Profit-Point 11:

Conquer with questions.

Chocolate or vanilla?

Aisle or window?

Will you marry me?

Work or play?

Would you like to super size to large fries?

Questions! Every day, we ask and answer hundreds of ‘em! Personally and professionally. And after doing it, especially asking them, you’d think one would be pretty good at it. Well, here’s the bad news. Most sales people are pitiful probers.

When I ask sales people to share with me a “dynamic dozen” of their top twelve open-ended need development questions, they stare at me like I’m nuts. And when I request they recite them devoid of ums or ahs and without any sense of hesitation, reluctance or delay, they start throwing stuff at me!

Your ability to question or probe, is one of your most important and profit-producing sales tools.

Yet all too often, salespeople assume their success is dependent upon their ability to master their “pitch, spiel or presentation.” It’s not!

While that’s a part of the sales process, in the long run, your investigative or questioning skills is the most direct route to help you achieve new levels of success and profitability.

The discovery, questioning or probing process enables you to:

  • uncover what problems your customer or prospect has to solve
  • what needs they’d like to fill and
  • what dreams they’d like to realize

This strategy gives you tremendous insight into one’s likes and dislikes, sense of commitment, budget, expectations and objectives.

Failure to properly assess these things, causes most salespeople to flounder. And they wonder why. Their assumptions are:

“Gee, I must be a poor closer.”

“I guess I need more product knowledge.”

“I knew that customer was just browsing anyway!”

Assumptions and excuses like these have no place in the probe, prosper and results process.

There’s only room for value-driven principles and knowledge. Knowledge of your customers, clients, prospects, industry, products and marketplace. Remember, knowledge pays handsome dividends. And the best way to obtain knowledge about others, is with effective questioning.

As a radio and TV broadcaster, the real success of my interviews depends not upon my speaking ability, but upon my ability to question. Questions gave me the opportunity to explore a guest’s feelings, attitudes and opinions. Exactly like the sales interview.

Yet, it requires preparation. Lots of it.

You can’t wing it!

Before every meeting with a prospect or client, (in-person or over the phone), I prepare. How? First and foremost, with a list of key questions. Clients even kid me a the start of a meeting, “Jeff, how many questions you got for today’s discussion?”

Questions allow you to discover whether a customer or prospect has a motivated or unmotivated need. Somebody with a motivated need, has a problem to solve. An unmotivated need, no matter how eloquent your sales presentation, is unlikely to lead to a sale. Why? Because the prospect has no “pain” to diminish, problem to solve or dream to realize.

© Blackman & Associates, LLC

Profit-Point 14:

The answer is in the question!

Power probing, interviewing or discovery techniques will have a dramatic impact on your bottom line and earnings. You shouldn’t begin to suggest or solve before you’ve asked or analyzed.

When I meet a prospective client for the first time, they often ask me, “How can you help us?” My response is, “I don’t know, at this point, I’m really not sure. Because it’s likely your needs are different and unique, in comparison to others I’ve helped. Therefore, would it be okay to ask you just a few questions to better understand your unique needs and specific concerns?” No one has ever said “No!”

To maximize your results, during your probing or discovery process, here are six profit-producing tips:

  1. Let your prospects and customers know you need to ask questions, so you can better help them.
  2. Always ask for their permission or okay before you start the “probing process.”
  3. When your prospects, clients and customers are talking, don’t interrupt.
  4. Take lots of notes. There’s great credibility in the printed word, especially when the words belong to your prospect or customer. Words not written are words forgotten. (A law school professor of mine used to say, “An oral contract is as good as the paper it’s written on!”) Also, be sure to ask for permission to take notes. The reason you ask for their approval or okay, is you want them to be comfortable, trusting and willing to share information. If you suddenly pull out a legal pad and start scribbling away, others could become reluctant and unwilling participants. Usually, I’ll say something like, “I don’t want to miss a word of what you’re saying, this is really good stuff, would you mind if I jot down some notes.” No body has ever said, “No!” And people have literally handed me their pens and legal pads.
  5. Converse, don’t interrogate. There’s no need to play Sergeant Joe Friday of Dragnet fame, “The facts ma’am, just the facts.” Instead, follow the example of actor Peter Falk’s famous TV character, Detective Columbo. His questions were asked almost apologetically. They seemed harmless. However, they uncovered information that always led to a solved case. Your “case” can best be solved by in essence never “presenting your case.” Rather, let your decision makers “present their case” by responding to your skillfully asked questions.
  6. Jot down your key need-development questions, so they become automatic. Put them on a 3×5 card or even record them. Burn a CD. Keep them close to your phone. In your briefcase. Taped to your car’s visor. In your car’s audio/CD player, wherever they’ll serve as a constant reminder that questions seldom fail to secure a sale.

© Blackman & Associates, LLC

Profit-Point 16:

When is it over?

I often ask clients and workshop participants, “How do you know when you’ve finished the probe or discover stage? Their typical responses are:

“When you’ve run out of questions.”

“When the customer wants to see what you’ve got.”

“When you think you know all there is to know.”

“When they start asking you questions.”

All of these answers are logical, but not correct. Why? Because it ain’t over, ‘til the customer says it’s over!

Before I ever begin to reveal or show a client how I can help them, I inquire (at what I think is the likely end of the probe or discover stage), with this question, “What other information would you like to share with me, before I suggest some results-strategies and creative solutions in an action plan?”

If their response is “Can’t think of anything else, you’ve got it all.” then and only then do I move on to the next step, i.e., scheduling the next meeting to present an action plan and seek commitment. If they want to share even more information, I respectfully and intently listen.

© Blackman & Associates, LLC

P.I.T. Stop

P Provocative or Playful
I Inspirational or Informational
T Thoughts or Theories

Best assumptive question I’ve ever heard:

“Welcome to Krispy Kreme, home of the fresh, hot, glazed doughnut. How many dozen would you like?”

“The art of learning is the art of reading with questions.”

Sheldon Nahmod, one of my law school professors

© Blackman & Associates, LLC

Profit Pillar III: Winning Words & Wallet Wisdom →

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Jeff is a Hall of Fame speaker, best selling author, success coach, broadcaster and lawyer. His clients call him a “business-growth specialist.” If you hire speakers, please contact Sheryl Kantor at: 847.998.0688 or [email protected]. And visit to learn more about his other business-growth tools and to subscribe to Jeff’s FREE e-letter, The Results Report. Jeff’s books include; Stop Whining! Start Selling!, (an Amazon Bestseller), and the revised 4th edition of the bestselling Peak Your Profits. You can also stay connected with Jeff via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter: @BlackmanResults