>I promised myself I would take a hiatus from this blog until I finished my book, but since I turned the book  in yesterday for second round editing I thought I might reward myself by blogging!

Lately, I have had so many people ask me how to be more effective with their sales efforts. Well, what they are actually asking is “help me – I am frustrated.” I understand, it is tough out there right now. Sales cycles are longer than ever, the market is competitive, and this is a game of stamina if you want to be successful. Sales is far more art than it is science these days and combining a systematic process with more effective sales calls is a sure fire way to gain more clients.

I think the importance of great questions is one of the most overlooked opportunities in the sales process. The better your questions, the better information you gain, the better you connect with the client and the more you differentiate yourself from the competition. This is one part of the sales cycle where, if you invest your time on the front end, the result will be powerful.

So how do you determine the best questions to ask? Here are a few simple tips to follow:
1. Stop thinking about yourself, your goals and your needs. Focus on your client. This may sound counter intuitive, but I firmly believe you cannot truly ask, learn or listen if you are worried about getting the next meeting or closing the sale. Ironically, when you let go of your goals you open yourself up to truly connect with the prospect, and you can learn what you need to know to truly help identify the prospects or services that can really help your prospect.

2.  Learn about your prospect before you make the call. A little time spent on the internet or talking with individuals who know your prospect or use their services will deepen your interest and uncover great questions you want answers to.

2. Once you do your research, ask yourself what you want to know. Now I know,  you are thinking, “Meridith you just told me not to focus on myself, I do not get it?”  I know it is confusing, during the call and during your time with the client I definitely want you focused 100% on them. Before the call, as you prep it is vital you establish your goals and objectives. Doing so will help you design a great path of questions to identify and learn the best way (the prospect-centric way) to get there. Ask yourself , what are you trying to learn from this sales call? Then write down questions (based on the research you have done) that can help you ultimately gain the information you need.

3. Keep a log of great questions that people ask you. I love this tip and have done it for years. I refer to this log every single time I prep for a sales call. One of my favorities happened when an account manager asked me what my one hestiation was in buying their product? I thought a minute and answered time. This lead to series of great questions by the account manager that really made me think, deepened our discussion and quite frankly helped me clear my mind around the importance of investing in this product. I not only bought the product, but I valued it so much more, and felt great about the sales person and the experience.

Questions are wonderful tools. I suggest truly investing time and effort in developing and mastering this skill. It will not only increase your sales effectiveness, but it will make calls so much more interesting and fun! Not to mention lead to other opportunities.