1. Closing open questions
When you finally manage to place an open question (What… Who… When…), chances are you don’t leave it at that. Many sellers start perfectly: “What are your ideas?” But then they become unsure if they’ve made themselves clear enough and add suggestions: “I mean, do you want the machine for large construction sites or smaller ones? Do you work more on private properties or on communal grounds? Are you planning…” I’ll spare you the rest.
Practical tip: Practice placing opening questions and leaving it at that. Practice everywhere, even with friends and colleagues, to make sure that you can implement them into the sales conversation. You will realize that the quality and the quantity of the information you get increases massively.
2. Prematurely asking detail questions
When you are asking the order of the questions matters. Ask from general to specific topics. Start with broader ideas of the customer, their wishes in regards of the supplier and so on. Questions about details, features and technical specifications follow much later when you speak about the specific demands. The problem if you do it the other way around is that you miss valuable information and even sales opportunities.
Practical tip: Write the questions you are planning to ask down and then bring them into a useful order from general to specific. Take these notes with you into the conversation and use them for your orientation.
3. Asking a question that isn’t one
This is my favorite (not). Closed questions at an early stage of the conversation are bad enough. And that is because with every closed question you try to confirm a hypothesis you have. The information you get is meagre compared to answers to good open questions. Even worse are questions that are actually statements with just a question mark at the end. An example: “You already have printers?” or “You can manage the software?” These aren’t questions - not even in a grammatical sense, because it would have to be: “Do you have printers?“ to count as a question. The problem is that the client doesn’t experience it as a proper question either, and therefore doesn’t think about the answer properly. As a consequence the answers to these pseudo-questions are often superficial and not very precise.
Practical tip: Record yourself during phone conversations with clients to find out if and how you ask. If you use too many closed or even pseudo-questions, practice! Writing down questions helps like I said before.
And if you cannot come up with good questions, buy my book about questions (but sorry, you will have to learn German ;-): “Verkaufen und überzeugen mit Fragen” and find 400 sales questions for your sales conversations.