Article

Forget the pitch: 9 sales questions to close the deal

How and why you should get prospects to do all the talking.

By Patrick Grieve

Published August 20, 2020
Last updated August 20, 2020

Many sales agents make the mistake of focusing more on their pitch than their prospect. The stereotype of the fast-talking salesman has been around forever, and it's not exactly a positive connotation.

If you have a tendency to dominate customer conversations, it may be time you started talking less and listening more.

Learn about your leads by asking open-ended sales questions. This conversational style will help you find out more about your prospect's:

  • Budget
  • Time constraints
  • Pain points
  • Goals

You'll also build their trust by having a real discussion instead of diving right into a pitch.

Start with these nine sales questions. They'll encourage prospects to open up and help you strengthen your relationships with them.

1. Can you tell me more about your business?

This broad question will encourage the prospect to share plenty of details that you can use to ask follow-up questions.

Give them as much time as they need to answer, and only interject if they mention something you'd like them to elaborate on.

As the prospect is talking, mentally take note of anything they mention that's relevant to your business.

Later, think about which of your products or services would be most useful to them based on the information they shared.

Potential follow-up questions:

Who are your main competitors? What separates you from them?

2. Can you walk me through your typical day?

This question encourages the prospect to talk about themselves, so it's helpful for building a connection with them.

As the prospect describes certain tasks and processes, specific pain points may surface. Keep these setbacks in mind. You may be able to pitch your product or service as a solution to the issues they mention later in the conversation.

Potential follow-up question:

What are the most time-consuming aspects of your work?

3. What do you hope to accomplish in the next month/quarter/year?

Use this question to determine whether your product or service could be useful for the lead and help them achieve their goals.

Let them discuss any of their objectives, even if they don't directly relate to your company.

If they mention a goal you know your business can help with, spend more time on that topic.

Potential follow-up questions:

How are you hoping to accomplish those goals? What progress have you made so far?

4. What are the main issues keeping you from achieving those goals?

Get inside your customer's head with this question and gauge the expectations they'll have for your business.

Don't try to immediately offer a solution. Instead, ask them to elaborate on their problems so that you fully understand the issues at hand.

If you understand their pain points, it will be easier to predict any potential objections they may have about your product or service.

Potential follow-up questions:

Which issue has proven the most difficult? What's been causing it? How long has it been going on? Has it been getting worse?

5. Have you tried to address these problems in the past?

You need to size up the competition. This question is a tactful way of asking who their current vendor is and what other solutions they may be considering. It also helps you:

  • Find out why their previous or current solutions failed
  • Brainstorm how you can position your company as a better alternative later in the conversation

If they haven't tried to address the problem, ask questions to understand why they're interested in tackling the issue now.

Potential follow-up questions:

Why do you think your previous solution(s) didn't pan out? Why has this problem become a priority now?

6. Have budget constraints been an issue before?

Once you've identified the prospect's primary pain points, you'll want to assess how much they're willing to pay for a solution.

Don't bluntly ask a prospect what their budget is—ease into the question. If they say that budget constraints have been an issue, move into a deeper discussion of their financial situation.

Potential follow-up question:

Do you foresee budget changes in the future?

7. What's your company's method for evaluating new products or services?

This is a less heavy-handed way of asking what it's going to take to get them to buy your product or service.

Small companies may not have a specific process in place, but larger organizations will likely have a system for approving new tools.

The prospect's answer should inform the offer you make if they show serious interest in your product later.

Potential follow-up question:

Are you more willing to try a new product or service if there's a free trial period?

8. Is there anyone else you think I should speak with?

If you find out that there is another decision-maker involved, politely ask the prospect if they can make an introduction.

If it sounds like the organization is interested in your product or service, consider setting up a meeting with:

  • You
  • The prospect
  • Any other stakeholders

Potential follow-up question:

Would you mind if I got in touch with him or her?

9. Is your business still struggling with X?

If a prospect goes quiet for too long, reach out to see how they're doing. Ask if they're still dealing with one of the pain points you previously discussed.

For example, you might send a friendly email that says, "I remember you said you were under a time crunch to find a new service provider—is this still an urgent matter for you?"

This question could prompt the prospect to reengage with your company. Or, at the very least, they might let you know they're no longer interested in what you're selling.

Either way, reconnecting will help you move forward with that account.

Ask these sales questions to craft a powerful pitch

Instead of diving straight into a pitch, consider asking these open-ended sales questions. You'll likely gain a deeper understanding of the prospect's goals, obstacles, and conditions.

With that knowledge, you'll be better prepared to deliver a tailored pitch when they are ready to hear about your product.