It’s not what you say, it’s what you ask.


There’s an  adage that asks the question, “would you rather be told something, or discover it for yourself?” It’s no surprise that when a prospect is helped to uncover information on their own the impact is more meaningful than if they were told the same information by a seller. Yet, this coaching method is perhaps one of the most overlooked and underutilized by sales leaders.

Typically, a sales team can come together and decide where there are holes in a deal. For example, if a team agrees  that there is no connection to problems in a potential deal with Acme Company, the leaders usually help identify a few problems that the seller’s organization can uniquely solve. Leaders may even give direct instructions/suggestions  to ask specific questions or to make certain statements. The reps are then sent on their way to gather the missing information or identify the connection(s). This, however, is a waste of a great opportunity to coach sellers and improve deal qualification for this deal and others after.

Leaders need to take this conversation with their team one step further. Instead of offering suggestions for what a seller should ask, leaders should ask reps what questions they think they should be asking a prospect, and how those questions should be asked. This gives the rep a chance to think through how they can help a prospective buyer make connections to the seller’s organization through self-discovery. This creates more of an “ah-ha” moment for prospects than if they were simply being told something.

The next time you and your team discover a hole in a deal, try asking a question similar to the following: “How and what are you going to ask to get the customer to discover for themselves that these things are important to them?”

Asking this and helping reps develop their own questions only takes a few moments more than quickly identifying holes and telling the team how to handle them, but the payoff is much greater. If coaches help reps build those questions more effectively, that is something that reps can use over and over again. Not just on the current deal, but anytime those holes are found.

Listening to a sales team talk about how they’re going to develop and ask those questions also gives a coach more insight into the team’s abilities, talents, and skills. This is the truly coachable moment. Coaches can help reps better refine their questions, which is a muscle that can be used over and over again.

You may have noticed that by asking your reps these questions and helping them discover how to craft and deliver specific questions to prospects, you’re following your own advice. Lead by example and coach your team by helping them discover the questions they should be asking.

It’s not what you say, it’s what you ask.

As Founder and CEO of Visualize, Scott spearheads the company’s overall strategic direction, planning and execution. Scott has over 25 years of experience in sales and sales leadership, building profitable companies.