October 21, 2022

The Magic Question To Ask At The End Of Every Sales Meeting

Here is the ONE question I advise you to ask at the end of every sales meeting, NO MATTER how successful you think the meeting was:

“This all sounds quite positive, but let me ask you, is there anything that you foresee happening that would stop you from signing a contract to move forward?”

Once you ask this, shut up, listen, and don’t interrupt.

I cannot tell you how many times I thought I had a sale closed, followed up the meeting with a written proposal, and then heard there were additional steps that needed to be taken (e.g., more meetings) or worse, I heard nothing back from them—utter silence.

It’s human nature to want to leave a good sales meeting on a high note. We have all been coached: “When a deal is closed, or things went well, leave on a high note.” But the fact is, sometimes sales are not as far along or as closed as we might like. Sometimes there were two to three more steps to the sales process that you may be unaware of if you don’t ask the magic question. Sometimes there was competition. Other times there were issues which, had I only used the magic question, I would have been so much better informed. Conversely, by not knowing that I should ask the magic question above, which is really about looking for obstacles or hidden/unrevealed next steps, I found out the hard way that I had not yet closed a sale, or the meeting was not as good as I thought it was.

Once I started asking the magic question, I came away so much better informed. The more informed I was, the better I got at closing business and also timing when business would or might close. I also got better at realizing when I might never close a business deal, which is sometimes just as important as knowing the good deals. Here are some examples of what I heard when I started asking the magic question:

  • “Oh, I can’t sign this contract. It has to be signed two levels up from me.”
  • “We are just at the beginning phase of even considering something like this at my company/department. We expect this to take months.”
  • “We are looking at three other vendors for this … and two are really strong. In fact, our purchasing department will be handling this after I qualify the vendors.”
  • “I’m moving to another department next week, and you will have to wait for my replacement to start up. It will be months before we act on this.”
  • “We just had total budget shutdowns for the balance of the year.”

When you ask the magic question, you have to truly shut up and listen to the answers. Let the prospect talk, and resist the hesitation to immediately jump in to handle every objection. By not interrupting, you will get a clear view of the closing runway and how to land there (or realize you were nowhere near the airport yet).

If you do get an objection or two you can handle, then certainly handle it after they have spoken and finished. If, though, you get an avalanche of stuff or a deal breaker you did not see coming, it may be best to ask for another meeting to be scheduled (while you are still there) so you can come back in a few days. That will give you some time and perspective to come back with answers and options.

Check out some of my other work here.

Originally posted on Forbes.