Sales Leadership in Action Group
5 Types of Questioning
There is no sense asking aimless questions. Sales reps must be responsible and ask
questions that serve a speciﬁc purpose. They need to understand the type of questions they
are asking, and the resulting information they can expect in return. Sales reps that can
master the ﬁve types of questioning will be able to develop a detailed account of their buyer’s
situation and the solution they desire.
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.
© 2010 SLiA Group Inc., sliagroup.com Page 1
Become a Question 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
Lay of the Land
their own purpose & information targets that need to be understood. These question types
are broken down into two speciﬁc areas:
• 3 Types of Information Questions
• Status Questions
• Value Questions
• Alignment Questions
• 2 Types Action Questions
• Engagement Questions
• Root Cause Questions
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.
Status Questions (Buyers 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
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
© 2010 SLiA Group Inc., sliagroup.com Page 2
Value Questions (Personal Value & Business Value)
Value questions are used to determine what is valuable to the buyer for a speciﬁc solution
and what the buyer wants to personally get out of the deal. Value questions also create
understanding on a holistic level by uncovering the buying organization’s value system,
attitudes, and feelings.
The distinct needs of the buyer and buying organization must be clear. Sales reps have to
understand the difference between the personal and business attitudes, feelings, and
perceptions of the buyer they are working with. This difference will have a signiﬁcant
impact on a sales reps approach as they strive to meet the buyer and buying organization’s
needs and values separately, within the same deal.
In many instances the buyer will have a different personal and business opinion in terms of
the attitude toward and results of the tabled solution. Therefore, sales reps have to identify
a difference of opinion, if one exists, and uncover enough information to create a solution
that will satisfy both perspectives for the buyer.
Alignment Questions (Conﬁrming Understanding)
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 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 absent
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.
© 2010 SLiA Group Inc., sliagroup.com Page 3
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
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
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
© 2010 SLiA Group Inc., sliagroup.com Page 4
Putting into Practice
The Art of Questioning - Questioning Focus
Question to Understand - Not Trap
Sale Leadership in Action Group products are for the exclusive use of SLiA Group’s clients, and for
internal purposes only. Members can use the document in whole or in part. The products are to be used
for internal purposes only, pursuant to the terms and conditions of the paid memberships. Members may
customize the tools and templates by editing titles, headers and footers with their company information.
© 2010 SLiA Group Inc., sliagroup.com Page 5