Probing is a crucial skill for any successful salesperson. Frankly questions are always handy, with a customer, a supplier, in a job interview or in a meeting. Even in a lift, to break the ice and avoid reading the same emergency instructions!

Some things do not work when asking them. Severn, like the musical notes, the days of a week or the dwarves in the garden

Some things do not work. Seven, like the musical notes, the days of a week or the dwarves in the garden.

1 Questions are not statements

“You are a happy customer” o “Some colleagues find plums laxative” are not questions. Unlikely you’ll get an answer. Put a ? at the end! Or…. have you put a ? at the end?

2 The brace

“What value do you expect from a wholesaler? Which products do you normally buy”. Hard to have both answers. Braces are good for playing football (soccer) but when asking question go for one at a time.

3 Football is a sphere

Staying with football analogies, have you heard some of the interviews. The questions are long and winded. Something like “Today you had two player injured and Wednesday there is a big match coming up, so I saw you keep the team very compact, with lots of backbench player bringing energy on the wings and trying to leverage aerial game… (add 700 hundred more words)… This hasn’t worked much because of your opponent solid defence. In the second half you went for it and finally scored, is this how did you expect the game to go?” A terse, laconic “yes” is the typical answer. When you probe your customers or prospect you want lots of information so go for simple questions without embedded answers.

4 Hyperboles

If you overcook you question you are in for a dismissive answer (just to balance). “Have you seen what a magnificent work of art is the packaging of this cereal box and how successful life will you have thanks to the added berries?” “I still prefer Hopper and I’ll toss some fruit in my self, give me the normal one”. Mind your adjectives, answers are normally related to questions.

5 Learn from Pepin…

…the Short. Long questions are easy to confuse and loose your interlocutor. “What is the commercial attitude of your company when it comes to product procurement in the field of notes taking enabling devices and glue enhanced reduced sized paper accessories, including ink based writing tools and related product that you would consider in the same category?” is exactly the same as “Where do you buy your stationery?”, the latter much better!

6 Do not assume

Never assume. You may have heard the pun on it (I don’t assume, I am asking!). “Do you buy XXX because it’s cheaper?” is better asked as “Why do you buy XXX?”

7 Listen

A study conducted in Fringoland on a representative group of people has proved that it is much easier to get an answer if you stop to talk when you finished asking. According to some other researches from the university of Madeupville the best way no to talk is be silent. Lots of salespeople don’t keep them updated with latest science discoveries since they cannot bear silence and 54 millisecond after they asked something they start to talk again.