A simple tool to diagnose selling problems

Does the salesperson end their answers in silence or by asking a question?

How can two salespeople give the same presentation, and yet one salesperson is a Top Third producer and the other is a Lower Third producer?

Both salespeople

  • establish and maintain rapport
  • accurately answer questions 
  • present your products/services with the same content, sequence and visual aids. 

The discrepancy in sales performance  could be caused by many factors, but the first place to look is how the Lower Third are saying what the say. 

I don't mean their level of enthusiasm. That is important, but what is more persuasive is their form of communication. 

Let me explain.  There are three verbal activities in persuasion:

  • Making statements
  • Asking questions
  • Remaining silent

How your salespeople use these three activities largely determines how well each of them will sell.  

Here is what you listen for:

In their dialog before and after the presentation, does the salesperson typically end their statements with silence or by asking a question?  

Most of the time, you want to hear them end their statements with a question.  (Confirmation questions, clarifying questions, trial close questions, not necessarily direct close questions.)

Your Lower Third producers probably end most of their answers with silence. 

If you mapped out their sales call, it would probably look like this: 

Prospective buyer: Asks question

Salesperson: (answer) Statement + silence

Prospective buyer: Asks next question

Salesperson:  (answer) Statement + silence.

Why does that combination--making statements to answer a question followed by silence-- lead to poor sales performance?

Because selling is a two way dialog!

If your salesperson ends every answer (a statement) with silence, that signals to the prospective buyer to keep asking questions. 

That means the propective buyer is in control of the direction of the conversation.  When that occurs... the topics of discussion usually veer away from making an immediate buying decision. 

Should the salesperson answer the questions of prospective buyers?  Yes, but when they end most of their answers with a questions of their own, then the salesperson can keep the sale moving forward by focusing the attention of the prospective buyer on the most important dynamics needed to make a buying decision today (or in a multi-step sale, take the next step today).

There is a lot more to discuss about how to use the three activities of persuasion.  But this one facet--your salesperson ending all her or his selling statements with silence--is often the key difference between your top selling team members and those in the Lower Third. 

Helping your Lower Third salespeople develop the habit of  asking questions at the end of their statements is the single most powerful way to increase their sales. 

There are two basic types of questions they can ask. 

1. Closing questions 

A closing question asks prospective buyers to take some type of action: authorize an agreement, fund a purchase or in a multi step sale, take the next step. 


Most salespeople are familiar with this type of question and most Lower Third salespeople resist asking closing questions because they don't want to be "pushy". 

2. Confirming questions

Confirming questions confirm that the prospective buyer understands what the salesperson just said.  Unlike closing questions, confirming questions do not request action. Instead, the give the buyer the chance to process the information they've just been given: 

"Does that make sense?"

"That's a lot of information. Before we continue, what questions do you have about that topic?"

"Which of those two options makes the most sense for you?"

Confirmation questions invite participation. And a participating prospect is more likely to become a buying prospect!

Key Observation: Many of your Lower Third salespeople who don't want to be "pushy", will often hesitate to ask any question, because they falsely believe that every question is a closing question!

Via your mentoring, when they realize... 

  • the difference between closing questions and confirmation questions
  • how confirmation questions do not ask prospective buyers to make a buying decision
  • How confirmation questions benefit the prospective buyers by helping them process and apply the information the salesperson is providing them.

... they will be more open to engaging prospective buyers in a participating conversation throughout the sales call.  

Summary: Lower Third salespeople typically believe that selling is making statements. Top salespeople know that statements provide necessary information but asking questions is ultimately the most persuasive activity.

Part of your task as your sales team's mentor is to help them develop the skills to become experts in asking effective questions that lead to a buying decision.  


When Buyers Say No (Hardback)


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Features the world's first complete model of persuasion that enables you to never become "lost in the sale" again.  You will learn how to:

  • create rapport that increases sales 
  • discover if your prospect can buy today
  • sell value against low priced competition
  • avoid two common closing mistakes
  • effectively sell after the first NO
  • get referrals for your next sale