How To Ask Questions to Sell More Clients

by Pam Lontos

When you begin like this, you have just sabotaged your own sale, set yourself up to be lied to and didn’t find out if the client is interested in what you said. Too many salespeople do this. They see a client and talk immediately about their product or service and what they think the client needs. Imagine, instead, you go in to see a client, you find their primary buying motive, and show them what you have is right for them. Wouldn’t it be an easier sale? You should never assume you know the client’s wants and needs. People buy for their reasons, not yours. Find out their reasons before you start selling. The person asking the questions is the person in control. So you should ask questions at the beginning and then listen. Clients will give you information you can use later to sell them. The more clients talk, the more they think they are in control and safe. They remove self-imposed barriers by talking. By asking questions, you have established a sharing atmosphere rather than a selling one. When questions are correctly used, the client does not feel grilled by the salesperson; the client feels he is being taken care of by a friend, a consultant – a person who cares, someone who genuinely wants to solve his problems.

Before you start selling, you should ask question designed to:

1. Find the client’s hot button and/or problem
By finding this, you will know how to slant your presentation to hit the client’s hot button, and which benefits of your product or service will solve his problem. Eighty percent of your presentation should be geared toward the client’s main buying motive. When you do this, the client is easy to close because you have raised his desire high enough that he wants to buy from you. You have found and filled his needs. Also, since 80% of sales is emotion, you must get the client excited enough to make the sale easy to close. The hot button is the end result of what they want to happen.

2. Uncover or eliminate objections up front, before you start your presentation
Then, later in the presentation, when you go to close, the client can’t tie things up with false objections. A good way to handle objections before your presentation is illustrated in this example from health club sales: The salesperson knows the customer could claim it’s the wrong location, has no time or has to ask the spouse, etc. So instead, before the presentation, the salesperson asks:

Did you chose this location because you live close or work nearby? Oh, only five minutes away. So, location is no problem.
Do you have 30 minutes, three times per week, to lose that 20 pounds and firm your hips and stomach to look good at your high school reunion?
What would your spouse like to see you achieve? (Client answers.) Great! So, your spouse supports you? (Client: “Yes.”) When it comes to your own body, are you allowed to make your own decisions?

By answering these questions, the client cannot lie to the salesperson later because she has already admitted these are not objections. This should be done before the client can get power by saying the objection first. Here are some examples of questions you can ask the client before you start your presentation that will eliminate an objection. Just mix them into your hot button questions while doing your consultant sell:

I buy only from your competitor.
Question that will eliminate it up front:
If I could show you that we provide a better product and save you money, would you buy from us instead?

Your price is too high.
Question that will eliminate it up front:
What’s more important, quality or price?

I don’t have a credit card.
Question that will eliminate it up front:
If you bought today, would you use your company credit card or a personal card?

I’ll think about it.
Question that will eliminate it up front:
If you like the ideas I propose today, could you make a decision today?

I need to talk to my partner.
Question that will eliminate it up front:
If you think something is a good idea, can you make a decision without your partner?

3. Get the client to commit to buying from you if you can solve his problem When you close after solving his problem, eliminating his objections and showing him value with benefits, the client is open to buying. People stay consistent with what they have said earlier. If you get someone to say he will buy if you solve his problem, then he can allow himself to buy later.

4. Get the client to say he wants what you have before you tell him what you have If you’ve done this, then when you show the benefits of your product or service, the client can’t lie and say he doesn’t want it. For example, in radio advertising sales, if you go in to sell a client and you say your station reaches the 18-34 year olds, the client can lie and say that he needs to reach older demographics. Then, another radio salesperson comes in to see that same client on the same day, and he says he has a 35-plus audience. The client will reverse what he said to you and now say their audience is too old. You must stop the client from lying to you if you want to get the order. So, get them to commit to all the benefits you are going to present before you present them.

To do this, you ask questions before you start your presentation such as:

      Describe your typical customer.
      What do you want from our service?
      What is the biggest problem you currently face?
      What other problems do you have with that?
        What do you like most about the product or service you are now using?
      What would you like to change?

Write down any answers the client gives you that fit the benefits of your product or service, so when you give your presentation, you are not pushing the client into what he does not want. You are instead simply giving him what he already said he wanted. If the client says he needs something different from what your company has (and you truly believe your company can still benefit him), you can sell him by guiding him to admit he could use your product or service. In other words, if you can’t sell him what he needs, sell him what he lacks.

Client: My bank buys commercials on radio stations which reach 45-plus adults.
Salesperson: So what you’re missing are all of the 25-45 adults with high-paying jobs who have not established an allegiance to any bank yet. You would like their money also, wouldn’t you?
Client: Yes.
Salesperson: You are already reaching 45-plus with the other station and your newspaper.
Now with my station, we can bring you additional customers you are missing. You would like that, wouldn’t you?

Remember, all of the above is done before you start your presentation! Listening to the client gives you the ammunition you need to sell him It also shows that you care about his problem. People are starving to find someone to talk to about their problems. Of course, they also want people who can help solve these problems.

Ask questions
Then, listen when the client tells you his wants and needs. Listen to the words the client uses, then repeat these same words back later when you close. If you do this, the client will feel you understand his problem and will be able to see how your company will fit his needs and solve the problem. People trust people like themselves. When you repeat back words they use, they trust and believe you more. Remember, 80 percent of your presentation should be directed towards the client’s hot button. The hot button is the end result which the client wants to get.


Hot Button Questions

      What do you want in a car stereo?
      What do you look for in a car?
      What do you want to happen when you use our service?

Listen to the answers and then jot down the client’s key words (adjectives and adverbs) to use later when you close the sale. These are the words that the client relates to and words that define his needs. When you use them, the client will relate better to you and trust you .

After the client answers a question such as, “What are you looking for in a home?” say, “What do you mean by that?” Example:
Salesperson: What are you looking for in a new home?
Client: I need at least four bedrooms. Also, I like high, spacious ceilings in my living room with lots of windows that let in a lot of light. I must have ample closet space, and I need to be close to a school.
Salesperson: What do you mean by lots of windows?
Client: Floor to ceiling is best for me.
Salesperson: What do you mean close to a school?
Client: Less than a mile so my children can walk.
Salesperson: What do you mean by ample closet space?
Client: I want to have walk-in closets.

Later, when you close, you say:
“This home is great for you. It has four large bedrooms with walk-in closets. Also, the living room has high ceilings with five floor-to-ceiling windows that let in a lot of light. The school is only seven blocks away, so your children can easily walk. It’s perfect, isn’t it?”

Salesperson: What are you looking for in a car?
Client: I need good gasoline mileage and plenty of trunk space because I travel throughout the Southern California area in my business. I also want it to have a sporty look, and I love the color red.
Salesperson: What do you mean by good gasoline mileage?
Client: At least 30 miles per gallon.
Salesperson: Also, exactly how much trunk space do you need?
Client: Enough to hold four large boxes and my suitcase.

Later, when you close, you say:
“This car gets good gasoline mileage – over 30 miles per gallon. You can see that it has plenty of trunk space. This trunk will easily hold the four boxes and one suitcase of yours. Don’t you love its sporty look, and it is a gorgeous color of red?”

Remember, the client’s idea of good service may be totally different from your idea. You must fulfill the type of service the client wants in order to sell him and keep the account long term. Don’t spend time talking about the benefits of your company that the client is not interested in. If you sell to the client’s priorities, then you will have his attention and raise his desire to buy. You must be in control to sell – not let the client control you. The key is knowing how to question. Learn proper questioning, and you can easily double your sales.

Copyright © 1998 by Pam Lontos. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Pam Lontos is president of PR/PR, a public relations firm based in Orlando, FL. She is the co-author of I See Your Name Everywhere and is a former Vice President of Sales for Disney’s Shamrock Broadcasting in charge of 8 radio and 2 TV stations. PR/PR has placed clients in USA Today, Entrepreneur, Time, CNN, Reader’s Digest, and Cosmopolitan. Clients include Brian Tracy, LeAnn Thieman (author of Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul, Second Dose), and Sy Sperling (founder of Hair Club for Men). They also work with professionals who are just launching their company.

You can contact Pam at:

Pam Lontos, President
775 S. Kirkman Rd., Ste. 104
Orlando, FL 32811
(407) 299-6128
Fax (407) 299-2166
[email protected]