Four Questions Every Salesperson Should Ask About Their Customer’s Business

Build value with your customers by understanding their business concerns

March 2, 2017 | Denise Gifford

calculationWhat keeps your customer up at night? What is he or she most worried about? One of the best ways to build value with your customers is through a deep understanding of their business concerns.

Too often, salespeople lead with questions about product or price. And even if they take the time to ask some up-front business questions, they often don’t go deeply enough, missing the chance to learn more about their clients and identify opportunities.

If you can more fully understand your customer’s business situation, it will help you identify which solutions will best address their business needs. It will also help you expand the customer relationship in a way that is beneficial to your client.

To gain a complete picture of your customer’s business situation, you need to ask these questions:


  1. What are their overall business issues?


  1. What are the business implications of these issues?


  1. What is the impact on operations?


  1. What are the financial implications?


You’ll see that this sequence of questioning goes from broad to specific. By following this sequence for each of your client’s business issues, you will learn more and more at every step.

For example, let’s say that one of your customer’s key business issues is “increasing market share.” You might start by asking about the business implications of that goal — for example, how they plan to achieve the goal. Your customer tells you that they plan to add more salespeople. From there, you would ask how adding salespeople would impact their operations. The customer responds that they need to add new offices, or perhaps they’re making organizational changes.

And now for the bottom line. What is the expected financial impact? Your customer might tell you that, in his opinion, the financial benefits might not be realized for two years. Or that to expand the sales staff might mean the company needs to cut 15% elsewhere.

You’ve now got far more comprehensive information than if you had not asked the follow-up questions. This allows you to create tailored solutions. For example, you might have a product or service that can help your customer find that 15% cost savings. You wouldn’t have made that connection if you hadn’t followed a strategic line of questioning. And, as an extra bonus, you’ve now added value by demonstrating that you care enough to understand the business from your customer’s perspective.

By starting with the broad business issues and drilling down to the financial implications, you will gain a deeper understanding of your customer’s business, which helps you identify more opportunities to offer your products or services. And that’s smart sales.


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  • About The Author
  • Denise Gifford is co-founder of InfoWorks® International, which has provided consulting and training to companies worldwide in project management and related skills. Prior to leading InfoWorks, Denise worked in sales and marketing management, and as a consultant to the financial services industry. She holds her MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.