Selling Power Magazine Article

The Power of the Right Question at the Right Time
Nido r. Qubein
Questions are powerful selling tools. By asking questions, you give the customer an opportunity to get involved. You also give yourself an information gathering tool to help you close the sale.

The wrong questions can cause a person to react negatively to you. Even the right questions, asked in the wrong way, or at the wrong time, can put a prospect off. When questions are asked at the right time and the right place, however, they are powerful tools for raising customer response level.

I once heard about a barber who, after a hell fire and damnation sermon, became a convert. The next day, he wanted to convert all of his customers. He lathered up his first customer's face, stroked his straight razor on its honing strap, put the razor to his customer's throat and asked, "Are you prepared to meet God?"

Little wonder that the fellow jumped up and ran out of the barbershop with lather on his face! There's a right time, and a right place, and a right way to ask questions. The barber chose wrong on every count!

Below are six important ways questions help you sell:

First, you can discover very important information to help you lead the sale to a successful close. You may discover that you're talking to the wrong person.

Second, if you ask careful questions, you can help the prospect make some useful discoveries. If someone says, "I don't believe in life insurance," ask, "Why?" By answering self-revealing questions, the prospect may dismiss his own apprehensions and become increasingly aware of his needs for increased protection.

Third, asking questions and actively listening to responses demonstrate a genuine interest in the customer. You get involved with your prospect, create trust and reduce tension if you are sincere. Your image changes from invader to guest.

Fourth, asking questions gets your prospects involved. They become active participants in the sales interview and help you sell.

Fifth, when you ask questions, you create the opportunity to discover and correct misconceptions you might have about the client or erroneous information the client might have received.

Sixth, through two-way communications you can monitor the tension level and test the bond of trust between yourself and the client. Dialogue helps you time all elements of the presentation and the close.

Here are some guidelines that have been tested thoroughly and proven effective by top-flight salespeople in all fields.

Guideline #1: Start with broad questions and move toward more specific ones. Open-ended questions are less threatening at the beginning of an interview, when you have not fully established the bond of trust.

"Tell me a little about your new house, Mrs. Brown." That's the kind of question that might start a customer talking about her general need for furniture or accessories. It can be a very revealing way to start the conversation. If she is proud of what she has, it opens the door for her to brag. If she's dissatisfied with her existing furnishings, she can express her need for new items.

Guideline #2: Ask. Then shut up and listen! The customer can't talk while you're talking. And, you don't learn while you're talking. Don't just get quiet and try to think up what you're going to say next. Listen to every word the prospect says!

Guideline #3: Keep questions simple and focused. Use one idea at a time. Pursue each topic to its logical conclusion. Target your questions.

Guideline #4: Ask sensitive questions in a non-threatening way! "How much were you planning to spend on a car?" is better than "How much can you afford to put into a car?" If you must ask a sensitive question, explain why. People will answer even touchy questions if they understand why they are asked. If you must ask a very personal question, always explain why.

Guideline #5: Always ask questions that are easy to answer! Studies show that people would rather answer a question when they agree, than to voice their objections. As you observe the customer and listen to his comments, you can sense his moods. Then you can ask a series of questions that (continued on page 2)
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