In my 30 plus years of experience in the sales profession, I have identified several places where focus will gain you the greatest results. At the top of the list is focusing on the skill of asking better sales questions. If there is only one practice a professional sales person can concentrate on, make it the skill of asking better questions.

That power springs from a simple principle: When you ask a question, they think of the answer. This sounds incredibly basic, but the most powerful truths are often very basic.

Here’s an example of how this operates in a practical selling situation: You’ve just made a proposal or a presentation of your solution. You ask the customer, “What do you not like about my product?” That’s a terrible question. What is the customer going to think about as a result of your question? All the faults he can find with your product.

On the other hand, you could influence the customer to think much more positively about your product by asking this question: “In what ways do you see yourself (or your company) benefiting from this product?”

I’d much prefer to have the customer think about the answer to the second question, rather than the first question. In this scenario, it was your question that influenced the direction of the customer’s thinking. That’s the ultimate power of a good sales question.

The power of a question to direct thinking applies just as powerfully to you. When you ask yourself questions, you direct, influence and energize your own thinking.

At one time, I sold for a distributor of hospital supplies. I was instructed by my manager to make sure that I always had something to present to every customer I visited, therefore prepared to make a sales presentation on every call. At some point along the way, I thought that if I could increase the quantity of sales presentations I made, I could probably correspondingly increase the volume of my sales. So, I asked myself this question:

"How can I double the quantity of sales presentations I make in my territory?”

The answer to the question was obvious: Take two things with me on every sales call. While the answer was obvious, it took me asking the right question to uncover that answer and the resulting strategy. I determined to do just that, and saw my sales increase dramatically.

If there is only one practice within the scope of the professional sales person upon which you can focus, let it be to gain mastery in asking better questions.