The first time I heard these questions, my stomach wretched inside me. They felt wrong. Dead wrong. And, I could never imagine myself asking them.
Yet, they were – and still are – being taught as an effective sales technique. Some of you may even have them ingrained in your sales DNA. But seriously. They’ve got to go!
What are these sales-killing questions? Ones like this:
- If I could show you a way to solve that problem, could we do business today?
- If you like what you see in the [presentation, demo], is there any reason we couldn’t go ahead with the order?
These gotcha sales questions, which are often asked early in the conversation, are designed to get prospects to pre-commit to an action that they otherwise might not take.
The Fallout of Gotcha Sales Questions
Prospects are usually so shocked with the inappropriateness of those gotcha questions that they don't know how to react. So they give a waffling response, trying to avoid being rude but not agreeing to what was asked.
And … they immediately lose respect for the seller -- who now feels more like a huckster to them than a valuable resource.
If you ask these gotcha questions, it’s essential to stop immediately.
But, it’s not as easy as you may think. In sales meetings, you’re often operating on cruise control. Before you know it, you blurt one out – and then suffer the consequences.
Stop Gotcha Sales Questions in their Tracks
Here's how to prevent yourself from asking a question you'll regret.
1. Find the Trigger. To escape the gotcha question trap, first you need to find your trigger. Start by identifying what precedes you asking that question.
Think about it. Are you:
- Getting ready to give an overview of your offering?
- Showing a specific slide?
- Responding to something your prospect asked?
- Feeling scared that if you don’t close today, you’ll lose the business?
Go back into your memory bank and think about it. When does the gotcha question escape from your mouth?
2. Plan an Alternative Approach. Once you know that, you can consciously plan out an alternative approach. Before your next meeting. Before you do something stupid again.
- Be very specific about what you’re going to say and how you’ll react when you hear or feel the trigger.
- Don’t just try to ask another form of a closing question. It is inappropriate to close at this time. So don’t try to ask it in a nicer way. Drop it entirely and focus on your prospect’s business.
- Consider asking about your prospect’s relevant priorities, issues, challenges and objectives — ones that can be addressed by your product or service.
That’s what they’re interested in. That’s why they’re willing to talk to you. The more you learn about these areas, the higher likelihood you’ll have of winning the business.
3. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Practice makes perfect, so you need to practice these new approaches before you say them to prospects.
- Say it out loud. That’s right. Say that alternative approach out loud. You’ll immediately discover that it feels awkward. That’s because it’s new to you.
- Say it again. And again, till you get comfortable with this new language.
- If, after saying it aloud for a while, it doesn’t sound good, think of how to improve it.
Yes, it’s a lot of work to change a bad habit. But, it’s extremely costly not to. If you keep asking those gotcha questions, you’re virtually guaranteed to lose business with today’s savvy prospects who’ll think you’re a dinosaur or totally out of your mind.