All of our sales training clients in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto are learning the Six Levels of Sales Questioning.  We thought it would be a great idea to share it as a two-part series with other Salespeople because of its widespread application.  We’ve all experienced the frustration of waiting for an answer from a decision maker who seems disengaged after appearing so eager to do business with us.  If this happens to you, then use The Six Levels of Sales Questioning to assist in developing a sense of sales intuition.  Here’s Part One.


We have all been there many times before.  After doing a thorough needs analysis and proposal, we continue to chase a client with repeated messages and emails trying to get a response.  When we finally do get resolution, the answer is no for a host of different reasons – we decided to stay with our current provider, we’re going in a different direction or we’d like to consider your proposal at a later time.  They all leave us with the same feeling.


So, what happened?

Even if you ask your decision maker this question, you probably won’t get an answer that will appease you.  It may be just another version of what you’ve already been told.  This leads all of us to scratch our heads and wonder – What changed?  How did a client who appeared ready to say yes suddenly become disengaged?  What did you miss?  Consider that you may not have done something wrong – you simply didn’t do something right.


Stop selling – start understanding

All smart Salespeople ask great questions.  We know that the answers provided are the basis of our solution and proposal.  That’s the key to doing a proper needs analysis and consultative selling.  No decision maker wants to listen to a Salesperson try to sell them something they don’t want to buy.  If we SHUT UP and LISTEN, we will always learn something.  Consider that you might only be touching the surface of asking the right questions.  Your ability to ask tougher, high trust questions can make a huge impact on your likelihood of making a sale.


The Six Levels of Sales Questioning

Here’s an explanation of the first three levels and their trust level.  Start a needs analysis appointment with the first level and continue to work your way down.  Completing all six levels may take more than one meeting, as it takes time to establish a strong working relationship.  We’ve also listed what will you will achieve by asking tough, high trust questions – the ones the other Salespeople may have never even thought of.


Level #1:  Discovery Questions

What are they?  Questions to understand the buyer’s environment – who, what, when, where, why and how.  All Salespeople know that they need to ask these questions to learn more about the client’s world.

What’s their trust level?  For the most part, they are low trust.  Discovery questions concerning budget and the previous selection of providers can be higher trust.

What do they achieve?  The beginning of understanding the buyer’s basic needs and establishing rapport.


Level #2:  Pain/Reward Questions

What are they?  Questions to find a challenged, unrealized expectation or opportunity.   The Salesperson is asking these questions to find sensitivities on issues that hamper or could potentially help the buyer in their situation.  Experienced Salespeople know the power of asking Pain/Reward Questions.  Start by asking open-ended questions that start with  the words – “Tell me more about that…”

What’s their trust level?  Medium trust level.  You are starting to understand the decision maker’s feelings and motivating factors.

What do they achieve?  The start of furthering the relationship with the buyer because all focus at this point is put on the buyer with no solutions offered or products sold. The Salesperson is still in the investigation phase.


Level #3:  Paraphrase Questions

What are they?  Questions to provide clarity in communication.  The Salesperson is repeating what the client said in his or her words.  Full comprehension is the goal. Paraphrase questions come with a framing statement such as “Let’s see if I understand what you’re saying…”

What’s their trust level?  The level of trust progresses as the decision maker realizes that this Salesperson is an excellent listener and worthy of consideration.

What do they achieve?  After successful Paraphrasing Questions, the Salesperson starts to develop a strong personal brand with the decision maker.


What the first three levels of sales questioning accomplish

The emphasis of these levels is on communication and understanding.  The smart Salesperson reaches out with sincerity and authenticity to see the buyer’s world from their perspective. They are trying to develop a keener sense of emotional intelligence which builds rapport and credibility with the decision maker that eventually leads of high levels of trust.  Salespeople who use the first three levels of sales questioning stand out from the competition who make the mistake of quickly tying surface levels needs to their product or service to make a sale.


The next three levels of sales questioning

In my next post, we’ll cover Significance, Realization and Action Questions.  Subscribe to THE PROSALESGUY BLOG and you’ll receive it in your inbox.

What do you think?  I’m always interested in your comments.  If you liked this post, share it on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+.

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Many Salespeople have reached out to us for individual sales training online. The Sales Skills Incubator will launch this summer. If you’d like to know more about it, please send us a quick email at


Dave Warawa – PROSALESGUY 

Author of SHUT UP! Stop Talking and Start Making Money available on Amazon in paperback and kindle