The Top 5 Reasons Why Tele-Sales Reps Don’t Ask (More) Questions

Why is it that despite the mountain of evidence and the billions of words written discussing the merits of questioning that telephone sales reps don’t ask (more) questions?

Boil it down and there would seem to be five distinctive reasons.  Do any of them apply to you?

Reason #1: Fear

Scratch the surface and you’ll discover the number one reason why reps don’t ask (more) questions is due to fear and uncertainty.  Some reps:

  • Fear that  the client will see the questions as intrusive and will get annoyed with them
  • Fear the client will cut them off right away if they don’t get to the point
  • Fear they will look stupid if they ask a ‘dumb’ question
  • Fear that they won’t look like the expert if they don’t quickly spout their expertise

So what do you?  Give your head a shake.  Prospects like it when you question them and hate it when you don’t.  They like it because it shows you’re interested in them and their needs; questions make them feel important.  They hate it when you don’t because it makes you look presumptuous.  Do you think they really want you to vomit up a solution or describe your product ad nauseum without some sort of needs analysis?  Come on, man!

Reason #2: Complacency

The second most common reason why telephone reps don’t ask more questions is because they’re complacent.  (Dare I say, lazy?)

This typically applies to a veteran or seasoned rep that’s ‘been-there-done-that.’  In their minds, they’ve seen and heard it all and so they’ve got it all ‘figured out. The rep is satisfied and content that in depth questioning is really not necessary.  Maybe it’s because the product or service is so simple and so intuitive.  In these cases, it is so much easier to simply skip to the pitch and trust (hope) that their charming and persuasive nature will win the client over. It rarely does.

What the complacent rep doesn’t realize is that even if the product or service is simple and straightforward, the client is flattered when they’re asked questions for the reasons listed above.  It makes the rep more trustworthy and likeable. Net result? People like to buy – and buy more- from reps they like and trust.

Are you complacent? Well, look at your sales. If you’re the top of the heap and ploughing through you’re sales objectives, you’re probably not complacent. If you’re not then maybe you should do some serious thinking.

Reason #3: Lack of Preparation

Some sales reps don’t ask questions because they haven’t done enough – or any – preparation.  Depending on the nature and complexity of your sale and depending on the client with whom you are speaking, some sort of research might be necessary.  The better the question the better the answer.

What should you do?  This one is easy.  Before you ever speak to the client take the time and think about the kinds of questions you could or should be asking.  Develop questions that get the client to elaborate on a problem or expand upon an opportunity.  Ask questions that get your client to quantify the challenge or the opportunity. Get their personal thoughts.  Push yourself and prepare with a pen in hand.

Reason #4: Ignorance

Another reason why reps don’t question more is that they don’t know what to ask. Usually this applies to a rookie rep that hasn’t had enough experience with the product or service.  Or it could also suggest that there hasn’t been enough training or coaching.

What to do? If necessary ask for more skills training.  Go to your manager and ask for help in preparing; role play, drill, practice and rehears; get them to monitor your calls and provide feedback on what you should ask. Buddy up with some of the top sales reps in your company and find out what they ask and why.  Learn more about your product and service so you better understand the problems they solve or opportunities they provide. Finally, learn by doing. Get on the phone and call. Sure you’ll make mistakes but after the call analyse what you asked and what you could have asked.

Reason #5: Forget

Blame it on human nature, but some reps simply forget.   They get caught up in the moment or they get distracted or the conservation veers off on a new tangent and they forget to ask a question. It’s only when they hang up that suddenly they realize that they’re missing some information.

There are a three ways to minimize this issue.  The first is old fashioned preparation as discussed above.  When you jot down the questions ahead of time, you’re more likely to forget.  How simple is that?

The second way is to take notes as you listen.  Here’s the thing: there’s no way you can think of EVERY single question you should ask.  Depending on the answers given by your client, additional questions tend to manifest themselves.  As the client talks take notes in point form.  Jot questions down as they occur to you.  Go back and review them with the client.

The final way to tackle forgetfulness is simply to pick up the phone and call the client back!  Explain that you had one or two or three more questions that occurred to you after you hung up.  The vast majority of clients will be impressed that you took the time to call back. It shows you’re conscientious.  It implies that if you are this thorough at questioning then you are probably equally thorough about implementation and customer service.


Now that you know why reps don’t ask (more) questions, you can remedy the situation if it applies to you. Questions are the keys to successful sales. Use them.

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