Ask The Right Questions At The Right Time: Sales is Situational


During a prospect meeting, it’s not just about asking the right questions. Sometimes, it’s about asking the right questions at the right time during the meeting.  One of our Door Openers accompanied a client’s salesperson on a meeting to evaluate how well the salesperson did eliciting information and securing next steps.  The seller had some friendly banter in the beginning and then pulled out a brochure to discuss his company and what it could do for the prospect. But the seller made a crucial misstep—he didn’t ask the prospect any questions. The seller was from a commercial heating and air conditioning company. The conversation with the prospect focused on the building they sat in for the meeting. By the end of the meeting, both the prospect and seller agreed there was an opportunity to work together and discussed next steps. This would appear to be a successful meeting but it was far from it.


As our Door Opener and the seller left the building, they discovered that the prospect managed the building they were in and four other buildings as well. However, by that time the meeting was over and so was the opportunity to discuss working together on the other buildings during the meeting.  Although the seller uncovered an opportunity and secured next steps, the seller missed the chance to quadruple the size of the sale.  


What would have fixed this? Had the seller asked at the beginning of the meeting, “What is your role here?” he would have uncovered a detail that would have changed the entire conversation.  He would have avoided the missed opportunity had he only asked the right question at the right time.


Too often sellers don’t ask any questions. Sometimes they don’t ask enough questions, and other times they just don’t ask the right questions.  However, in this situation, the issue was not only asking the right questions but asking them at the right time. For example, think of what would have happened if the seller had asked “What is your role here?” at the end of the meeting. It wouldn’t matter. Sales is situational.  Before salespeople go into a meeting, it’s important that they know what questions to ask. The questions, the order in which they ask them and the words they choose are all critically important.


I’ll end this article with a final anecdote. Someone I know, Bill, went to a sales training program where he learned to ask certain questions during prospect meetings. I saw Bill at a networking function, and he told me that he didn’t like the responses he was receiving from the first question he asked during his prospect meetings. I asked him what his first question was at these meetings, he told me, “My first question is, ‘Tell me why I’m here?’”  I saved Bill thousands of dollars in consulting fees by telling him to simply stop asking that question and to ponder this thought instead: “If you don’t like the answers you’re getting to your questions, change your questions.”  When it comes to questions, first remember to ask them. Then, make sure to ask the right questions at the right time. And, if you want a different response, change the question.