March 25

Avoid these questions to eliminate the silent treatment during your presentation



Today’s sales presentations aren’t the one-way monologues of old. Audience’s not only expect to be engaged, but your message will have greater impact and recall if they are actively participating in the presentation. Posing a question is a quick and easy way to engage your audience. People are naturally curious and a good question will stimulate their thinking right away.  So why do I hear so many post-presentation comments from sellers like these:

  What a boring group! They just stared at me when I asked them a question!”

  I asked a bunch of questions, but half of them were busy texting!”

I get it. It’s uncomfortable to throw a question out there and see a bunch of blank faces staring back at you in silence.  And it’s tempting to want to blame lack of response to our questions on our audience, but the truth is that asking questions alone is not enough.

With today’s busy prospects, you really need to put some thought and care into what type of question you ask and how you ask it. While there are many resources on good questions to ask, I want to share with you some questions to avoid and some simple tips on how to make sure you receive an answer to your question when you want one.S

Avoid these questions in your presentation:

  1. Questions that make you go “duh!”

    Example: “How many of you like to save money?”
    Answer:  Duh.

    Otherwise known as “the blatantly obvious question.” It shows little effort or creativity went into your planning process. It’s not only annoying, but it creates an immediate negative impression of you, your solution and your company.   If your prospect does bother to respond, it’s likely to be an unenthusiastic agreement.

  2. Leading questions:    

    Example:  “If I could show you how this could improve your efficiency over fifty percent, would that be something that would have value to your organization?”

    Answer:  “Umm yeah.”  And “Duh.”

    This type of question screams “Early 80’s Car Sales.” Today’s audiences are smart and leading questions that even their cocker spaniel knows where it’s headed, insult their intelligence. In fact, I’ve seen prospects give a contrary answer just because they don’t like being led around by the nose.

The real test is, do you like being asked these type of questions?S

How to ensure you get a response to your questions:

When salespeople aren’t getting responses to good questions, I find it usually comes down to clarity. There are two types of questions and you need to be extremely clear which type you are asking and follow a few simple tips:

  1. Rhetorical questions:

    There’s nothing wrong with asking a question that you don’t expect our audience to answer.  Questions that get your audience pondering the answer, without providing a verbal response, can be very powerful during your presentation to stimulate thought. Even though you don’t expect an answer from your audience, make sure that you take a moment to pause and let your audience think about the answer in their heads before you move on.

  2. Literal questions:

    Asking your audience a question and expecting an answer is a great way to get your audience engaged early. Now, increase the likelihood that you get a response with the following tips:

    *Expect an answer.  This sounds obvious, but it’s something you need to be 100% committed to.  If your audience is confused as to whether you want an answer or not, they will likely remain silent. Be very clear in your mind that you want an answer and your tone and eye contact will naturally convey that to your audience.

    *Avoid the temptation to fill the silence. I know it’s uncomfortable to have everyone staring at you in silence, but you have to give them time to answer. Let them grapple with the answer a bit. Remember, you are laying the ground rules for how your audience should participate. If you answer your own questions in the beginning, they will be even less likely to jump in later on.

    *Have a plant in the audience.  You can always call on someone if you don’t get an answer, but that can backfire and put that person on the spot.  If the question is important (and why else would you ask it?!)  I suggest speaking with someone in the audience prior to your presentation and asking them for their assistance in answering the question should you need it.  Most people are happy to help and it gives them some time to prepare an answer.

    *Be certain of the answer. For example, asking, “Who hates flying?” when you’ve got a licensed pilot in the room will require some fast back peddling.  Just in case you misjudged your audience, have a back-up question ready


presentation skills, questions, sales presentations

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