I spend about 80% of my time working with sales professionals to perfect their ability to structure the questions that need to be asked. They all understand the importance of asking questions but need some assistance in creating their own tailored versions. Salesmen often enjoy the exercise of deciphering which questions uncover the compelling reasons the prospect should do business with them. We all need to ask clients questions concerning budget, the decision-making process, and what the next steps should be. Even rapport and relationship building are best built by asking questions. People like to talk about themselves; if you keep the questions coming, you are more likely to make a positive impact on your prospects.
After spending hours and hours working with a sales professional to hone their questioning skills, I like to give them the chance to show what they have learned. During this “tag-along” session, the salesperson puts all these questioning skills into practice. I listen intently, whether it involves a phone conversation, an in-person interview, or just a practice scenario. But what I hear is sometimes shocking. The salesperson gets nervous and forgets to ask a single question, or they might ask simple rhetorical questions like, “How are you?” Instead of asking questions to determine the customer’s needs, I hear statements along these lines:
“So, I don’t know if this applies to you but we…”
“We can help you with…”
“I did some checking and I noticed…”
Finally, my least favorite question gets asked: “Do you have any questions for me?” Salespeople only ask this because they are not sure what else to say, not because they are interested in the prospects response. 99% of their sentences end in a period, not a question mark. Even after training, the salespersons conversation becomes more of a presentation. And predictably, the prospect nods off during this pitch.
I have researched this phenomenon, expecting to find that therapists or psychologists previously studied the subject extensively. The most I found were some articles written about the fear of asking people for money, which is especially a problem for non-profit foundations. But I found nothing that truly defined the fear of asking questions. I decided to create a word for this behavior. I discovered that “rogo” is the Latin word for “to ask or inquire” (fun fact, the root of “interrogate” springs from the Latin word). Adding to this, I came up with a new word for my findings.
Rogophobia: The fear of asking questions
If you are good at asking questions, you probably wonder why a salesperson suffers from “rogophobia”. One reason salespeople hesitate to ask questions is that they do not know exactly what to ask, or how to phrase their questions. Or the salesperson’s parents discouraged them from asking a lot of questions as a child. They were taught that asking too many questions is considered annoying or even rude. While there are many reasons salespeople are reluctant to ask questions, sometimes it simply comes down to a fear of rejection. They fear the prospect finding their pitch useless.
To overcome the fear of asking questions, try starting your sentences with some of the most basic question words. These include:
Remember, talk to your clients, not at them. Find out what they need through questioning instead of simply explaining what your product does in boring statements. While curing your fear of asking questions may take time, keeping this simple practice at the front of your mind during your next prospecting meeting will help you improve and eventually beat your “rogophobia”.