Have you ever left a sales appointment and wished you had said something else? Or have you ever debriefed a sales rep’s call and find they didn’t ask the next logical question, and now critical information is missing?

Unfortunately, it’s a common problem. Most salespeople don’t ask enough questions.

Let’s examine some statistics. Only 11%* of salespeople ask the next, most important question when necessary. Further, the typical questions most salespeople ask are garden-variety ones; surface questions that are easily answered. Salespeople tend to accept too much at face value.

When the prospect says something like “This sounds great. Send me a proposal so I can look it over.” The sales rep hears “This looks great. It’s a done deal.”

So, the rep doesn’t ask the logical question – one that might be slightly uncomfortable, such as “Does that mean if the proposal lays out what we just talked about, you are ready to go?”

Rather, they trot off to spend time on a proposal believing it is a done deal, only to waste time on a document for someone who was just blowing them off.

Two Causes of This Problem:

  1. Many salespeople lose emotional discipline when they hear a positive from the prospect, which means they lose their objectivity and they don’t exhibit enough healthy skepticism. We call this wearing “Happy Ears.”
    They CHOOSE to believe that the prospect is being honest when they say something nice. Plus, it is much easier to stick with the prospect you know and believe will close than it is to go find a new prospect. 63%* of all salespeople suffer from a lack of emotional control in selling situations.
  1. Most salespeople are more concerned with what the prospect thinks of them than they are with closing the business. 58%* of sales reps care too much about being liked.
    This makes them less likely to ask deeper questions such as “why.” These salespeople are too concerned with how they are perceived by the prospect to challenge or ask for clarification of anything.

Unfortunately, both scenarios cause salespeople to waste time with unqualified prospects, produce proposals for unlikely buyers, and keep prospects in their pipeline longer than they should. And, when pipelines are full salespeople tend to prospect less to boot.


  1. Define a structured selling process and ensure everyone follows it. It should be based on asking questions to understand the following items BEFORE a proposal is offered:
    1. Why is the prospect interested in your products or services at this time? (Operative word being why)
    2. How compelling is their reason to do something (or something different as the case may be)?
    3. What’s their decision-making process? Not just who and when, but how will they decide?
    4. How do they view the value of your products vs not doing anything vs doing it with someone else?
  1. Create a qualifying scorecard to help with this process. It will assist to objectively determine the qualification status of the prospect for your products and services.
    Rather than having a funnel or pipeline based on activities, your pipeline will be based on true probability of closing. Then, encourage sales reps to focus on the higher probability opportunities.

These two solutions will help salespeople stay centered on having better conversations through more robust questioning – and free up their time to focus on finding more of the opportunities that can close.

*Data compliments of Objective Management Group 2019