As I kick off a few changes this week for 2015, one of those is a weekly sales tip that will show up on Saturdays. Today’s sales tip from is one of my strengths, learn how to make it yours:

Questions are the answer
Sales author/trainer Paul McCord
We’ve all been taught the difference between closed-end and open-ended questions. We’ve been given instructions on when to use which type question. Some trainers have given us formulas; others have given us specific questions to ask.

It’s these detailed guidelines that seem to get many sellers in trouble — that gets their questions to resemble Gestapo tactics rather than a discussion with a prospect.

So how do you use questions without intimidating or badgering?

The answer is actually quite simple — don’t interrogate your prospects. Instead of trying to figure out whether to ask an open-end or closed-end question here or which specific question to ask now, just ask the natural questions you’d ask your friends if you were trying to understand their problems.

Certainly there are different uses for different types of questions. Certainly there are times when an open-ended question will be more productive than asking a close-ended question. But ultimately, the goal isn’t to ask the correct question type but to communicate with your prospect.

Communication is an art. We all can and need to improve our communication skills.

That being said, I’ve found that if I am sincerely interested in understanding my prospect’s needs, my questions come naturally. They’re the same questions — delivered in the same tone of voice — I’d ask a friend or my spouse if I were trying to understand their situation, and those questions and that tone of voice is hardly that of an interrogator.

Rather than being perceived as an unwanted interrogation, my questions are viewed as a sincere desire to understand, to communicate, to help. Rather than putting my prospect on the defensive, my questions usually cause the prospect to willingly open up more.

If you find you’re uncomfortable with using questions for fear that you’re putting your prospect on the defensive or you’re coming across as a prosecutor cross-examining an unwilling witness, don’t give up on using questions because questions are the answer to understanding your prospect’s needs and how you can help.

Instead, give up on trying to use formulas or control the conversation and simply approach your prospect as a friend who has a problem you want to understand. Ask the natural questions that come to mind and you’ll find your prospect will not only open up more easily, they will be more open to listening when it’s your turn to offer a solution.