process.

5 Types of Questioning

Become a Questioning Master

Effective questioning is the key to getting information. Sales reps who understand this principle will master the art of the interview. They will be able to take the information garnered from effective questioning and develop solutions surrounding each specific answer. There are 5 distinct types of questions reps can use to do this, all of which have their own purpose & information targets that need to be understood. These question types are broken down into two specific areas:

  1. Information Questions
  2. Action Questions
In order to understand the depth, power and use of these question types it is imperative to dig deeper and create clear distinctions, definitions and uses for each.
    1) Information Questions
Three (3) Types of Information Questions

  • Status Questions
  • Value Questions
  • Alignment Questions
    1. 2) Action Questions
    Two (2) Types of Action Questions

  • Engagement Questions
  • Root Cause Questions


  • 1) Three (3) Types of Information Questions

    Information questions do exactly what their name implies. The primary focus of these questions is to extract information. Sales reps use these questions during the initial phases of the effective questioning sequence to obtain an understanding of a buyer situation, values, and agreement of information exchange. These questions are a mixture of open, guided and closed questions. They also work to create agreement between the sales reps and buyer, to generate buyer engagement and build momentum for a potential deal. There are three main information questions that sales reps should use to create a focused questioning process to gather information: status, value, and alignment.
      A) Status Questions (Current Situation)
    Status questions set the basis for the question process and are usually the first line of questioning. Their purpose is to uncover all the information and data that affects a buyer's situation. Status questions help reps build a profile of their buyer and provide them with insights into how they arrived at their current situation. It also helps them determine what type of a solution a buyer could be potentially seeking to improve their situation.

    Sales reps must make a clear distinction between questions that elicit information and questions that elicit data. They have to be careful not to ask too many data questions or buyers will feel as though they are being surveyed. Data questions are used primarily for qualification and identification. Therefore, these types of questions provide sales reps with information such as the size of their company, and the number of employees etc. This information does not have a great bearing on the deal and can usually be uncovered during pre-call planning.

    Information questions are used to build need and identify a fit for a potential solution. Information gathered from these questions has an impact on the deal, and the responses to these questions change as a buyer's needs and a rep's understanding of the situation change.
      B) Value Questions (Personal Value & Business Value)
    Alignment questions create a commonality. Sales reps use the information they collected from status and value questions to determine if there is an agreement on the information that has been communicated to this point in the sales process. Alignment questions are used frequently during the sales process. They are commonly understood as confirmation and clarification questions and are used in conjunction will all other questions all the time. The main purpose of these questions is to eliminate misunderstanding.

    Creating alignment is the process of going back and forth; asking and telling (ask/tell) information with buyers to establish common understanding. Building on the responses from value questions, sales reps must focus on their unique capabilities. Reps have to ask questions that connect a buyer's vision of an ideal solution to their unique offering. If the correct questions are asked and the proper information is communicated, then reps will be able to close the gap between a buyer's current situation and the ideal situation they seek.
      C) Alignment Questions
    Alignment questions create a commonality. Sales reps use the information they collected from status and value questions to determine if there is an agreement on the information that has been communicated to this point in the sales process. Alignment questions are used frequently during the sales process. They are commonly understood as confirmation and clarification questions and are used in conjunction will all other questions all the time. The main purpose of these questions is to eliminate misunderstanding.

    Creating alignment is the process of going back and forth; asking and telling (ask/tell) information with buyers to establish common understanding. Building on the responses from value questions, sales reps must focus on their unique capabilities. Reps have to ask questions that connect a buyer’s vision of an ideal solution to their unique offering. If the correct questions are asked and the proper information is communicated, then reps will be able to close the gap between a buyer’s current situation and the ideal situation they seek.

    2) Two (2) Types of Action Questions

    Typically, since reps are after a deal, they are inclined to do all of the work to close. As a result, they often do not confirm that a buyer is engaged in the process. Reps engage in a one sided ask/tell interaction. Reps must continually strive to make the process equal or balanced by ensuring the buyer is engaged. This is accomplished when a buyer engages in an action and has a vested interest in the deal. Taking actions proves engagement. Action is also an early warning sign to see if a buyer is interested in the deal. If action is absen then engagement does not exist in the deal.

    Sales reps need to elicit action from buyers to move a sale forward. Asking action questions will aid this process. Once alignment is solidified, sales reps can focus on creating action by asking questions that will help them determine whether the buyer is committed. They also ask these questions to understand potential causes of what may prevent a buyer from partaking in action commitments to move the deal forward.
      A) Engagement Questions (Getting Buyer Action)
    Engagement questions focus on action. Reps that fail to ask these questions will have difficulty getting a buyer to perform a commitment action. This line of questioning is about getting the buyer to agree to a form of action. This action will range from something small such as agreeing to discuss the idea of the solution with a key stakeholder, to something more involved such as agreeing to the terms of a deal. These questions set up a give/take dichotomy. Reps negotiate with buyers to get an action in exchange for something in return.

    Engagement continues and commitment actions grow as the deal progresses. The final commitment question to close a deal is only one of many engagement and commitment questions throughout the sales process. Through the use of effective engagement questions, the rep will be confident that the buyer will agree to the deal, as they have continually and progressively demonstrated commitment throughout the process.

    If a buyer is not willing to offer commitment to requests throughout the process, then sales reps must ask root cause questions to understand buyer's resistance as these situations occur.
      B) Root Cause Questions (Understanding Buyer Inaction)
    Root cause questions are used only when buyers are not willing to commit to a form of action as requested by a sales rep. If a buyer agrees there is alignment between both parties, then there is a natural progression for the buyer to engage. Root cause questions aim to get to the bottom of why the purchase process is not progressing by seeking to understand buyers' concerns, their reluctance to agree to commitment requests and to build engagement. This hinders the purchase process. Sales reps have to discover what needs to be satisfied in order to move forward with the actions and engagements.

    There are three focal points of these questions. Sales reps have to identify:

  • What the buyer's feeling are that prohibit the purchase from moving forward
  • How the buyer's feeling is manifesting itself
  • What the buyer needs to have satisfied in order to move forward with the purchase process


  • Bottom Line & Business Impact:

    Sales reps that following this questioning process and use the 5 different types of questions in their arsenal will effectively gather the information they need to satisfy a buyer with a solution that is based on their specific situation.

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    With over 21 years of Business and IT experience, Greg has excelled in all facets of owning and managing a business along with Major Account Sales to Billion Dollar Plus Private Sector Organizations and to the Public Sector namely Federal, Provincial and Local Governments. Sales Leadership in Action Group Inc.                     ... Go Deeper | Website