Avoid Manipulative Questioning Styles in B2B Sales

Seems a number of the b2b sales people I meet have been exposed to some form of manipulative sales training. When a person learns these crafty, yet, long term damaging sales techniques the most difficult issue is unlearning bad habits.

To this end it is important to know what is considered high risk and manipulative questions. So, today we will cover six types of manipulative questioning techniques…

  1. Front End Loading – Here a sales person is leading before the question but making a series of loaded statements to gain acceptance of an idea or method that will be more favorable to the sales person than the customer. Again, the premise is to guide or lead the buyer to a favorable position from leading statements designed to get the answers the sales person wants. This is pure manipulation.
  2. Polarizing – These questions are designed  to move the buyer into a particular position with a specific yes or no answer, thus preparing them for the next series of questions or statements leading to a close. A sample of this could be – “Are you concerned about safety? Then this new system is for you, since it was designed from the bottom up with safety in mind.”
  3. Negative Questions – By designing a question with negatives, you’re defying the buyer to state any answer except the one you want to hear. For the buyer to answer any other way would make the buyer look stupid or foolish. “What you NOT agree with this point? Look there is enough negativity in this world to have negative worded questions thrown at a buyer. Use positive phrased questions to enhance your credibility.
  4. Using Statement as Questions – Any questions beginning with the words “Clearly” or “Obviously” are designed to state an opinion with the expectation of acceptance or agreement – sometimes due to no response from the buyer! Using pressure with the statement type question is equally bad in the long run – such as “Obviously, hundreds of Fortune 500 companies couldn’t be wrong!” These questions thrive due to the presupposition of acceptance or the use of questions designed to create a judgmental atmosphere with the buyer.
  5. Offering the Answer – We learned in sales training 101 to avoid answering or talking after a question or closing question has been asked of a buyer. Yet, in the world of manipulative sales questioning, offering the answer the seller wants is still being used by many b2b sales people. Major long term mistake since the customer or buyer is cut out of the true answering process. It is always better to learn what the customer or buyer actually wants rather than have them agree to your statements. An example of this type of question is…“What is important to you in purchasing widgets – constant quality?” While getting agreement to this question feels good, it is missing the reality of customer or buyer priorities or buying criteria.
  6. The Hidden Assumption – These questions force the buyer to answer the question and accepting some hidden or unspoken assumption. These questions can be blatant or subtle as a question – both designed to get the buyer to accept the hidden assumption. An example could be…“Do you understand why our widgets are the best on the market?”Here the sales person is forcing the buyer to accept the assumption the widgets are the best on the market without proof or questions.

While I’m sharing  these types of questions, I recommend you use other types of questions – questions based in an honest approach to receive the customer or buyers opinions of situations. You can use questions to allow your customers or buyers to self discover answers to their problems or issues without making statements or suggesting how to solve their problems. Self discovery is much more powerful than you presenting or telling.

Use questions in a positive way and your success will grow and your customers will be long term in nature.

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Voss Graham

Sr Business Advisor / CEO at InnerActive Consulting Group Inc
Your Knowledgeable Partner for Business Success and Achievement. Dedicated to helping others get to their next level of success. Award winning business advisor; coach to executives and business owners; Business Growth Strategist; and experienced using assessments for hiring & selection, evaluation of teams and improving communication. Voss is available as a Speaker for your conferences or company meetings contact him at 901-757-4434 or use the LinkedIn or Facebook direct messages.

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