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Powerful questions increase conversion rates

by Marguerite Zimmerman

Landing great questions takes some practice.

Anyone in a role where influencing matters most of the time or some of the time can drastically improve their communication effectiveness through improved question asking skills.

Being in the business of sales and sales development, my role over the years has required that I wear many hats. During a typical week I often wear the hat of sales leader, salesperson, trainer, coach, facilitator or CEO. No matter what hat I’m wearing, there is one skill that is essential to success – influencing skills. The fact is when we are in a conversation there are two core skills we can use: questions or narrative.

Over the past few years I’ve noticed it can be challenging to shift between these roles, as each role requires a different balance between questions or narrative shifts. There is no doubt that in a facilitation role or coaching role, there is a need for more questions and less narrative. Sales often requires a bit more balance (depending on where you are in the selling process) between questions and narrative, while consulting may require a bit more narrative.

Last fall, several Momentium coaches and I had the opportunity to work with Shift Coaching to become business coach certified. The process included classroom learning, coaching practice hours, and peer reviews. I saw it as a perfect opportunity to learn new coaching strategies and to hone my question asking skills. The time and energy paid off. It was a great learning and growth experience.

Focusing on question asking during the learning raised my own skills on forming and landing great questions. The reality is that this is a skill I will need to continue to practice for life – it’s harder than many realize.

A recent article, The Surprising Power of Questions, in Harvard Business Review’s May/June 2018 issue is a worthy read. The article provides some great insight into types of questions that improve results, such as increased “liking.” One of them is follow-up questions as they illustrate listening.

The authors cite an interesting study that was completed by a tech company on more than 500,000 business-to-business sales conversations. found a strong connection between the numbers of questions a sales person asks and his or her sales conversion rate. What’s interesting is there is a point of diminishing returns. Conversion rates start to drop off after too many questions!

So, it’s not just about framing and landing good questions, it’s about the balance between inquiry and advocacy. Like what we learn and practice in Momentium, it’s about how we frame questions, the balance of questions and narrative, and the sequencing of questions.

Clearly, it’s a good investment of time to learn how to ask more powerful questions. The payoff is increased conversion rates!

About Marguerite
Marguerite Zimmerman is CEO of E=mz2 Inc. & Founder of Momentium. Her career has been dedicated to helping sales forces maximize their performance.
Powerful questions increase conversion rates