-PFPS or book an appointment with Deb.
- Check out these resources for sales managers and front line sellers. New webinars, infographics, research, podcasts and more added every month!
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Deb Calvert, “DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected” author and Top 50 Sales Influencer, is President of People First Productivity Solutions, a UC Berkeley instructor, and a former Sales/Training Director of a Fortune 500 media company. She speaks and writes about the Stop Selling & Start Leading movement and offers sales training, coaching and consulting as well as leadership development programs. She is certified as an executive and sales coach by the ICF and is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®. Deb has worked in every sector and in 14 countries to build leadership capacity, team effectiveness and sales productivity with a “people first” approach.