April 1st, 2016 | by

We’ve all been there, you’re finishing your umteenth demo of the week and trapped in your groove.  You feel like the call and demo went well, only to be met by one of two fates:

  1. Your prospect keeps their cards close to the vest and you can’t gauge their level of excitement or what they are thinking. You leave the call without any clear next steps and momentum fades.
  2. Your prospect seems really excited, but you didn’t get them to verbalize what they really liked, what concerns may prevent them from moving forward, or how they are going to arrive at a decision. Thus, making your follow-up akin to throwing darts with a blindfold on and hoping for a bullseye.

So how do we avoid this? At the end of a call, it is important to take a true inventory of where you are in the sales process, and there is no better way to do this than by asking poignant questions.

Below are a few different strategies, with examples, to make sure your next sales cycle doesn’t get lost in “no man’s land.”

Tactic 1: “Are you really excited?”

Your call is over, another demo in the books and your prospect seems generally approving of the product:

Prospect Larry: “Okay, Steve, thanks for your time, this really looks like a great tool. I’ll have to talk to our VP of Sales – Dave Johnson here to see if it is something he’d be interested in.”

Steve: “You’re welcome Larry, it was great speaking with you.  Before we go, I was hoping to get a sense of how you’re feeling at this point in the process – are you excited about getting the tool into your team’s hands and completely sold on bringing on DiscoverOrg or are there some concerns that we should address now before you go and talk to Dave?  The reason I ask is that if you are not 100% bought into the idea of bringing DiscoverOrg on then it’s not going to be possible to get Dave excited about it.”

Prospect Larry: “To be honest Steve, the only thing that I have a concern about here is the price.  We are a pretty small organization still and I’m pretty sure that we just don’t have the budget for this.”

By asking, “Are you really excited and what concerns do you have?,” you now have a clear objection from your prospect that can be addressed head on.  This gives you the chance to make sure your prospect is fully confident in the pitch he’s about to deliver internally, enabling you to get a follow-up conversation on the calendar with the Decision Maker.

Now Dave, the VP, is on the Line.  The call is over, it again seems to go well and you’re at the end of the call:

Steve: “Dave, now that you’ve had a chance to see the service, what are the concerns that you have that would keep us from working together?”

Dave: “I just need to be sure that this doesn’t overlap with what we currently have in-house – like I mentioned we just bought several lists.”

Steve: “Dave, I appreciate you bringing up the concern, I know spending more money on the same thing would be a serious waste.  We still have about 10 minutes before the top of the hour – can you pull up your CRM & Lists so we can take a look at some profiles side by side?”

Why do we want to do this?

The whole point is to get them to either tell you what the next steps are and agree to them – i.e. who else’s buy-in is needed OR they are not fully bought-in and have some objections that can be addressed. More importantly, you are likely to really lose traction if you don’t figure these things out first, leading to another opportunity withering away on the vine.

Additionally, like any purchasing decision, this is a big decision for your prospects; so, we want to acknowledge that and create a vehicle for honest dialogue.  When people give me the opportunity to speak my truth I appreciate it – it builds a better relationship.

If someone can’t verbalize why they’re going to carry on your message then you’re toast.

What else does this do?

  1. Objections are your friend – you want to deal with them head on – give the prospect the opportunity to tell you their objections while you’re on the phone so that you can bat them down instead of letting them walk away with the objections in their heads.
  2. It forces them to think through what is actually going to hold them back from buying.  If you can navigate your way around those obstacles and check those issues off their list, then you win.
  3. Most importantly it creates accountability – this is not unlike getting someone to extrapolate on how much money your solution will save them (or in our case make them) when they say something like “wow this is incredible, it’s really going to help.” In order for that statement to have an impact you must probe further by asking “how do you mean – how do you see this helping?”.

Tactic 2: The Chinese Menu

We’ve reached the end of the call and you’ve tried Tactic 1 asking the “what are you concerned with” questions, but the prospect isn’t giving you anything and says nothing.  Now what?  Do you let him off the hook and hope you’ll be able to re-engage him later?  Of course not!

Instead, share with them a common objection that you have heard from other prospects and you know is easy for you to overcome.  For instance:

Steve:  “Usually at this point people are really excited about our service, but they’re just not really sure how to go up the ladder and ask for additional spend” or “At this point prospects are pretty blown away but they want to be sure that this is going to work for them and this isn’t going to be another solution with poor adoption”

More often than not, this is something that the prospect might be feeling, but can’t (or isn’t willing to) voice.  However, by opening up and sharing with your prospect what a typical objection is, you’re able to show empathy and voice the concern for them. From there, they can then build on why this is relevant to them.

After all, you’re the industry expert, so the idea here is to lead your prospect – “when I get to this point with people some of the things they want to talk about are X, Y, and Z” (a la the Chinese menu) – as a salesperson we need to “help people order” because more often than not, they don’t know how and it can be very confusing as a buyer.

Tactic 3: Where are we, 1-10?

Our SVP of Customer Success, Dave Sill, came across this little gem and presented it recently at our Sales Kickoff – it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite series of questions to get an understanding of where my prospect’s head is at and what we need to do in order for them to become a buyer.

Our demo is coming to a close, the prospect asks about pricing and how we structure our partnerships and then thanks me for setting up the demo:

Prospect Sue: “Steve, thanks for your time, this has been really helpful and I think there could be some value here”

Steve: “You’re welcome Sue, it was great speaking with you.  Let me ask you this, on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “I should probably get comfortable asking if you like fries with that because I’ve completely wasted your time” and 10 being “send me the agreement now, I’m ready to sign” – where do you stand?”

Sue: “Well Steve, I’m probably at a 7”

Now, the trick here is to get them to verbalize why they are a 7 and what they really liked.  The way to do this is to underplay where you thought they would be on the scale.

Steve:  “That’s great Sue, based on our conversation and some of your reactions I wasn’t sure if I hit the mark here and thought you might be closer to a 5.  What do you like that puts you at a 7?”

Here’s the tough part, listen…   When they tell you one thing, let them explore that further.  Once they’ve finished, ask “what else do you like?”.  And you repeat this process 1 or 2 more times so that you’ve got a few concrete pieces of your offering that they are really excited about.  Once you have this, you then flip the equation by asking why they aren’t at a 10.

Steve:  “Wow Sue, so you like Feature A, and you see how Widget B is going to save your team a ton of time and maximize their productivity. And finally, it sounds like Function C is where this is really going to be a game changer for your company.  With all that, I’ve got to ask, what’s left holding us back from being a 10?”

Just like in our scenarios before, this is where we’re able to glean those one or two hidden objections that we need to address in order for our prospect to be fully comfortable with our solution.

Remember, objections are your friend. But if you don’t ask the tough questions, probe a bit deeper, and create a little urgency, you’re likely to have a lot of stalled open opportunities with few wins to show for all of the demos you’ve done.

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About the author

Steven Bryerton

Steven is responsible for Enterprise Sales at DiscoverOrg. Steve has grown with DiscoverOrg with positions in Research, Lead Generation, Marketing, and is now as the VP of Sales for the Company. Before joining the team at DiscoverOrg, he worked in sales and marketing at IT firms including Cxtec and Orion Systems Integrators. Steven graduated with a degree in computer engineering from the University of Miami, where he played for the club soccer team.