The value of Questions in Selling.

Asking questions in the course of a sale has been a concept for centuries but mainly for the wrong reason, i.e.In order get the customer to say yes, over a series of questions requiring "yes" answers, in order to build up to the "yes" close.

Times have changed, and people have changed.

Their attitude towards this fast talking, hard closing kind of selling is now very negative..

It has been proved, that the majority of salesmen approach prospects by telling them about the product. A small number approach, by asking questions about the prospects needs and wishes and have listened to the answers.

This second groups averages more than 50% higher sales. Studies prove a number of things:

1} You don't have to ask questions to sell.

2) You will sell a lot more if you do ask questions.

Why because of what we learned about motivation, - starting with a prospects desires, such as security- recognition- achievement. These desires create create the prospects problems, which when the prospect takes action, completes the motivational cycle.

Questions break their "pre-occupation barrier"

Dr Hauser, head of Motivation Sales Research Inc. - says that when a Salesman cuts the motivational cycle, by not establishing the prospects needs, the only thing he cuts is his sales.

He is trying to sell solutions to prospects who don't really feel the problems.

If a salesman does not ask questions, he can only sell by making assumptions, about the prospects desires and these assumptions may be wrong.

1) He may assume that the prospect has just one dominant desire,

2) The salesmen may assume that the prospect realises that the product will provide the solution to that desire and this assumption may be incorrect.

3) The salesmen may assume that the prospect is participating in the Interview by listening and this assumption may also be wrong.

The minority group that ask questions and sell more, don't assume anything, they understand the cycle of motivation and put it to work for them.

The more the prospect said, the more they learned. Listening is often more persuasive than talking.

They understand that the prospect may doubt their statements but he seldom doubts his own conclusions.

Human relations has shown that the other person, is always more interested in the questions you ask him than in the statements you make to him.

Questions invite him to participate, statements ask him to listen.

People are afraid of being sold but they are not afraid of buying.

What kind of Questions do you ask and when?

For the answer to this, we again go back to the cycle of motivation. The salesmen acts as a counsellor, helping guide the prospect through the cycle by asking questions.

There is a strong psychological advantage in establishing the counsellor relationship as soon as possible.

This is where the old school of sales training parts company-

You don't wait to ask questions that require a "yes", (these could equally be "no") It is here you want him to talk, to tell you how he sees the problem, therefore you use an open-end or opinion type question.

The subject of the first questions should be aimed at the prospects desire's, wants and motives.

A few prospects may have taken time to have thought out,just what they do want but most of them are vague and fuzzy. The customer while answering the salesmen will in fact be talking to himself. The longer he talks more and more he discovers about the desires he really does have.

The salesmen keeps encouraging the prospect to keep on talking and he keeps on listening.

This brings us to the second major technique in sales counselling.


Drs. Morgan and Strong say reinforcement is any reward,phrase or sign of approval.

The salesmen can give reinforcement by a simple nod of the head, or utter an agreement noise (ugh , ugh) or just an expression of interest on his face

He may also interrupt occasionally with a question, which essentially restates what the client has just said.

People find it hard to accept, that a person can control another persons speech by such methods but this is in fact the way the top salesmen do their selling. The best way to be convinced about this, is to try it out and see for yourself the effect it has.

With questions and reinforcement techniques to establish in the prospects mind his needs and wants, the salesmen can guide the prospect to the second stage of the motivational cycle.

You now ask questions that focus attention on his problems- emphasise his obstacles.

Remember the cavemen, his desires for self-preservation give rise to needs for food, warmth and safety. If you were checking his desires- First you would get him talking about his desire to stay alive, he would be able to get quite excited about that.

Then you would nod (reinforce) your way through all problems of getting food and he'd find plenty to say about these as well.

When you have really established his frustrations with these problems, you mention the ways that other cavemen are using a new contract that catches Game regularly without any danger, the odds are you will have him ready and willing to hear more.

Then you explain how this freedom from danger and the time spent chasing food will allow him to build that safer home.

You had better have one of those with you.

Thus you have completed the full cycle.

To Summarise :

1) Ask questions so that the prospect can discover what he wants.

2) Ask questions that will highlight the problem of filling those wants.

This creates internal frustration or point of purchase pressure.

The why, what and when, of asking questions is

1) We ask questions to make sure the prospect is participating in the interview, this is good human relations and communication.

2) We ask questions to flush out clues to the prospects desire's and motives This helps the prospect clarify his own desires and helps him discover them

3) Then ask questions to help them realise the problems he must solve before he can satisfy his needs.

4) Use plenty of reinforcement signs and signals to keep him talking and building up his desires and discovery.

5) Use plenty of restraint to keep on listening.

Quotation from Kipling “I kept six honest serving men They taught me all I knew Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who”

Sharpen up your Active Listening Skills

Just as everyday “speaking” is not the same as public speaking; “listening” is not the same as active listening.

Active listening means two things: analysis and response to the message being communicated.

As an active listener you will maintain eye contact and good posture with a slight lean towards the client.

During the clients responses, you will nod, smile and takes notes. Be aware that a pseudo listener, can adopt these behaviours. So a clients physical response does not necessarily mean good listening skills are at work.

Nonverbal communication, more than just the nod or smile, is important.

Gestures, appearance, timing, voice responses, facial expressions, spatial distance – all affect how the speaker is interpreted by the listener.

Especially in this age of such great cultural diversity, be courteous of others regardless of cultural, sexual or societal backgrounds.

If your client looks puzzled at your words, go back and explain yourself again in different words and re-establish a good communication exchange.

Note: a major part of active listening is paraphrasing. It’s not the same as summarizing.

A summary is a shortened version of the original message, focusing on the main point.

To paraphrase means to re-state the message in your own words. Paraphrase or restate what the speaker said in their own words, and summarize your main points.

A good listener is not the same thing as a silent listener. Good listeners ask questions, like, “Is this an accurate understanding of what you have said?” to let the speaker know that you have heard what he meant.
If you have questions or need advice about any aspect of selling please let me know or if you would like to receive more Successful Selling Secrets drop me an email

Ps:- I am writing more success secrets about Prospecting that apply to all types of Selling to business owners. I've had thousands of appointments,you can believe that what I tell you works! I will keep you posted on new info. Best wishes, Don.

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