Win Your Own Super Bowl: Ask the Right Questions to Improve Your Running Game

Posted by Ellen Quackenbush on Jan 25, 2018 5:51:00 AM
Ellen Quackenbush
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(Part 3 of 3)

As the Super Bowl approaches, the water-cooler talk turns to what makes a team great.  The rule of thumb for the Super Bowl is usually that a strong defense and crafty running game wins the game.  So sticking with that theme, it's a good time to think about your own ground game. That is, how can your entire customer-facing team bring home the trophy--the deals you want at the prices you deserve?

The first two blogs in the Asking Great Questions series (Great Questions are Grounded In Curiosity and Questions are like Tools) set the stage—how to use informed curiosity to engage your customer in conversations that drive interest and build trust.  This final blog focuses on how to integrate these ideas into your sales process to not only win at your price, but set up the team for success and a profitable next opportunity. 

The key is to incorporate different, yet purposeful, questions into each step of the sales process.  When done correctly, the questions not only yield valuable information for you, but insights for the customer as well.  I highlight below example questions for each stage of this general sales process:


At this stage, the customer may not have recognized that they have a problem or opportunity.  The seller’s job is to shine a bright light on the issue and leverage insights developed by your internal team to spark the customer’s interest and gain agreement to be invited back. 

  • Use insight-based questions with probing follow-up. “I noticed this new use case for your solution, with users claiming up to XX% productivity gains. How well-positioned are you to support this use case? What are the challenges?”


During this stage, the seller’s job is to assess whether or not the opportunity is viable to pursue.  If yes, then they need to scope the opportunity. A seller wants to expand the conversation here to others that may have influence on the decision and quantify the full financial benefits of the solution.

  • Start broad, using probing questions to clarify details. “What would be the impact to your business of addressing this issue? What would this enable you to do that you can’t do today? Why? Can you explain?”
  • Ask for referrals. “Who else might be impacted by this solution?”


The customer is finalizing the solution requirements and decision process. The seller is socializing the solution and value quantification across the buying center, customizing messages to key stakeholders.

  • Use confirmatory questions, specific to the member of the buying center, and offering to explain your analysis. “We estimated that your department would receive these financial benefits. Does this impact resonate with your experience? Why or why not? What might you add or subtract? What questions can I answer?” 


The behavior expressed by a customer in a negotiation will indicate his or her buyer type—Relationship Buyer, Value Buyer, Price Buyer or Poker Player – and impact the questions the seller should ask.  A Poker Player may be aggressive in behavior.  A Relationship buyer would be genuine and open about limitations and opportunities.

  • Tune the focus and tone of questions to the buyer type. For example, when negotiating with Relationship Buyers, be open and transparent in questions in response to discount requests. For example, your questions can inquire about appropriate Give GetsTM to help them prioritize their choices and trade-offs.  Ask Poker Players questions that require influencers to answer, such as confirming the removal of an important element as a trade-off. 

 Close & Implement  

The biggest mistake sales teams make is to move on to the next opportunity once the deal is signed. In fact, staying engaged during implementation is essential to documenting successes and setting the sales team up for the next opportunity.

  • Use a mix of confirmatory and exploratory questions to track your progress during the initial period of use. Some example questions here are, “When we signed our contract, we identified core KPIs. As you can see, during your first X months of use, we have met/exceeded our goals and calculated together we impacted your bottom-line by X. Does that match the impact you’ve seen? Who would be most interested in these achievements? [If your solution saved the customer time] What have you and your staff been able to do with the time our solution saved?”

Asking great questions during this closed loop process sets the sales team up not only to have the right information at their fingertips when they need it, but to be first in line when the customer considers their next opportunity.

And oh yeah, Go Patriots!

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Topics: Selling with Confidence, Uncovering your Value