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When a Question is not just a Question

There are two types of questions in a sales presentation. One is when a prospect asks a question to genuinely seek information. The other is when a prospect masks a potential objection in the form of a question. It is often difficult to distinguish one from the other.

For example, a prospect might ask "Do you have offices on the east coast?" It is a simple question, meriting a yes or no answer - you either do or you don't. So it is important to first answer with a "yes" or "no." "No Charlie, we do not." Next, you need to find out what is behind the question. "Why do you ask?". If you do not elicit what is behind the question, you risk responding to an objection that does not exist.

Charlie may say something like, "I was in the Empire State Building last week, and I thought I saw your company's name in the directory." In which case you might respond "No Charlie, that was not us, although I do love New York!" End of discussion. The question, in this case, was simply driven by curiosity.


On the other hand, Charlie might respond by saying "we are expanding to the east coast and we need a partner who can provide service there." Now that the reason is clear, the salesperson might say something like "While we don't have brick and mortar offices on the east coast, our service model is designed to ensure our east coast clients get the same level of service as our clients on the west coast. We do this by....".

When we conduct roleplays in our training workshops, we often witness a scenario where a salesperson assumes he knows what is behind the question and responds with a lengthy answer - often appearing to be on the defense, when in fact, the question required nothing more than a simple answer. Unless the reason behind the question is painfully obvious, it can be dangerous to assume we know. We must remember that while we often hear similar questions from clients, every person and situation is different. The more we understand what is driving the question, the more likely we will be able to answer it in a meaningful way.

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