How High Is Your Sales “IQ?”

The treasure is there, you just need the combination

Imagine every prospective customer’s mind is like a sealed vault, and that behind its metal, locked doors lay the treasure you are looking for. You know, due to the strength and size of the door no human is strong enough to force it open. Rather, the only way in is to get the information from the person who knows the combination. Obviously though, the owner of the treasure does not give the combination out willingly. Someone looking for this information would have to be very skilled in asking specific questions that might give them clues as to what the combination might be.

That is exactly how the sales game plays out. Inside of your prospects mind is all the information you need. The question isn’t, where is the information? But rather, will you get it! Then, as answers unfold, the information you receive slowly opens up the opportunity until you eventually have all of the necessary information to present a “no-brainer” solution. Every question you have that has a strategic measure behind it is like you getting another number in the combination. Questions must be strategic. You need to have a specific intent behind EVERY question, otherwise why ask it! The more precise and effective your questions are, the more numbers of the combination you get! But, you don’t get numbers for the combination when your questions are generic, because the information from those questions don’t provide you with any clues about the treasure.

It might seem like a small difference, but the ability of asking intentional questions (IQ) IS the difference between one salesperson having AN opportunity, versus another having a WINNING opportunity!

Here’s how I explain the importance of our questions to those I coach.

The more information I have the more confident I feel in my opportunity, and the quality of my information I collect is determined by the questions I ask.

If you only take one nugget from this article, take this:

The better your information, the better your odds are of closing the deal.

The quality of information you receive = the effectiveness of your questions.

How good your questions are WILL me a MAJOR factor in your success.

A strategy should accompany each question

You see, when you are with a prospect, you only have so much time before your meeting ends. Once you leave that meeting, your opportunity is only as good as the information you receive. The information you receive is generally determined by the questions you ask. We only get what we ask! During that meeting you only have so many questions; you must make them count. Getting the most of each question means that the questions you ask need to have intent behind them. Know why you are asking the question you are asking! Otherwise you will neglect to receive the information you want.

If you don’t know what you are looking for, you will never find it.

Here’s a common example I see while coaching sales people. A sales person will ask the prospect who they are currently buying their widgets from. This question by itself is a good question, and gives you some helpful information, but it is only the start. Many sales people stop there because they are not thinking strategically about what information that could lead too. They ask that question because they were told to or heard someone else ask it. The problem is that question is not followed up with additional questions, and that’s where the gold is!

Look at how valuable the information is if you add these two simple questions after “Who are you buying from?”

“How long have you been using them?”

Reason behind the question: the length of the relationship is the best indicator of how deep the relationship is. If the relationship has existed for a number of years, the likelihood of a quick and drastic change is slim. But if the client has not been buying from your competitor for too long, your chances of them making a change improve dramatically.

“Would you be willing to switch to me if our package is a better solution for you?”

Reason behind the question: people want to believe they have the power to make decisions, but in reality, few actually do. Many times I have heard people say something like, “I would need to get corporate approval first.” Or, “Maybe…we’ll see.” Then you know there is more. This question qualifies your time before you go spend it pursuing them!

Bonus: An additional bonus to this question is it forces the client to imagine what they would do if your package is better. Certainly, I would much rather have them answer that question while I am face to face with them versus leaving it to chance when they are alone reviewing a proposal without me present

Bonus: Want to know a great way to ease tension and break down the walls that prospects put up? USE HUMOR. The tip I am about to reveal to you works almost EVERY time I use it. What I suggest you do is combine the importance of the “commitment question” with humor. Because you MUST ask the prospect if they will use you, but when done with humor it makes it much easier and not such an awkward time.

Here’s what I’d say: “So, John. If I save you money and can come through with the other requirements we discussed, would you be willing to break up with your current girlfriend and go steady with me?” Most people will at least chuckle, but if not, they will definitely understand what you want them to do. Let me know how this works for you!

See, I always know before I step foot in my prospects facility, that the reason for me asking who they are buying from is to find out how good my opportunity really is. But, I don’t know that if I only know who they are buying from now. I only know who their current vendor is!

Additional benefits of “IQ”

Asking intentional questions also give you direction, focus, and clarity. We never know where a conversation is going to go. It could go in a million different directions, and sometimes, it is necessary for us to follow suit. However, it is still in your best interest to leave with the information YOU need. Equipping yourself with a series of purposeful questions gives you a course of action to revert back too, even when the client pulls you off the trail.

If you don’t have intent in your questions you won’t ask them because you don’t know why you need too! So, guess where you will find yourself at the end of every meeting? Wherever the client takes you! The key is to go “with them” when necessary, and then skillfully bring them back to your strategic line of questioning, or back on your path.

Asking intentional questions also provides you with an open door to uncover hidden needs of the customer. Like someone who holds the combination to a vault, they aren’t going to willingly tell you what it is. You have to skillfully ask questions to get the information you want. A sales pro understands it is up to them to find that combination, and they know how to get that information out of the person holding it!

Once you have strategically put together questions that dig into uncovering their issues, then you have given yourself an opportunity to first find out if they are TRULY interested, and two put yourself in a position to provide a solution.

Finding the gold

1. Write down the five most important questions you want to ask every prospective customer you speak with. Take them with you. Do not leave until you get the answers. Also, run these five questions by the most successful person in your office. Ask them if those questions will get you inside the “vault” to where the treasure is.

2. Commit to putting your “IQ” to work in the next 3 meetings you have. You will find your information puts you in a premium position to serve a new client.

My intent and hope is to create and provide you with information, strategies, tools, tips, and ideas that will help you get BETTER! If you have found what you have read to be helpful and/or informative please pass it along to a friend, co-worker, or anyone who you feel might benefit from even a single point! I know they will appreciate you for that, and so will I! Thank you for your support, and my best to you.


Mark Heerema

At 21 years old Mark’s life consisted of packing boxes making minimum wage. Out of desperation he reluctantly tried sales. Starting from absolute scratch with no sales experience, no sales training, zero accounts, and zero leads, Mark shattered company sales records before he turned 24, and soon found… more

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