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The Art of Sales Success, Ask Questions – Guest, Art Gould

By November 17, 2010March 27th, 2018No Comments
two executives, one male and one female, at a long conference table, female asking questions of male as he is on his laptop

When I was younger, I always thought the easiest job in the world was being a salesman. I loved to talk. “What could be easier?” I thought, than to take that new toy I just got for my birthday and tell everyone how great it was. Heck, I always did that anyway. I could pester people and talk to them forever about something I liked. And if I ever did run out of words, I could follow up by spending twice as much time showing them how wonderfully it worked.

When I got older, guess what happened? You guessed it; I became a salesman. I soon learned I could not have been more wrong about the best way to go about making a sale. My preconceived formula for selling (talk about the product, show them the product, and then watch them happily walk away with the product while I count my money) was ineffective and a recipe for disaster for someone who really wanted to become a good salesperson.

I started to notice that some of my peers were a lot more successful than others. When I watched various sales techniques, I began to see a common denominator among those who made the most sales–questions!

“a common denominator among those who made the most sales–questions!”

The best salespeople were asking questions. These were not just any questions–they were thoughtful ones. They were not simply a long series of questions requiring “yes” answers in the hope the final answer would also be “yes”. They were good, quality questions.

So what exactly are “good quality questions?”

Well, I started to use some common sense. How can you sell something to a customer without first finding out what makes the customer tick? The more I actually began dealing with real customers, the more I realized the importance of establishing an initial bond with them.

I asked them questions about themselves…open-ended questions, which did not require simple yes or no answers. Instead they engaged the customer in a dialogue where he/she was an interested participant instead of a passive sales target. And then, most importantly of all, I shut my mouth and listened to their answers.

“I shut my mouth and listened to their answers.”

As I did this, I realized the gold mine that lay in front of me. I was not only building a foundation of trust between the customer and myself but at the same time I was learning a lot about my customers:  what motivated them, what they were feeling at this particular time in their lives, and what they needed.
This strategy has the customer reaching the point where he is telling both of us, me and even more importantly, himself, what his problems are. In many cases these are problems my customer never really articulated before. If I had articulated them to him, it could have been perceived as me giving a sales pitch. The fact that the customer himself is doing the talking, increases the value ten-fold.


This is where my job becomes easy because all I need to do now is gently guide the customer towards the solution to his problem. Once again, instead of making statements, I ask a few well-formed questions! And, of course, I supplement them with a heavy dose of listening!

These questions simply plant a seed in the customer’s mind; an image of the customer’s problems being answered and the product I happen to be selling being the main ingredient in the solution.

Most of the time I not only get the sale, I also have the gratitude and lasting trust of my new client for helping him/her find the right answers.

To summarize:

  • Ask questions to find out as much as possible about the customer
  • Let the customers to do most of the talking. Simply reinforce and gently steer so they articulate their problems
  • Listen! And then listen some more!
  • Ask questions that cause the customer to visualize the solution with the product I am selling as the solution’s centerpiece

Art Gould is a division manager with Self Storage Company. In an effort to boost sales, he has tried many different sales strategies and has found that those that create the most dialogue with consumers are often the most successful. 

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