Question Right and Sink Your Teeth Into Sales Success

Excerpted from Chapter 3 of “How to Master the Art of Selling” by Tom Hopkins

One of the things I find in most salespeople is that they have a tendency to talk too fast, too much, and try to control every conversation. That’s probably where the stereotypical image of a salesperson as pushy originated. Champion sales professionals are just the opposite. They understand that God gave us two ears and one mouth and that those two organs should be used in that proportion. To be successful in selling, you need to learn to listen twice as much as you talk.

As we get into the types of questions professional salespeople use, it’s important that you realize why you need to master questioning skills.


First, you ask questions to gain and maintain control. Rather than letting potential clients take control of the conversation and provide important details in a random fashion, you gain and maintain control of the selling situation by asking questions that help you determine the best solution to the clients’ needs. Your questions must build on one another so the clients will follow your lead.

Second, you ask questions to indicate the broad areas they are interested in where you might be of service. You ask more questions to isolate the narrow area that is your best opportunity to serve them. Then you ask more questions to pinpoint the exact item you can provide, or the specific service you can render.

Third, you ask questions to get the minor yeses that will start the stream of minor agreements that will swell into the major river of acceptance of your proposition. If you get enough minor yeses, it will be tough for buyers to change course and say no to your product when it’s time to make the final decision.

Fourth, you ask questions to arouse and direct their emotions toward the purchase. Chapter 4 covers this in detail.

Fifth, you ask questions to isolate objections. Only in rare cases will a qualified and properly handled prospect voice all the standard objections to your offering; only a few objections will occur to, or be important to, any one client. By isolating the objections that are important to an individual client, and by handling those objections in a professional manner, the Champion knows that a qualified client won’t continue to come up with objections until every one ever dreamed of has been voiced. There will almost always be some objections. Knowing that, the Champion seeks them out with eagerness instead of avoiding them with fear.

Sixth, you ask questions to answer objections. Unquestionably, the finest way to answer an objection is with a question that, when the client answers it, affirms that the objection is of no consequence—or even is an advantage to the client.

Seventh, you ask questions to determine the benefits that the prospect wants to own. Yes, that’s right, benefits. People don’t really buy products and services; they buy the benefits they expect to receive by owning those products or services.

Eighth, you ask questions to acknowledge a fact. If you say it, they can doubt you; if they say it, they must believe it to be true.

Ninth, you ask questions that will confirm that (a) they are going ahead, and (b) you should now go on to the next step in your selling sequence.

Tenth, you ask questions that involve them in ownership decisions about your offering.

Eleventh, you ask questions to help your clients rationalize decisions that they want to make. You do this because you want them to make these decisions, too. Aren’t we all looking for someone to tell us that we need that new car, that we deserve the bigger house, that we’ll benefit from and be complimented on that new dress or suit? When we see that new electronic marvel, that glittering gadget, that sleek boat, aren’t we hoping someone will come along and explain to us how necessary it is that we have it? Don’t we all want someone to help us rationalize our desires and work out the logic that will prove our desires are sound? When our emotions shout, I want it, don’t we all crave support? Yes. That’s why you must ask questions to help your clients rationalize the decisions they want to make.

Twelfth, you ask the questions that close them on the purchase. Don’t make the mistake of concentrating solely on what you’re going to tell clients. Don’t overlook the vital importance of asking the right questions, and varying your methods to fit their answers.


Let’s think about truth for a moment. What is it? That question has been debated for thousands of years and there’s still no agreement. I’m not going to try to solve this problem in a philosophical sense. All I want to do is emphasize that, in everyday matters, truth is what people believe it is. If you believe that Snortfire High Octane is the only gasoline that’s fit to put in the sports car you love like a sweetheart, you’ll go out of your way to get it. You’ll be willing to pay more for it. The reality may be that a dozen other brands are better for your car; the truth is that you won’t put anything in your tank except Snortfire—not if you can help it.

So let’s agree that as a practical matter, truth is what we believe it is. I’m not being cynical; I’m simply being pragmatic. We may have the best product for our customer. Not only is it more durable and less costly, it has features no other make has. We know he needs our product’s exclusive features. That’s the reality. What’s the truth? That he won’t buy our better product unless he believes all these things.

How do we get him to believe what we know is true?

We can tell him. We can ram the facts down his throat whether he wants to listen or not. We can let him know how stupid we think he is because he won’t admit the truth of our statements.

We can do all that and he’s still not convinced. Why? Because we’ve told him. The professional salesperson operates on a different concept, one that’s simple and effective. Here it is:

That’s the bedrock concept of professional selling. It’s also the underlying concept for the successful use of leading questions. Salespeople who are guided by this concept never make their prospects think: You silver-tongued devil salesperson you. I know why you’re telling me that-to make me buy your proposition. Well, I just don’t have any faith in what you’re saying because I know your kind. You’ll say anything to make a sale.

When you’re standing there pumping out the facts to prospects, and you’re telling them how fantastic your product is, and you’re laying it on about features and the warranties—have you ever noticed how they’re pulling back? Have you seen their faces harden, their arms cross over their chests, their eyes start to dart this way and that? Have you noticed them either take a step backward, or lean backward in their chairs?

When that happens, you’re sending but they’re not receiving. You’ve lost them—they just haven’t vanished yet.

When professional salespeople talk, their purpose is to encourage prospects to say the things and ask the questions that will advance the sale. Let’s try a few:

“You’re interested in quality in the product you’re looking for, aren’t you?”

Now that, of course, is a yes-or-no question, but it’s not a say-no because people don’t reply, “No, don’t give me quality. I’m looking for something that’s a real piece of junk.”

Here’s another: “If you needed it, you’d like everything on the warranty to happen, wouldn’t you?”

“Certainly.” Is anyone going to say, “Oh no, I usually burn up warranties anyway. Who needs em? Just as long as it lasts till I get it home, I’ll be happy.”

“A reputation for professionalism is important, isn’t it?”

How many prospects will disagree with that? “Oh no, we don’t want to do business with professionals. I’d rather buy from someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

“Working with suppliers who value their reputations for reliability and integrity is important, isn’t it?”

“What? You have integrity? Get out of here.” People aren’t going to say that, are they?

That’s why professionals don’t tell people things, they ask questions. But let’s be careful. Don’t drop this book, dash out, and start firing queries at every breathing thing you see that might be a prospect.

Control your enthusiasm long enough to read the rest of this chapter.

As a general rule, it’s better to ask than to tell. But using questions powerfully is a bit more complicated than that.

Here’s what’s really effective and money making-good:

  • Ask the discovery questions that will reveal the benefits they’ll buy. That way you’ll know what specific products or services to close them on, and how to do it.
  • Ask the leading questions that will cause them to affirm their belief in what you want them to believe about your offering. If you say it, they tend to doubt you; if they say it, it’s true.

Note from Bob:  No matter what we do – You and I are in sales!  You can get Tom’s book “How to Master the Art of Selling” today by clicking HERE!

Tom Hopkins


Tom Hopkins is recognized as America’s #1 Sales Trainer and The Builder of Sales Champions. Over 5 million students on five continents have attended Tom Hopkins’ live seminars. His books on selling strategies and tactics have sold over 3 million copies and are considered must-have references for today’s top sales professionals.


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