Secret Selling Tips - Article

Asking the ‘right’ questions and finding qualified customers
by Bob 'Idea Man' Hooey


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A "Secret" note for Business Owners and Sales Managers

Asking the ‘right’ questions
and finding qualified customers

by Bob 'Idea Man' Hooey

In the selling game, getting the correct answer – ‘YES!’ can be a simple process of knowing what questions to ask.

The better you draw out your prospects and discover their real needs and wants, the better chance you have of setting up a relationship that becomes a series of yes’s and results in ongoing business. Taking the time to dig is the foundation of the true sales professional that is looking at each prospect in terms of total lifetime value, not just a one-time sale.

Questioning or probing skills

• ‘Probing’ is defined in the dictionary as use of a probe (an instrument) to penetrate, usually for the purpose of measuring and investigating.
• As an action verb, ‘to probe’ means to interview, to ask questions and listen, to observe, to study, etc

Probing allows you to accomplish some very important things:

• It enables you to discover what the prospect wants and the conditions under which they will buy what you are selling.
• It keeps you from wasting too much time on prospects that will not, or cannot buy what you are selling under any conditions, or under conditions, which are profitable for you.
• It enables you to discover needs you can ‘profitably’ meet and suggest ways to meet them to the prospect.
• It enables prospects to identify, clarify, and express their wants and needs.

It is important to understand the difference between your customers expressed and unexpressed wants and needs.

Often, Wants are the impulse that incite their Needs.

Point to Ponder:

"We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know enough to get by. Every question we answer leads to another question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
Desmond Morris


Customer needs generally share these common characteristics:

Rational – they are rational and it makes sense to satisfy them as they relate to the customer’s career, living conditions, health, financial success, appearance or which ever issue your product addresses.
Surface – they exist as a top of mind or surface image for your customers. They are aware of them and can discuss them openly with you.
Fact-oriented – Needs are a matter of fact. They are based in ‘reality’, not in theory or conjecture. An intelligent analysis of the customer’s situation will unearth them for discussion.


Customer wants are very different than customer needs:

Emotional – Wants are personal and emotional. They are independent of your product and service. Customers carry them around like baggage. Some are obvious while others hide.
Below the surface – Customers don’t often reveal their wants easily. As a selling professional you have to dig below the surface to find them.
Perception-oriented – Rather than being fact oriented (like needs), Wants are generally embedded or tied into a customer’s perception.

As selling professionals we need to tap into our customer’s wants to create that emotional bond which helps make the sale.

Thinking beyond the ‘First’ Sales (coming late spring 2007) will outline 51 reasons why people buy. Preparation leads to success in selling.

Finding Qualified Buyers

Qualified buyers have an immediate or impending need for your product or service, have the authority to make the purchase, and will be receptive to buying it from you.

See ‘Finding Your Ideal Customer’ for more information on how to qualify prospects. Visit our website at for a series of articles to enhance your selling career and business skills.

Here are some questions to add to your professional selling tool kit for the various situations in which you will operate with your customers.

Information gathering

What sparked your interest to explore this purchase or _________?
What expectations or requirements do you have for this product or service?
What criteria or decision making process do you go through to determine your needs? How do you see this happening?
At its best, what would you like to see accomplished?
Can you help me understand that a little better?
What does that mean?
How does that process work now?
What other items should we discuss as we explore how we can help you?


What would you see as the next action steps?
Do you have a timeline for implementing/ purchasing this type of service/ product? Can you tell me more about it?
What other data or discussion points should we know before moving forward?
What budget has been established for this?
What are your thoughts?
Who else is involved in this decision?
What has changed or occurred since we last talked?
What additional concerns do you have?

Establishing rapport, trust & credibility

How did you get involved in ___________?
What kind of challenges are you facing?
What’s the most important priority to you with this ______? Why?
What other issues are important to you?
What would you like to see improved?
How do you measure that?

The secret to qualifying buyers is to find out what they want most, and then give them what they want. That happens when you show genuine interest and ask open-ended questions that draw them out. You need to discover what they will buy, why they will buy, when they will buy, and under what conditions they will take that action.

Most ‘inexperienced’ selling staff make the ‘fatal’ mistake of focusing on what ‘they’ want from the prospect. It is what the customer wants that fuels the sale and your success in selling.

Taking a customer centred, value-added approach, enhanced by active listening skills and skilful use of questions to draw out information will be your key to long-term success and generating repeat buyers.

Good selling!

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© 2007 Bob ‘Idea Man’ Hooey All rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Bob ‘Idea Man’ Hooey is a productivity strategist, creativity catalyst and idea farmer who regularly writes for North American Consumer and Trade Journals, on-line magazines and company intranets. He is the author of ten business success books including two on selling, a mini-book series, four success systems and an e-book series. Bob was the 48th person in the history of Toastmasters International to earn their coveted professional level Accredited Speaker designation. Bob is a motivational, business and association keynote conference speaker and executive leadership coach. He is a professional member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and the International Federation for Professional Speakers. Visit his website for additional articles like this one:

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