The Secrets of Question
Based Selling

What Are the Secrets of Question Based Selling?

Let me say, up front, that question based selling works.

I have been selling for 25 years and have almost always followed a question based approach. Sales methods like SPIN Selling and Consultative Selling are question based approaches.

I can hardly cover all the secrets mentioned in the Secrets of Question Based Selling book in a webpage or two. So, if you want to know all of them you'll have to buy the book. (see below) 

I can tell you a bit about Secrets of Question Based Selling and my thoughts on it.

Typical old-school sales approaches propose:
AIDA = Attention, Interest, Desire, Close.
First you prospect, then you get the appointment, then you interview the customer, then you give your presentation, then you handle objections, then you close, close, close.

Do Old School Sales Methods Still Work?

As I say in the homepage to this website, it's debatable whether these old sales paradigms still work.
Thomas A. Freese, the author of Secrets of Question Based Selling, seems to be saying something similar. In the preface to Secrets of Question Based Selling he writes,
"A sound business development strategy is critical for companies who want to compete in today’s increasingly competitive global economy. But many of the old-school paradigms of selling no longer apply."

Selling has become increasingly more difficult.
Prospects have less time…yet decision makers are receiving more sales calls than ever before…Buyers are better educated than ever before (thanks to the Internet). They also suffer from information overload. Customers don't need information from you as much as they need someone to help them process their problem and ALL the information they now have.

In the authors own words, Question Based Selling is a common sense approach to sales based on the theory that what a salesperson asks…and how they ask, is more important than what they will ever say. This principle makes sense because in order to present solutions, you must first uncover a need. How do you find out what your prospects need? By asking questions.

In Secrets of Question Based Selling Thomas A. Freese wields the power of questions, from introductory telephone scripts to the final presentation, inserting a query into virtually every contact with the prospect. Questions that narrow your focus and entice customers to engage in conversation. After all just because a salesperson wants to ask questions doesn’t necessarily mean prospects and customers will “want to” share important information with them.

Background to the Book

Thomas' working life was turned upside down when his wife became very ill and his seventy-hour work week shrank dramatically, it seemed inevitable that his sales would suffer as a result.

However, something different happened …

His perspective changed.

It felt like a burden had been lifted off his selling activities.

He relaxed becasue he didn’t have the time or emotional energy to worry.

He learned to focus on what was important. (The 80/20 rule)

Because he was no longer intimidated by the threat of losing a sale, it became easy to ask the “hard” questions without fearing how customers might respond.

During the six-month period that his wife was sick, he worked less and sold more. 

But not just a little more. 

He sold twice as much as he ever had.

Not only did this give rise to a better salesman with a more secure and profitable career (not to mention the extra time he had to enjoy his life and the increased appreciation for his wife) BUT ….

It also gave rise to one of the best books on sales question you’ll ever read (many think it #2 behind SPIN Selling).

What Helps Questions?

Of course there is a lot greater chance of them responding if you have Sales Rapport with them.
(See Sales rapport  on this site.)
In the Secrets of Question Based Selling there are sample dialogues, what-ifs, and rules to remember. The author writes about how people interact, how salespeople need to ad value, how they mismatch, how different types of questions serve different purposes- some are solely for the benefit of the person doing the questioning and add no value to the person answering while others provide more value to the customer.

This gives rise to the concept of Buying Facilitation which is a topic I will be covering soon on this website.

Risks in Selling

The author sees two great risks in sales: rejection and mismatching. He offers his strategy for minimising both. Based on a questioning approach, of course.

What is mismatching ? 
That is when someone takes the opposite view to you. If I say San Francisco is a great city a person mismatching me might say What about San Diego ? Or , I think San Diego is nicer. Thomas doesn’t quite define it the same way but his idea is very similar

(I have a method for handling people who habitually mismatch that is as simple as it is astoundingly effective.)

Conversational Layering

In Secrets of Question Based Selling Freese introduces Conversational Layering as a way to build effective business relationships. 

Conversational Layering is designed to ask people the right questions at the right time.

Questions that:

  • spark curiosity,
  • earn credibility,
  • build relationships,
  • uncover needs,
  • make effective sales presentations and
  • secure a commitment to buy.

Thomas believes that by asking more questions and making fewer statements you minimise the chances of rejection and mismatching.

If all communication were based only on the content of what was said he would be 100% correct. The trouble is you can get someone offside by how you say something or your mannerisms.

If you seek to minimise rejection you could invest your time in learning how to develop, Sales Rapport or understand your prospects better by applying persuasion psychology. 

Thomas thinks it’s ironic that companies all over the world spend millions of dollars telling salespeople what to say, but they spend almost nothing teaching them what to ask, they just assume salespeople already know how to ask the right questions.

He writes about people being motivated in different ways and how you can help a prospect recognise their needs. If you really want to get into people’s personal motivations you need to read my eBook relating to persuasion psychology. 

The table of content for Secrets of Question Based Selling 

Part I: A Short Course on QBS Strategy

Chapter 1: Increasing Your Probability of Success
Chapter 2: Mismatching: The Avoidable Risk 
Chapter 3: The Herd Theory
Chapter 4: Gold Medals & German Shepherds 
Chapter 5: Fueling the Sales Process 

Part II: Leveraging the Most Powerful Tool In Sales

Chapter 6: Conversational Layering 
Chapter 7: What Makes People Curious? 
Chapter 8: Establishing Credibility in the Sale 
Chapter 9: Escalate the Value of Your Questions 
Chapter 10: How to Solicit More Accurate Feedback

Part III: Implementation: Putting Methods into Practice 

Chapter 11: Navigating the QBS Sales Process
Chapter 12: Turn Your “Cold Calls” into “Lukewarm Calls” 
Chapter 13: Getting to the “Right Person” 
Chapter 14: Building Value in the QBS Presentation 
Chapter 15: Closing More Sales…Faster 
Epilogue: For Sales Managers Only

Wrap Up

In summary, The Secrets of Question Based Selling is a good book and you can buy it by clicking on the picture above. 

Any book that gets a salesperson asking more questions is heading the in right direction. As an old sales manager of mine used to say, “ You have two ears and one mouth… use them in that ratio.” This book even goes a step further by offering advice on how to ask better questions.

The book touches on some of the topics I cover in greater detail in my eBooks and even at a basic level they will be useful to salespeople.