Question Reluctance Sabotages Sales

by Marilee G. Adams, Ph.D.*

Most sales professionals are familiar with Call Reluctance, the anxiety-inducing dread of picking up the phone. Question Reluctance is equally prevalent among salespeople, yet its rarely discussed or addressed. Question Reluctance- avoiding asking necessary questions- sabotages results equally as much as its more familiar cousin, Call Reluctance.


Do you exhibit signs of Question Reluctance?

Most salespeople suffer from some degree of Question Reluctance. Classic symptoms of Question Reluctance include avoiding asking a question altogether, waiting until the end of a sales call to finally ask what you truly need to know, framing questions so indirectly that prospects get confused, and failing to ask clarifying follow-up questions to ensure that you and the prospects are ‘on the same page’. Its natural to feel anxious and to avoid asking questions, when we desperately want to hear Yes, but fear hearing No.

Many participants in sales courses say theyre afraid to ask questions because it feels like theyre being rude or even interrogating prospective customers. Some associate Questioning with painful childhood experiences, when they felt interrogated. For them, questioning prospects conjures up uncomfortable images of past “inquisitions”.

While Question Reluctance is a common experience, salespeople often suffer from it more than others. Salespeople are aware of the negative perceptions and suspicion of them in the marketplace. Also, since most sales systems are designed to ask manipulative questions, questioning naturally creates resistance and discomfort in both Salespeople and Prospects.


How can you overcome Question Reluctance?

Questioning is essential to the sales process, regardless of the sales process or “selling techniques” you implement. In High Probability Selling, asking questions is part of a structured, linear process, and fundamental to sales success. Asking questions is unavoidable: Learning to ask questions with ease and confidence has a marked, positive impact on Results.

You may not realize it, but you ask yourself questions all the time- about yourself and other people. I refer to this as QuestionThinking. Some of our internal questions cause Question Reluctance, and others help cure it.


Problem-causing questions lead to Question Reluctance:

  • Why dont they hurry up and just say Yes?
  • Will I get fired if I dont make my numbers?
  • How am I going to mess this up?

Helpful questions facilitate real communication and more sales:

  • Am I truly listening?
  • What do they really want?
  • How can I be of service?
  • “What will be a win-win?

When you ask yourself and your prospects Helpful Questions, Questioning is a tool to sales success.


Better Questioning Leads to More Successful Selling

Every phase of the sales process requires asking many questions. Being comfortable and expert with asking questions helps you keep your foot on the gas all the way to your destination- The Close.

Question reluctance is like having one foot on the brake pedal while the other is on the gas. Remove one foot and you can stop or go at your discretion.

Asking yourself and others empowering questions can make a positive difference everywhere in your life. Is that what you want?

*Marilee Adams, Ph.D. is founder and president of The Inquiry Institute, a training, consulting, and coaching firm that works with Fortune 100 companies, mid size companies, and other organizations. Adams is the author of Change Your Questions, Change Your Life and The Art of the Question. Her workshops on Expert Selling with Expert Questions consistently win accolades and receive attention in national newspapers, television and radio.