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Balancing Act: Asking Questions vs. Pitching

Nov 28, 2018 6:17:32 PM

Conversations matter

With so much information available online, B2B buyers are much further along in their buying journey before making contact with a salesperson.

According to a recent Gartner survey, B2B buyers spend just 17 percent of their time meeting with suppliers. This means that if there are three potential suppliers, each gets only about 5 percent of a customer’s time.

You want the final choice to be YOU.  That single meeting or last few phone calls and emails are everything.  Do you want your sales person launching into a pitch, reciting a script of benefits?  Or worse, delivering a canned presentation?

Of course not. After all, the buyer probably knows a lot about your offering already, thanks to time spent Googling, reading, and asking peers for recommendations. You want your sales person to be asking questions!

Gartner points out that the buying process has become complex, as customers often have unique needs or situations, and they need to be connected to the right information.

“Sales leaders must focus on buyer enablement — that is, they must provide information to customers in a way that enables them to complete critical buying jobs,” notes Gartner.

Therefore, to win the sale, salespeople must change their approach. If information can drive sales effectiveness, then salespeople need to use information to their advantage. Instead of rehearsing a pitch or recreating a PowerPoint that proved successful in previous situations, today’s salespeople need to listen to prospects and ask the right questions.

They must understand a prospect’s pain points and serve as guides to make sense of information and find a solution.

We all know that asking questions in a two-way, fluid conversation – especially with someone whose business you wish to earn -- is much harder than delivering a scripted sales pitch.

However, it is much more effective. (Remember, according to Gartner, you only have 5 percent of a customer's time.)

Video coaching helps with pitching and presentation skills. But it does not help with deciding what questions to ask and how best to navigate a two-way fluid conversation.  So, how can salespeople learn to ask questions like their top-performing colleagues? Practice. But where would they practice? In front of customers?  (I hope not.)

To practice effectively, a salesperson should be placed in different sales situations and then be left to decide what they should do.

The benefits of practice include:

  1. We learn how to apply knowledge.
  2. We personalize the knowledge in our own mental models which allows us to retain it – defeating the forgetting curve.
  3. We learn the patterns of optimal decision-making.    

However, the salesperson should then be provided with expert coaching, which can properly evaluate, advise, and support so as to help improve dialogues with prospects.

Interactions with people can be difficult, and the clues on what to say or do are often largely invisible. That’s why 1-on-1 role play with a great coach works by exposing this invisible thinking process – their mental models – which the salesperson can adopt and incorporate into his or her own mental models.

Syandus simulates this process with technology, by creating virtual conversations and interactive decisions with virtual humans – which is better than practicing with real prospects. The approach is to immerse learners in realistic situations where they can practice making decisions, and then have them coached to recognize the optimal decision-making patterns of top performers.

In this way, salespeople can know what questions to ask and what information to gather – serving as a resource for the buyer – without delivering the hard pitch.

Prospects will take notice, sales will take off, and everyone will be much happier.


About Syandus: Virtual immersive learning technology that transforms knowledge into real-world performance. We immerse participants in realistic virtual situations with one-on-one expert coaching that gives them experience making optimal decisions. Syandus Learning Modules combine cognitive science principles, the realism of game technology, and our customer’s proprietary content, to deliver rapid skill acquisition. Modules are cloud-based for easy deployment, fully trackable with embedded analytics, and can be used on any web-enabled device.

Topics: Sales Training

Jake Wengroff

Written by Jake Wengroff

Jake is a regular contributor to Syandus’ content on sales training and learning & development. He also helps Ed, the virtual sales coach write his insightful blogs.