Did you enjoy what you had
for dinner last night?
You are probably wondering
what that question has to do with sales. Bear with me a moment, and answer the
Now, pause a moment, and
think about what you did when you read that question. Your mind probably flashed
back to yesterday evening, and you saw a picture in your mind's eye of what
you had for dinner. Then you recalled your response to the dinner, and made
a judgment that you did or didn't enjoy it. Here's the point. I was able to
direct your thinking by asking you a question. You thought about what I wanted
you to think about, and you thought about it in the way I wanted. That's an
illustration of the power of a question. It directs an individual's thinking.
That's what makes asking
a good question the single most effective thing you can do with a customer.
A well-phrased, appropriately-timed question is your most powerful sales tool.
Here's what good questions
will do for you.
1. Good questions direct
your customer's thinking.
When you use a good question,
or a series of good questions, you penetrate your prospect's mind and direct
There is something in human
beings that makes it almost impossible not to think of the answer when we are
asked a question. I'm not sure whether it's something genetic, or whether we're
conditioned from birth to always think of the answer to a question. Here's an
illustration. I'll ask you a question, but I want you to not think of the answer.
How old are you? If you're like most of us, you thought of the answer, even
after I indicated you shouldn't.
Now, consider where the
decision to buy your products or services takes place. It happens in the mind
of your customer. A good question from you helps focus and shape the direction
in which your customer's mind works.
For example, suppose you're
shopping for a new car. The salesperson asks you, "Which is more important to
you, good fuel economy, or quick pickup?" Until asked, you haven't really thought
of it that way. The salesperson's question helps you understand what you really
think, and directs your mind along a certain course. Now that you're thinking
along that line, the conversation naturally proceeds based on the first answer.
Similarly, you perform a
service for your customers when you ask them good questions. Your questions
direct their minds along certain paths, and help them clarify their thinking.
2. A good question is
your best means of collecting the information that will help you construct a
How do you know what a customer
thinks, or what his/her situation is, unless you ask a question? If you're selling
a new surgical glove, for example, you first ask questions to discover the surgeon's
concerns so that you are able to point out the specific features of the glove
that meet those needs. Without first asking questions, you're reduced to working
on assumptions about the needs and interests of your customers.
You will do a far better
job of selling your products and services if you first use good questions to
understand your customer's needs and interests. Good questions help you to see
into the mind and heart of your customers, and equip you with the knowledge
necessary to make the sale.
3. Good questions build
The act of asking good questions
shows that you care about the person and his/her problems. The more questions
you ask about your customer, the more he/she feels your interest.
The law of reciprocity indicates
that the more interest you show in a customer, the more likely that customer
will be interested in you.
Did you ever attend a reception
or cocktail party, and meet someone who was very interested in you? Asked you
question after question about yourself? When you parted, you thought to yourself,
"What a great person." Why did you think that? Because of what he/she said?
Probably not. You thought the person was wonderful because he/she expressed
interest in you! And you formed that impression because of the questions they
asked of you. You can make use of this principle by asking good personal questions
of your customers and thereby building strong relationships.
4. Good questions convey
the perception of your competence.
In other words, your customer
sees you as competent and trustworthy -- not necessarily by what you say --
but rather by what you ask.
Here's an illustration.
Suppose you have a problem with your car. You take it into the mechanic down
the street and say to him, "My car is making a funny sound." He says to you,
"OK, leave it here and pick it up at five."
You're not reassured by
his approach, so you take it to the mechanic across the street. You say the
same thing to him. And he says to you, "What kind of sound?" You reply, "A strange
thumping sound." And he says "Is it coming from the front or the back of the
car?" And you say, "It's coming from the front." And he asks, "Is it a metallic
kind of sound or a rubber kind of sound?" You reply, "It's definitely metallic."
And he says,"Does it go faster when you go faster and slower when you go slower,
or is it the same speed all the time?" You respond, "It definitely speeds up
as I do." Then he says, "OK, leave it here and pick it up at five."
Which mechanic seems to
be the more competent? That's easy. Obviously, the one who asked more questions.
Got the idea? The focus
and precision of your questions does more to give your customer the perception
of your competence than anything else. Every one of your customers wants to
feel that the sales person he/she is dealing with is competent. You convey that
perception by asking good questions about the details of your customers' needs
Mastering the use of good
questions -- the salesperson's single most powerful interpersonal tool -- in
every aspect of your sales interactions will dramatically improve your results.