Colleen Stanley on Why Leading Questions Lead To No Sale

photo of Colleen StanleyThe following is a guest post from Colleen Stanley, author of Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success: Connect with Customers and Get Results about why a common sales technique so often backfires.

Salespeople default to weird language and behaviors during sales meetings. Perfectly normal human beings start saying and doing things that absolutely shut down a sales conversation. One of the worse ways to shut down a conversation is to ask your prospect leading questions. These questions sound like:

  • Are you having issues with quality? 
  • If we could save you money, would you want to move forward? 
  • Have you ever had trouble with response time from your existing vendor?

The prospect is aware that these type of questions are designed to illicit an answer that sets the salesperson up for a trial close. She also knows that salespeople have been trained to overcome objections until the prospect yells ‘Uncle!’ The poor prospect is not sure what answer to give. She isn’t ready to say yes because she doesn’t want to hear a solution dump. But she also doesn’t want to go through the overcoming-the-objections-wrestling-match either.

So what’s the reason salespeople still ask these non-revenue producing questions? Many have not been trained in the art and neuroscience of sales. They aren’t aware of how to sell to the real buyer, the amygdala or what is often referred to as the “old brain.”

It’s called the old brain or the reptilian brain because the amygdala was one of the first areas of the brain that developed. The amygdala is the emotional center of the brain and its main job is safety. It is the alarm system of the brain. When the amygdala senses danger, it sends you into a fight-or-flight response. How does this relate to sales?

When salespeople ask leading questions, the prospect’s amygdala is alerted and the alarm sounds, “Danger, danger…salesperson closing, salesperson closing.” The prospect moves into a fight-or-flight position. He gets defensive and starts badgering the salesperson for his best price. Or, he takes on a flight position and ends the sales meeting early saying things like, “This all sounds interesting…let me think it over. Thanks for coming in.”

The salesperson leaves the meeting wondering where she went wrong. She was asking open ended questions. She was trying to address the prospects pain.

The well intentioned salesperson doesn’t get a second meeting because she didn’t keep the prospect safe when asking questions about the prospect’s challenges.
A better way to ask the questions is to take a neutral position which keeps the amygdala calm, the prospect safe and open to conversation.

Are you having issues with quality?
Change to: Not sure if you are having any issues with quality?

If we could save you money, would you want to move forward?
Change to: Let’s you and I crunch some numbers together to see if the cost savings add up to enough dollars to even consider making a move.

Have you ever had trouble with response time from your existing vendor?
Change to: Tell me more about response time—what’s working or not working.

Jacket image, Emotional Intelligence for Sales SuccessIncorporate neuroscience into your sales approach. Stop asking leading questions that set off alarms in your prospects brain. Learn how to sell to the real decision maker, the amygdala.

Colleen Stanely is president of SalesLeadership, a leading sales consulting firm that specializes in emotional intelligence and consultative sales skills training.


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