A good sales person will answer a question with a question. For example, completely out of the blue, the buyer says, “Can you give us a discount?” The seasoned seller curiously but firmly asks, “Why?” Here’s another non-sales example: “Should we hold the Parents Day in the afternoon or morning?” the principal asks the School’s Board of Management. Not being involved in the day to day running of the school, nor being a teacher himself, but still needing to make a decision, the new Chairman asks, -“What’s the upside and downside of each?”

In both instances, more information is revealed. In the former instance, the buyer does not see the assertive monosyllabic response coming. He had hoped to put the seller on the defensive but the question, “Why?” instantly turns the tables, and buyer suddenly finds himself on the defensive. He needs to justify why. Quite likely he can’t despite his mumbling a response. In the second example, the Chairman discovers that historically mornings have dismally low parent attendance, but parents find it easier to get the afternoon off from work. Suddenly, making an informed decision becomes blindingly easier.

Answer a question with a question

How do you answer a question with a question?

To answer a question with a question, stay intelligently stupid (willing to learn) and use open-ended sales questions. In the two examples shared, even the one-word question, “Why” is open ended. You can’t give a yes or no response to it. You have to explain yourself; to justify your answer. Potential buyers that ask questions (any questions) are giving you buying signals (‘Kiss me now’). Avoid answering immediately but use their question as an opportunity to get more details, and move closer to the close.

But, ‘Can you answer a question with a question?’ you indignantly wonder. ‘Is it not rude?’ Not in selling, and if the timing is right, it’s not, and not when you are in the thick of a sales pitch.  If you avoid answering a question with a question you could easily take a detour that leaves you miles off the mark. Imagine, if the Chairman, thinking he’ll look ignorant, not in authority, and knowing mornings serve him better, had quickly responded to the question, by assertively stating, “Morning.”  The event would have been a failure. And if asking, “Why?” as in the example shared feels rude to you, grow into it; trying permission selling,  start with, “Would you mind if I ask, why?”

Why sales people don’t do it

And right here is the reason many salespeople don’t answer a question with a question. Fear: “I’ll appear rude,”; “What if I look ignorant?”; “What if the buyer gets angry?”; “I might lose the sale?” And fear is a killer in sales. Not only does it stump your sales growth it compromises the sale. Asking great sales questions in response to a question, offers alternatives, sheds light and breaks stalemates.  You move from average problem solving to superior problem identification. So show confidence instead.

For example, to the question, especially when the close is imminent, “Do you have another property like this one?” overbearing as the force to say yes is (assuming that’s true), keep your emotions in check. Try instead: “Were you looking to buy two?” Do not be surprised when the self-actualising buyer says: “No. I want to make sure I’m the only one with this kind.”


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