Ask prospects the right questions, then listen carefully to answers

Sarah noticed the middle-aged man as he walked into the dealership, looked around at the racks of literature, thumbed through one or two, and then headed toward the truck on display.  It was Sarah’s turn to approach the walk-in traffic.

As Sarah approached, the man turned, saw her and said, “Had some time, thought I’d look at what’s here.”

“Confused about options?” asked Sarah with her voice trailing off.

“That’s for sure.  You see these trucks on the road, and every one of them seems to be done up differently.”

“Understand.  By different, what do you mean?”

For the next three minutes, Sarah heard about how her prospect had seen every option available on this particular truck model.  She ended by saying, “So many choices.”

“So that’s not good … so many choices?” asked Sarah.

“No, no.  That way I can get it just the way I want.”

“Just the way you want . . . how’s that?”

“Definitely the leather interior, ABS, back-up cameras . . . ” and went on.

“No other reasons for looking at a truck?”

The prospect then took a good two minutes explaining why a truck would be just perfect. At the conclusion, Sarah asked, “So, since your wife will be driving it most of the time, it’s her decision?”

“Actually, she told me what she wants and left the rest up to me.  Like the MP3 player.”

“What would you like me to do?” asked Sarah, then waiting for however long it took to get an answer.

“Well, I suppose I should ask if you have one here with the stuff I want and how much?”

“Makes sense.  Before I forget, I’m Sarah Hastings.”

“I’m George Turner.”

As Sarah and George headed over to Sarah’s desk, Sarah said, “I appreciate your stopping in … why did you come here and not somewhere else?”

“I heard that you have excellent service.”

“Ah,” responded Sarah, “so service is how important?”

“Service is extremely important.”

The result:

Sarah has a better-than-average chance of closing this sale because she became a sponge soaking up the answers to questions that she asked based on what the prospect said.


Many salespeople are so caught up in coming across as knowledgeable and friendly that they lose sight of what the prospect experiences when the salesperson comes over and says, “May I help you?” The prospect comes in, regardless of the type of business, with some idea of what she wants to buy.  But because most don’t know exactly, the prospect is also dealing with uncertainty and experiencing insecurity.  No one likes or enjoys being uncertain or insecure.

How does the prospect view the salesperson at this point?  As someone who is going to put him on the spot, make him admit his ignorance and then get money out of him. “May I help you?” The prospect takes the path of least resistance, tacitly acknowledges his uncertainty and insecurity and says in so many words, “I’m not sure what I want to buy, but I do know I want to spend the least amount possible.”

Now the salesperson moves in to “rescue” the prospect from this unpleasant situation by providing all of the answers.  At various points in the answer segment, the salesperson tries to close. Prospect resisting?  Keep giving answers to “reel-in” and “rescue” the sale. This approach works sometimes.  Most often it doesn’t.  Since most often it doesn’t work, why keep doing it?


Let the prospect work her own way out of the uncertainty and insecurity.  Don’t rescue someone who is floundering.  Let the prospect clarify why she is there. “Confused by the choices (models, options, colors, styles, etc)?” you ask. “Kind of … I’ve read a lot.  I’m not sure what I want .… exactly.” “Perhaps this would help …  the last time you bought … what was it that was important?” By you asking questions, based on what the prospect says, you assist the prospect out of uncertainty and insecurity. She rescues herself.  As a result, she feels you aren’t pushy, overbearing, or only interested in his money.  You become a sponge to her concerns.


Who’s the one buying?  You or the prospect?  Whose concerns count?  Yours or the prospect’s?

Bob Bolak is president of Sandler Training. He can be reached at 303-579-1939 or