Question-Based Selling: How Asking the Right Questions Can Lead to Sales Success

By
Weflow
·
August 25, 2022

The key to any successful sales process is to get to know your customer better. In order to close deals efficiently, you need to understand the unique challenges they’re facing, what they’re hoping to accomplish, and what is standing in their way of reaching those goals alone. 

When you have the right information, you can make stronger recommendations that lead to long-lasting relationships and repeat business — but to get the info you need, you need to ask the right questions. 

Questions are common in any sales methodology, but Question-Based Selling (QBS) takes it to a whole new level. Here’s a rundown of what QBS is, how it works, and how your sales team (and your customers) can benefit from it. 

What is Question-Based Selling?

Question-Based Selling is a sales methodology outlined by Thomas Freese in his book Secrets of Question-Based Selling. Freese says that the key to success in sales isn’t writing the right pitch — it’s asking the right questions. 

QBS focuses on the questions you ask, how you ask them, and when they are asked. By getting to know your prospect (and hopefully, your future customer) through open-ended questions, you can guide them to the conclusion that they need what you have to offer. 

Question-Based Selling is similar to other customer-focused sales techniques (like customer-centric selling) in that your energy should be on what your prospect needs, not necessarily what you want to sell. Instead of delivering a one-size-fits-some pitch, Question-Based Selling encourages you to get to know who you’re talking to before trying to close a deal. 

What are the benefits of Question-Based Selling? 

With so many sales methodologies out there, why choose QBS? Here are some of the biggest benefits for your sales team and your customers. 

1. Engaged prospects and customers 

When you focus on your prospects during the sales process, you’re encouraging them to open up about their challenges and their goals. You’re building a dialogue and rapport that can lead to stronger, long-term relationships. 

Because prospects are engaged early, they become more engaged customers. They’re more likely to come to you with new issues that come up or new problems they’re facing, putting you in a position to help them solve not only today’s challenges, but tomorrow’s as well. 

2. Long-lasting, trusting customer relationships 

Prioritizing your customer shows them they’re more than just another sale. When you care more about giving them the solution they need to achieve their goals than you do about meeting a quota or making a commission, they’ll have greater trust for you and your team. 

Customers know they can come to you for personalized recommendations and advice and will continue to buy from you again and again — and they’ll be more likely to send friends, family, and business partners your way. 

3. Close deals more efficiently 

QBS helps close deals with prospects faster by allowing them to talk through their challenges and needs, setting the scene for you to make a more specific pitch that aligns with what they’re looking for. It’s easier for prospects to see how your offering can help them achieve their goals, meaning they can make smarter (and faster) decisions. 

But QBS also makes it easier to close more deals long-term. When your customers already trust you and you have that long-term relationship established, you can more efficiently resell or upsell customers. 

4. More productive sales teams 

Working more efficiently and creating stronger relationships with customers can increase team productivity, helping them get more done in less time. By asking the right questions and investing in a long-term connection early on in the sales process, your sales team will save time later on. 

Because QBS encourages prospects and customers to do most of the talking, sales teams can spend less time pitching and educating their audience. Instead, they can hyperfocus their messages to make the most impact.

5. Happier sales teams 

When sales professionals are good at their job, are closing deals efficiently, and are building meaningful relationships with those around them, they’re happier with their work. They’re confident in what they do and want to keep up the good work. 

Happier salespeople can create a more positive work environment overall, encouraging team members to stay with the company longer and could even draw top talent to the business. 

How to use Question-Based Selling 

Ready to give QBS a shot? Here’s how you can use Question-Based Selling to close more deals. 

1. Know what the “right questions” are 

There isn’t a standardized list of the “right questions” to ask every prospect or customer. The questions that you need to ask will vary depending on the person you’re talking to. 

The goal of QBS is to get your prospect to open up about themselves, including their needs, challenges, goals, or the opportunities they see. The questions you ask should encourage them to keep the conversation going and push them to look deeper at their situation. 

The “right questions” focus on: 

1.1. Getting the customer to open up about their goals.

Knowing the prospect's initial goal is important, but you want more than just a surface-level understanding. The right questions encourage the customer to think about the future and what accomplishing this goal really means to them. 

For example, a prospect’s goal might be to reduce support response time to customers. But when they start to dig deeper, their goal isn’t just about speed and productivity — it’s about delivering a superior service to their customers. A solution that only solves the initial delay problem might bring them one step closer, but it might not be the right solution for their long-term needs. 

The right questions should help them crack through that initial surface-level idea to get them thinking about their long-term needs and how the solution they choose today might contribute to achieving those.

Try these examples: 

  • “What is your biggest need today? Why is this need important to you and your team?”
  • “What are the other goals your team is trying to achieve? Why is this more important than the others?”
  • “What are the larger business goals your team is hoping to achieve?”
  • “How would achieving this goal bring you closer to your overall business goals?” 
  • “What happens when you achieve this goal? What comes next?” 
  • “Does the rest of your company or team see the importance of this goal? Are there other goals that are equally important to them?”

1.2. The benefits, outcomes, or value associated with a solution.

Most goals prospects or customers are trying to achieve come with some benefit, value, or a desired outcome attached. When they achieve X, they will get Y. Once you have an idea of the goal (and future goals) your prospect wants to fulfill, you want to get to know the specific outcome they’re looking for.

In the example we used in the last section, the short-term goal was the reduce support response time while the long-term goal was to provide a better customer experience. The benefit or outcome that your prospect might be looking for could be more loyal customers, repeat buyers, or a strong brand reputation.

The right questions will help you dig deeper to figure out why that goal is really important to them and their team. When you know what they value or the benefits they’re after, your solution recommendations will be stronger.

Here are some examples of questions you might ask:

  • “What is your ideal outcome from achieving this goal?” 
  • “What would achieving this goal help you accomplish?” 
  • “How would you benefit from achieving this goal? How would your team benefit?”
  • “How would achieving this goal put your team in a better position than they are today?” 

1.3. The unique roadblocks or hurdles preventing them from achieving those goals.

If they understand what they want to accomplish, there is most likely a reason they haven’t been successful yet. It could be that they don’t have the right budget, access to the right tool, or they’re struggling to get their team on board to make the appropriate changes.

Going back to our example, the prospect may not have the right software to speed up their support times. They may also struggle to educate their support team members to provide accurate advice and direction quickly and efficiently, or their support team might not be big enough to handle all their tickets.

Understanding where they’re being held back prevents you from offering generic advice they might have already tried or offering a solution they know won’t work for them. Again, asking the right questions will lead to better solution recommendations.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • “Have you tried to achieve this goal? Why weren’t you successful?”
  • “What solutions have you tried on your journey to making this goal a reality? Where did they fail? Where did they succeed?” 
  • “Is there anyone on your team who disagrees with this goal? Who? Why don’t they agree?” 
  • “What challenges might arise as you get closer to achieving your long-term goals?” 
  • “If you achieve this goal, what new hurdles might appear?”

2. Prepare open-ended questions 

Now that you have a better understanding of what the “right” questions are, you can start to prepare some open-ended questions. While the bulk of the questions you ask should be influenced by the direction of the conversation, having a few questions prepared can help get the ball rolling in the right direction. 

Do as much research as possible on your prospect, their company, and the industry they serve. Look at their social media profiles, company website, and third-party publications or news sites to get a better understanding of the challenges the industry is facing and what the future holds. You might even revisit previous conversations you’ve had with similar companies. 

Make a list of at least three open-ended questions to get your conversation started (the examples mentioned above are a great starting point!). Focus on the Five Ws: Who, What, When, Where, and Why, and try to avoid any questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. 

3. Prioritize listening 

With QBS, you’re here to move the conversation along and understand your prospect — not just give the illusion of caring before hitting them with a generic pitch. That means you need to prioritize listening, not selling. 

Focus on engaging your customer in a conversation about them. Your questions should flow with the conversation, building off something they had said previously. Question-Based Selling shouldn’t feel like an interrogation or an interview. Instead, it should feel like you’re truly invested in getting to know your prospect and the business they work for. 

When the time comes to make a recommendation, refer back to the points your prospect has made to explain why you think this is the right solution for them. Using specific examples and referencing the challenges they’ve established or the frustrations they’ve felt can help you explain exactly why you think this solution is right for them. 

And on the other hand, if a prospect isn’t the right fit for your business, be up-front about it. You can’t be the right solution for everyone, but showing that you listened to their needs and recommending a product or service that meets those (even if it isn’t yours) can prove you’re trustworthy and willing to help. They’ll come back if you’re ever a fit, or refer their connections your way. 

Be sure to take notes during all your conversations. You can refer back to these points during follow-ups and check-ins, helping you build trust and keeping the conversation moving in the right direction. 

Weflow’s notes feature makes taking and managing notes as easy as possible. Easily jot down an idea, reminder, or question without needing to open a new window. You can even auto-sync to Salesforce, so all your important notes are right where you need them. 

Close more deals with Question-Based Selling 

Asking the right questions at the right time is the best way to truly aid in the success of your prospects and customers. When you fully understand where they are and where they want to go, you can recommend solutions that align with their needs and expectations. 

When you pair Weflow with the right sales methodology, your team can be more productive, you can sell more products, and your customers will be happier with their outcomes. Sign up for a trial to learn how.