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Master Consultative Selling with High Gain Questions: Techniques for Effective B2B Sales

Unlock the true potential of consultative selling by mastering high-gain questions that drive meaningful client conversations.

When you ask a salesperson why they believe they are consultative, they are likely to say it is because they avoid high-pressure tactics and that they ask good questions. It’s more than likely that they don’t know how to pressure their contacts, and that their questions tend to be quite pedestrian.

Understanding Consultative Selling for Complex Sales

Let’s start with a brief overview of consultative selling. Consultative selling is a sales approach where the salesperson provides their client with counsel, advice, and recommendations. In complex sales, a consultative approach can help the client solve a difficult problem or achieve an increase in their results.

High-gain questions are important in consultative selling because they go beyond the surface-level questions that most salespeople ask. These questions are far more valuable to the salesperson and the client than most other questions.

High-Gain Questions in Consultative Selling

High-gain questions are strategically crafted, open-ended inquiries designed to provoke thinking and elicit detailed responses from a client or prospective client in the sales conversation. These questions are used to uncover underlying needs, client motivations, and challenges.

High-gain questions are also used to acquire a deeper understanding of the client’s current situation, making it possible for the salesperson to provide a better experience by offering a tailored solution that can help the client succeed.

Key Attributes of High-Gain Questions

  • Open-ended: High-gain questions are open-ended, allowing you to acquire the information needed to offer your counsel, advice, and recommendations.
  • Thought-provoking: High-gain questions are designed to be thought-provoking. If you have ever heard your client say, “That was a great question,” they said that because it provided them with an insight they were unable to acquire before you asked.
  • Insight-generating: High-gain questions are used to generate an insight or something the client needs to understand to move forward.

Advantages of Using High-Gain Questions

  • Uncovering deeper client needs: Most salespeople have been taught to ask their clients about their problem. However, most don’t ask high-gain questions, and some fear the type of questions used in consultative selling because they worry about alienating their contact.
  • Building stronger relationships: High-gain questions create stronger relationships than the early personal rapport-building that can lower your sales status. The high-gain questions help you create the business rapport you need to build a long-term relationship.
  • Enhancing client engagement: When you ask high-gain questions, you can engage with your client on a deeper level because you prove that you understand their problems, and also demonstrate your ability to help them find solutions.
  • Facilitating better solutions: In order to ask high-gain questions, you need to have a solid amount of business acumen and insight that will help you find better solutions.

Varieties of High-Gain Questions

  • Discovery Questions: There are dozens of questions you can ask in discovery. What you should notice is that many of these questions help the client learn what they need to know. Here’s an example: How prepared is your team to make a significant change in how you do things now, and if they aren’t ready, what will you need to do to get them ready?
  • Probing Questions: You want to use this type of question to cause your client to provide information about their experience so you can learn what they have done in the past or what they are considering now. This is something like: What other things have you tried in the past to produce the results you need?
  • Clarification Questions: You want to use these to acquire a greater understanding of something your client said. A clarification question builds on what they’ve shared so far, like: You mentioned one idea you were interested in. Can you share with me why you stopped?
  • Implication Questions: You use questions like these to cause your client to face their challenges before they fail and suffer the implications. Here’s an example: What are the implications of not making this change before your peak season, and how much revenue will you lose if you don’t change now?
  • Reflective Questions: You can use these types of questions to cause your client to think deeper about something important. Try something like: How has your past experience influenced your thinking now?

Crafting Effective High-Gain Questions

There are a number of techniques for crafting high-gain questions:

  • Research the client and their industry: You can formulate high-gain questions by researching and reading about your client and their industry. The more you understand the client and their industry, the better you can ask powerful questions.
  • Understand the client’s business goals: Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition helps you learn to identify and use the strategic outcomes your clients are pursuing.
  • Tailor questions to specific client scenarios: As you do the work of a consultative seller, you can build high-gain questions tailored to common client scenarios.

Utilizing High-Gain Questions in Sales Meetings

  • Prepare for a sales meeting: You will improve your ability to ask high-gain questions by making a list of them for the different parts of your sales meeting. It is better to have too many questions than to have too few.
  • Integrate questions seamlessly into the conversation: The only vehicle we have to create value for our clients is the sales conversation. You don’t want your contacts to feel as if they are duct-taped to a chair with a bright light in their eyes. These high-gain questions should not be an interrogation; they should support a natural conversation.
  • Listen closely with interest: There’s no point in asking high-gain questions if you’re going to ignore your clients’ answers. Deploy active listening so you can capture the insights that will emerge.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls with High-Gain Questions

  • Don’t ask too many questions at once: Be patient , ask one high-gain question at a time ,and give your client time to think before they reply.
  • Don’t be too intrusive or aggressive: You don’t want these questions to feel aggressive or intrusive. You want this to feel more like a collaboration with both you and your contact working towards an understanding and a viable solution.
  • Don’t tune out the client’s responses: Listen closely with interest.

Consultative Selling: High-Gain Questions

Before leaving this article about using high-gain questions, make a list of the current questions you routinely ask your contacts. Once you have a list, identify the hard-hitting questions that provide a gain for you—and more importantly—your client.

If you are a sales leader, you may propose a workshop or seminar to build out your high-gain questions and explain how you want your team to execute this important part of a truly consultative sales approach.

Do good work, and we’ll see you tomorrow for more B2B sales training and sales strategies.


Sales 2024
Post by Anthony Iannarino on June 7, 2024

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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