Can You Close a Sale in Five Questions?

BY Jeffrey Gitomer
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Questions breed sales. Using questions to find facts is critical to creating an atmosphere in which a sale can be made.

Sales solutions are easy once you identify the prospect's problems.

The sale is most easily made once you identify the prospect's real needs.

Here is a questioning technique that can be used to qualify, identify true needs, and close the sale in five question–steps. For this example, let's say I'm selling printing.

(Have a note pad out and use it as the prospect responds.)

Question one: Mr prospect, how do you select a printer (variation how do you choose a printer)?

Prospect says, "Quality, delivery and price."

Question two: How do you define quality or What does quality mean to you? (ask the same "how do you define" question for all three responses of the "how do you choose" question).

The prospect will give you thoughtful answers. Many prospects have never been asked questions like these, and will be forced to think in new patterns. You may even want to ask a follow up question or create a tie-​down question here before going to step three. For example, the prospect says he defines quality as crisp clear printing. You ask "Oh, you mean printing that reflects the image of the quality of your company?"

How can a prospect possibly say no to that question?

Question three: Is that important to you or Is that most important to you or Why is that important to you?

This question draws out the true need of the prospect. Finding out what is important to them about printing, and why printing is important are the keys to closing the sale. There may be secondary or follow up questions to gain clear definition of what is important and why.

Question four: If I could deliver the quality you demand, so that the image in your printing reflects the image of your business to your customers, and I could do it in the time frame you require, at a reasonable (not the cheapest) price, would I be (variation: is there any reason I would not be) a candidate for your business?

Of course you would! This is a feedback question that combines the data found in the first three questions. It's the classic, "If I… would you…" question that makes the prospect commit. It actually quasi–closes the prospect. If there is a true objection (we have to get bids, someone else decides, I'm satisfied with my present vendor) it is likely to surface here.

Question five: Great! When could we begin? or Great! When is your next printing project?

The object of the fifth question is to pin the prospect down to a beginning date or time or quantity to start doing business. In many cases you can sell a sample order or trial. Where big ticket products are involved (copiers, computers), a puppy dog approach will work best (leave your product for the customer to use for a few days) or take the prospect to visit a satisfied customer and see your product in operation and get a live testimonial.

This is not hard sell it's heart sell. Good questions get to the heart of the problem/​need very quickly without the buyer feeling like he or she is being pushed. Use the questioning process early and often. If you're doing a lot of talking and the prospect is not – you're boring the prospect and losing the sale.

Looking for a few additional power question lead ins? Try these:

  • What do you look for…
  • What have you found…
  • How do you propose…
  • What has been your experience…
  • How have you successfully used…
  • How do you determine…
  • Why is that a deciding factor…
  • What makes you choose…
  • What do you like about…
  • What is one thing you would improve about…
  • What would you change about… (do not say "what don't you like about")
  • Are there other factors…
  • What does your competitor do about…
  • How do your customers react to…

To use questions successfully, they must be thought out and written down in advance.
Develop a list of 15–25 questions that uncover needs, problems, pains, concerns, and objections.
Develop 15–25 more that create prospect commitment as a result of the information you have uncovered.

Practice. After about 25 attempts at asking the right questions you'll begin to see the real rewards.

This is not hard sell, it's heart sell.
Good questions get to the heart of the problem/​need very quickly –
without the buyer feeling like he or she is being pushed.


I'll send you 10.5 Unstoppable Power Questions. These questions will get you the information you need to make a WOW! impression and make the sale. Just go to www​.gitomer​.com, register if you're a first time user and enter the word POWER in the GitBit box.

The prospect won’t buy if he/​she lacks confidence in you or your product.

Buyer confidence must be established and reconfirmed in all phases of the selling process. Obviously the faster you establish confidence in the selling process, the easier it will be to get to the next phase of the sale.

Listed below are the prime selling opportunities to establish buyer confidence. Each situation calls for different types of confidence building techniques.

In a networking situation… If you only have time for one statement, make it one that will discuss the use of your product/​service by a good company. “We were very fortunate to be awarded the toner cartridge contract from Duke Power. They selected us from among seven other bids.” This begins the process of making the prospect feel confident in you.

On the phone… Only use one item to establish confidence. Sell the appointment. For example “I believe we can help you achieve the computer training and productivity you need to cut operating costs, we just completed a similar project for Acme Manufacturing that had the same curriculum. Could we set up a brief appointment to discuss it?”

Your objective is to establish enough confidence to get an appointment.

On a cold call… Be brief, you must generate interest in about 30 seconds or less or forget it. Make a strong statement about how you can help the prospect. Don’t focus on how much money you can save, that approach seems to be wearing thin. Talk about how what you do or how your product has worked for others. If you’re not in a one call close business (over 90% are not), you only need to establish enough confidence to make the second appointment. Save your best stuff for when you make your presentation.

During a presentation… either at the prospect’s place of business or in your office. This is your big chance. You get to walk in with your full bag of tricks, and use them one by one, like building a brick foundation. Each time the prospect casts a shadow of doubt, you have something to counter that will make you shine. Letters of satisfied customers, articles, comparison charts, and lists of satisfied customers that make the prospect secure enough to buy. Write things down. Let the prospect see professional respect for their time and the importance of the meeting.

On a follow-​up call… Relax, don’t sound contrived or forced. The prospect will begin to lose the confidence you worked so hard to gain. Have a specific purpose for calling, use similar situations (good things you’ve done for others), and specific benefits for the prospect, as examples of why he should buy now.

How do you know if you have established confidence? You get the business or the promise to do so. Your phone calls get returned. It’s actually easier to determine you don’t have the confidence of the prospect. They start handing you a bunch of “pat-​on-​the-​head” responses like: We’ll get back to you in a few weeks, our budget is spent, I’m not ready to buy yet, the board needs to meet and decide, or the ever popular call me back in 6 months. When you start hearing stalls, you have not established enough confidence for the buyer to proceed.

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