A well-prepared question delivered on time will help you close sales. A dumb question (yes I actually said that) will cost you an important opportunity every time.

I see this all the time. The sales rep gets a great opportunity. He wants me to see just how well he can present. Then he opens with a really dumb question. The CEO then sits there staring at him like he is a complete moron. We walk out to the parking lot and I sing "Another one bites the dust...".

Examples of Dumb Questions sales people ask:

"What kinds of things do you guys do here?" Dumb because you didn't need an appointment with the CEO to find that out.

"So how many employees do you have?" Dumb because you can find that out before meeting with the CEO. Double dumb if that information won't actually make a difference in your presentation? If you can find the information at any level below the person you are talking to don't ask the question! It is dumb to ask the CEO questions that could be answered by any one other than the CEO.

All kinds of warm up questions. "Are you an Auburn or Alabama fan?" Dumb because why would you want to introduce that kind of controversy in the initial stages of the relationship? "Do you like to fish?" Dumb because will that really make a difference in your presentation? "Do you like to play golf?" Dumb because are you looking for a golf partner or a business partner?

Nothing ruins your ability to listen faster than asking a dumb question and then watching the CEO stare at you like you're a moron. All of the listening skills in the world can't fix that blunder.

5 rules for preventing dumb questions:

1. Never ask anything controversial
2. Never ask anything obvious
3. Never ask anything that won't advance the sales or enhance your presentation
4. Never ask anything that could be answered by a junior in the firm
5. Finally, never ask anything that will make you look like a moron

So then what should you ask? You should ask questions that will give you power. They are power questions. Questions that demonstrate that you have an understanding of the CEO's challenges and opportunities. Questions that show you can make a significant impact to the accomplishment of her goals and visions.

Examples of power questions you could ask:

"Over the next five years how to you plan to increase sales in a struggling economy?"

"How do you measure sales plan achievement?"

"Who is responsible for monitoring the necessary adjustments to your sales projections? What criteria do you use to determine when those adjustments should happen and whose responsible?"

"How have your training programs been tweeked to reflect the current economic situation?"

"Have you considered how impactful your marketing message is given the local economic climate?

Power questions are directed specifically at the individual's goals, visions, and passions for the company she is leading. They are designed to challenge her need for your offering. They are aimed at getting her to tell you why she needs your goods and services.

Power questions make it very easy for you to demonstrate your listening skills.

Why don't you dedicate the next hour to developing twenty-five power questions for your offering? Think deeply. Consider things from the CEO's vision. How can your offering help her reach her goals? How will your services help her fulfill her vision? Is your offering consistent with her passion for her business?

Author's Bio: 

Eric Mulford is a sales trainer for an insurance company. Eric has been training sales professionals for several years helping them to develop sales presentations that are short simple and make sense in the marketplace.

Eric also specializes in helping Christian businesses and sales professionals achieve the purpose for which God has made them. Developing a Biblical attitude toward success, recognizing the laws at work in success, and committing to the activities necessary to achieve success.

Eric can be found at www.market-my-town-usa.com/Sales.html and his blog at Ericmulford.com/blog.