< View all issues of Sphere

The Reason I’m Asking…

To some salespeople, asking customers so-called tough questions comes naturally and easily – others seem to find it much harder. You know the questions I’m talking about: they are often around qualification, motivation, commitment, access to other people and what needs to happen from here to PO. Salespeople know they should ask these questions – because it says so in the forecast tool and their manager is under pressure for predictability in the forecast.

The research behind The Challenger Sale* indicates the problem may be because people are over-focused on a good relationship with a customer and fearful of upsetting them. Whatever the reason, here’s something that seems to give salespeople the confidence to ask a ‘toughie’ – it’s simply having an answer ready in case a customer responds with: “Why do you want to know?”

And the answer needs to be from a customer perspective, not just because the salesperson needs to survive their next deal review.

Here’s an example that seems to work:

“The reason I’m asking is that it’s about predictability. When a customer places an order we want to have the right resources in place and be able to respond quickly. So predicting how likely you are to place an order, and when, is really important.”

What would your answer be?


*The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson – the only ground-breaking sales book I’ve read in my 30 plus years in sales.