“Don’t waste the most important part of the sales cycle by doing it wrong. Master this skill of asking short, hard-hitting questions just like Barbara Walters. ” – Andrew Monaghan in today’s Tip 1423
Do you ask short discovery questions?
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Scott Ingram: You’re listening to the Daily Sales Tips podcast and I’m your host, Scott Ingram. Today’s tip comes from Andrew Monaghan. Andrew is the CEO and Founder of Unstoppable.do and host of the Sales Bluebird podcast. He has 18 years of enterprise software sales experience both as a seller and a leader and 8 years as a consultant helping sales teams at software companies sell more, faster. While he sent me this tip a while ago, I thought it was especially timely now in honor of Barbara Walters. Here he is:
Andrew Monaghan: I think we can all agree that one of the most important steps in the sales process is discovery. But having listened to a whole bunch of calls over the years, my conclusion is that we’re not maximizing the opportunity as we should. And perhaps one of the biggest mistakes we make is that we’re asking questions that are just too long. And if you look at these examples, it’s questions with lots of filler words. It’s questions where we’re giving ourselves the multiple choice answers. What color is the sky? Is it red? Is it blue? Is it yellow? Is it green? There’s also the question that ends with because. What color is the sky? Because the reason I’m asking is that. And then you go on to a long explanation of why you’re asking. There’s a question with lots of follow on questions. It’s almost a never-ending question. What color is the sky and what color is it at night? And what color is it in the winter? And is it the same color in the north as the south? Et cetera, et cetera,et cetera.
When we ask questions like this, we come across as inexperienced, lacking credibility, especially at senior levels. And often they conclude that we’re not someone they want to work with. Instead, what we can do is steal from the people who are great at telling questions of the people they’re interviewing. And I’m thinking about people who do lots of interviews. And one person like that is Barbara Walters. For those of you who don’t know, Barbara Walters, for many years, decades in fact was kind of the go-to person for the big interviews in US Television. She’s retired now, but only just recently.
And back in the 70s and 80s, she interviewed Fidel Castro, Henry Kissinger, the Shah of Iran, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Vladimir Putin and when she interviewed celebrities, the way that she handled interviews often got them to cry just because of the depth that she got to when she was talking to them. So Oprah was there, Patrick Swayze, Ellen DeGeneres, Ringo Starr. And even she got General Stormin Norman Schwarzkopf to cry in the interview that she had with him.
And what Barbara Walters does a lot of good things, right? Her tone of voice, her mirroring, all the techniques that we may or may not have heard of. One thing she does not do is ask long questions. So I looked at a couple of her interviews. I looked at one before she retired recently, and that was with Taylor Swift. In that interview, she only asked nine questions, and the average number of words in each question was only 11, 11 words per question. That’s not a lot of words. And then I went back to the early 2000s where she interviewed Michael Jackson, and in that it was a longer interview, she asked 41 questions, but only an average of 12 words in each question. So there’s 2 interviews, probably 15 years apart maybe, and the average was very much the same 11 words in Taylor Swift and 12 with Michael Jackson. She does not ask long questions.
So instead of asking long, fluffy questions, what she does is ask lots of short ones. And we can learn from that from sales, right? So if you find yourself giving the multiple choice answers to your question, you have to teach yourself to stop after asking your first question. If you find yourself giving explanations about the question, again, teach yourself to stop after asking the first question. And if you find yourself asking a ton of follow on questions, you get the idea. Stop yourself after asking that main first question. That’s a great way to get back to the essence of what the question is and not feel you have to keep going and keep going.
And in many ways, the longer question is indicative of someone who’s not sure of the question. It’s almost like somehow we feel like we have to keep asking the question in many different ways until we convince ourselves that we know what the real question is and why we’re asking it. So getting used to doing these short questions is key.
So don’t waste the most important part of the sales cycle by doing it wrong. Master this skill of asking short, hard-hitting questions just like Barbara Walters. You’ll be more credible, more effective, and prospects will want to work with you.
Scott Ingram: For links to connect with Andrew, to his podcast and newsletter, just click over to DailySales.Tips/1423. Once you’ve done that. Be sure to come back tomorrow for another great sales tip. Thanks for listening!