The Art of Inquiry to Seal the Deal

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February 16, 2017
The Art of Inquiry to Seal the Deal

When I first started out as a consultant I wasted a lot of valuable time trying to sell my services to one lead after another on the phone. Even though I knew I had exactly the kind of expertise, training, and experience to help them, it didn’t matter, because most of the time I couldn’t seal the deal.

After working with master marketing coaches I discovered there’s a psychology of selling that I had missed. There were secrets to closing the sale that I never learned. It had to do with mastering the art of inquiry…

Today, I’m the one coaching business owners and consultants on how to increase sales. When I ask them about their sales strategy, they tell me that they typically talk about 50-60% of the time and the remainder of the time they listen. That sounds like a lot of listening, doesn’t it? But did you know high-producing sales people listen 90% of the time?

How do they listen that much and why is that a key to their success? They’ve learned to generate key questions to stimulate the conversation and draw out the prospects real issues. All top sales people know the value of asking great questions to a prospect to expose problems in order to provide targeted solutions. In fact, “the questions are really the answers.”

When you’re listening for 90% of the conversation and asking the prospects questions you show that you are sincerely interested in them and their challenges and you want to improve their condition. Then during that 10% when you are speaking, you’re using language to build the trust, credibility and the relationship you need to seal a deal and move a prospect into becoming a client.

There’s an art to it but it also follows a fairly predictable formula. Here are three tips to use to ask the right powerful questions.

1). Always ask open-ended questions.

Open-ended questions are great because they require the prospect to provide you with an explanation or elaboration, instead of a closed-ended question that simply requires a yes or no answer. I encourage my clients to ask 98% open-ended questions because these answers provide deeper insights that you need to know before you begin to position your customized solutions.

For example, if you work with corporate clients and you are trying to find out how many additional professional service organizations they are looking for you could ask:

Open-Ended Question: “Tell me your process around selecting the right company for this project.”

Closed-Ended Question: “Will you be interviewing other companies for this same project?”

Do you see how much more effective the open-ended question is? Some other examples of open-ended questions to ask a prospect:

“Tell me about the specific challenges you face around X?”

“Can you give me a few examples of the challenge you just described and how you’d like things to improve?”


2). Use the “Tell me about” power phrase.

During a sales call you should get in the habit of using the phrase, “Tell me about …” This phrase is extremely open-ended and your prospect will enjoy sharing various aspects of their personal or professional goals if you show a genuine interest. In fact, in sales presentations I often ask five to six questions by using this phrase. The other thing I love about this power phrase is it comfortably opens up the dialogue without coming across as judgmental.


3). Practice staying in the present moment.

It’s important that you stay in the present moment when talking to a client so that you can naturally link what they’re saying to your next question. If you’re thinking of crafting your answer as the person is talking, you won’t be able to ask a good linking question or a deeper question for clarification. Really tune-in and stay open to whatever they say because by listening it allows you know when the golden moment is to move into the sales mode. You’re perfectly positioned to let them know that you help people all the time with these types of issues or you start sharing specifically how you can help them achieve their desired results. If you aren’t present – I guarantee you will miss the mark.

So stop talking and start listening and stay present by asking powerful open-ended question every step of the way. Remember: The answer is always in the question! If you aren’t getting the right answers you need – you need to practice asking the right questions at the right time.

It takes some practice but over time you’ll become more familiar with the challenges you prospects have and it will help you frame solutions on how your company can help them solve these challenges. When you do a good job of communicating how their challenges and your effective solutions intersect, you’ll be able to seal the deal almost every time! Would you like to learn more of the secrets I teach my coaching clients to help them dramatically increase their profits? Call 1-800-267-3245 to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation.

Predictable Results™ Assignment

Begin brainstorming a list of open-ended questions you can use during an initial sales call. What kind of challenges are most of your clients facing? Print out your list and have it on hand so you can refer to it during the call.



As a pioneering and visionary innovator, Sarah is a certified professional image consultant and brand strategist, speaker, trainer and author. Her company, Illustra Business Coaching, provides leading-edge business building strategies for small business owners & entrepreneurs who wish to take their company to the next level.

Illustra Business Coaching
Copyright © 2016, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIM, CPBS
1-800-267-3245, info@illustrabusinesscoa

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