The key to understanding what a prospect wants and needs lies in the follow-up question.
Great questioning is a skill every successful salesperson has mastered, and the follow-up is a critical part of that questioning process.
[This post will dive into the tactics for asking great follow-up questions specifically for sales conversations. At The Brooks Group, we also help clients optimize the hiring process, and follow-up questions—especially behavior-based questions—are extremely important in that context as well.
To learn more about maximizing your interview process with job candidates, check out this post, or send it along to the hiring manager at your organization.]
What Is a Sales Follow-up Question?
A sales follow-up question is a question a sales rep asks a prospect or customer after they’ve received the answer to an initial question. Follow-up questions are all about better understanding the information that’s being shared by the buyer.
Why Use Follow-up Questions?
Follow-up questions in sales help the salesperson dig deeper and discover the underlying wants, needs, and emotions that will be involved in the prospect’s decision-making process.
When used correctly, follow-up questions can help your sales reps:
- Establish a trusting relationship with a potential buyer
- Present an attractive solution that’s easy to close
- Position a salesperson as a consultant and strategic advisor
Bonus: Asking follow-up questions makes your salespeople more likeable, as a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reveals.
Coach your sales team members to use these 4 tactics for asking great follow-up questions during their next sales conversation.
1. Plan Questions Ahead of Time
If your sales team is following a definitive sales process, one of the first steps should be to research and plan for the call.
Part of the pre-call planning process should include a list of questions that seem like a good idea to ask a prospect—based on what your reps know about the individual, their company, and the situation.
Your sales reps can expand on this list of initial questions with potential follow-up questions that will help them dig deeper and get even more information.
2. Master Active Listening
To ask effective follow-up questions, your sales reps must pay very close attention to the response the prospect or customer gives to initial questions.
Work to help your reps understand the importance of letting the other person answer each question in detail before responding with a follow-up. They should pay attention not only to the words spoken by prospects, but their tone, gestures, and facial expressions as well.
This kind of insight is especially important in uncovering emotional drivers in the decision-making process.
3. Make Questions Open-Ended
The questioning stage of the sales process is about getting as much information as possible from the buyer. And the best way to do that is with open-ended questions.
Open-ended questions are designed to encourage full, meaningful answers using the subject's own knowledge and/or feelings. They are the opposite of closed-ended questions, which encourage a short or single-word answer (Yes or No questions, for example).
To get the most out of initial questions and follow-up questions, your reps should practice making them open-ended.
4. Probe, But Don’t Interrogate
Having a list of prepared questions can help a salesperson be confident going into a sales call, but sticking to the list too closely can make the conversation feel scripted and unnatural (even like an interrogation).
Encourage your people to prepare themselves with a list of questions, but to follow the natural flow of the conversation as it unfolds. Ideally, your reps will ask a question, get a response, and based on that response ask a follow-up question that digs deeper.
The Best Follow-up Questions for Salespeople
Specific follow-up questions will change based on the opportunity and the details of the situation. With practice your reps will learn to ask custom follow-up questions in the moment.
If they’re just starting out, here are a list of follow-up questions that can be asked after an initial question:
- Can you tell me more about that?
- Why does that matter to you/your business?
- Can you be more specific about that?
- How did that impact you?
- How did you feel about that?
Negative or Bad Follow-up Questions
In general, follow-up questions are typically received positively by a qualified prospect. That being said, your reps should avoid asking loaded questions or questions that are obviously only serving their own agenda (since this will break trust with the buyer).
Your reps should also avoid questions that might belittle, patronize, or just make the prospect feel uncomfortable.
Some examples of bad follow-up questions might be:
- How much do you care about the wellbeing of your employees?
- What level of service are you willing to pay for?
- Are you actually the person who will be making the decision?
A successful sales questioning strategy will most definitely include strong follow-up questions. In fact, we recommend going a step further and using the 3-deep questioning strategy.
The IMPACT-U® Online Sales training program teaches sales professionals a 6-step consultative selling process that they can apply with every opportunity. They’ll learn to create a pre-call plan that includes open-ended questions and follow-up questions to uncover exactly what a buyer needs and wants in a solution.