Back to Columns

Recently, somebody asked about my early sales experience. When I was new to sales, one company gave me a card with questions reminding me of what to do before, during and after a sale. Here’s a list of questions similar to the ones on that card to take you through the sales cycle:

During the introduction, did you:

  • Learn about the company, the person you’re calling on and the industry he or she is in before the meeting?
  • Observe the prospect’s office, décor, awards and pictures on his or her desk to find something you both have in common?
  • Find out anything about the prospect’s personal interests, hobbies or family?
  • Bridge to the business topic smoothly?
  • Listen 80 percent of the time and talk only 20 percent of the time?
  • Ask the customer questions about his or her goals, challenges, and personal and business philosophies?

When qualifying, did you ask:

  • “Is there anybody else besides yourself who might be involved in the decision-making process?”
  • “What does a vendor need to do to earn your business?”
  • “If you could change anything about your present vendor’s product or service, what would it be?”

And did you also:

  • Determine how and why the prospect made the decision to purchase his or her present product or service?
  • Find out what his or her time frame is?
  • Discover whether funds have been allocated?
  • Uncover the prospect’s specific needs?

When surveying, did you:

  • Ask a lot of open-ended questions?
  • Find out who, what, where, why, when, how and how much?
  • Have the prospect go into depth by
    using phrases such as “Tell me about . . .”, “Describe for me . . .” and “Can you elaborate on . . .”?
  • Ask the broad questions first, then get more specific to uncover key needs?
  • Ask about your prospect’s roles, what’s important to him or her, what his or her hot buttons are, and how industry trends or situations are affecting the prospect?

When handling objections, did you:

  • Listen to the entire objection?
  • Pause before responding, remain calm and not get defensive?
  • Answer the objection with a question to find out more specifically what the objection was?
  • Restate the objection to make sure you both agreed?
  • Answer the objection?

During the presentation or demonstration, did you:

  • Re-establish rapport?
  • Ask if anything had changed since your last meeting?
  • Precommit the prospect? Example: “If I can show you how this can make a difference in what we talked about, can we go ahead with this?”
  • Prioritize the prospect’s needs?
  • Talk about the benefits of your product or service to the customer?
  • Link the benefits to the prospect’s needs?
  • Verify each need before moving on?
  • Summarize the prospect’s needs and how your product or service meets those needs?
  • Involve the customer in the presentation?

When closing, did you:

  • Ask for the order?
  • Ask “What’s our next step?”
  • Get the customer to identify all possible problems that might be solved by your product or service?
  • Get the customer to identify the value of solving the identified problems?
  • Get agreement that the proposed solution provided the values identified?

For customer maintenance and follow-up, did you:

  • Send a thank-you letter for the appointment, presentation or order?
  • Earn the right to ask for reference letters and referrals?
  • Maintain communications for future consideration?
  • Establish a schedule for follow-up calls and customer visits?

Of course, don’t just ask these questions by rote. It’s not a script that could, or should, be followed for every sale, but it gives you a great structure to keep in mind. Refer to it whenever you’re puzzled by why you didn’t make a sale. Maybe there’s something you forgot to do that you should have remembered!

Barry Farber consults with a variety of industries to help them grow and
expand their business.
He is the best-selling author of 11 books on sales, management and customer
service. His latest release “Diamond in the Rough” CD program is based on
his best selling book, radio and television show.
Visit him at: or email him at: