For More Sales Success, Ask the Right Questions

By Anthony Cole – 

Asking the right question is always key to getting the right information. According to WIKI HOW, sales people spend too much time “pitching” and not enough time asking questions.  


This practice also applies to real life.  Let me illustrate.   


My brother-in-law Mike and I spend some time together–fishing. We don’t talk about his printing business or our business helping sales people achieve sales success.  We spend time fishing, although with little success.   

Mike called me recently and asked, “What does the 4th of July look like?” I replied, “It looks like the 5th, but a day earlier and it also looks like the 3rd, but a day later.” Of course, Mike didn’t really want to know “what the 4th looked like”; he wanted to know what we had planned for the 4th.  But he didn’t ask the right question and I didn’t give him the right answer.


This happens often in the selling process. You ask a question that isn’t well worded and get an answer you weren’t expecting.  


Asking the right question takes some forethought.  As you plan for your next call with a prospect, consider the following.  According to Seth Godin, people make decisions when something is happening to them that is not consistent with their worldview. Only when they are compelled to change, will they change.  They will not change because your pricing went down or your benefits went up.  They will change when they are ready to change.


In the sales process, when you want to know if someone is really committed to making a change, you need to ask this question: “Do you want to fix the problem or do you have to fix the problem?” Notice the words “want” or “have”. “Want” means desire (not commitment) and “have to” means need.  


The other question is “What happens if you don’t fix the problem?” The answer of a committed prospect will indicate a “need”, not a desire. You are looking for need.


As a salesperson, you also need to know if the prospect has money to fix the problem. You must ask the right question.  “Do you have the budget to fix the problem?” is not the right question.  “How much money will you invest to fix the problem?” is a better question. Or “Where will you find $25,000 to fix this problem and can you get that money?” are the right questions.


As you near the close in the sales process, “Can you make a decision to do this?” is not the right question. There are still many unknowns. You must find out about the decision making process- who is involved in the decision, when it will be made, who wins if there is a “tie” and how the prospect will handle firing the incumbent, if there is one.  


Here are three more great questions to gain clarity about commitment and the next steps in the sales process:


“Do you think I understand your problem?”

“Do you think I can help?”

“Do you want my help?”


There is no doubt that asking the right question, whether on a sales call or about your next fishing trip, is critical.  If you want the right answer, ask the right question. 

As a former educator and university coach, Anthony has helped individuals improve their game by significantly and tactically changing their behavior.  He focuses on helping people and organizations achieve their personal best.  He can be reached at (877) 635-5371 or