Are You Using Questions Designed To Fail?

As a high performing sales professional or business owner, you understand that the most effective tool we have for understanding our clients wants and needs is our questions. They are also a great tool to help guide the focus of the conversation and the sales process.

The way that you structure your question creates a higher probability towards one answer over another. I have been in meetings with fellow colleagues who did not understand this, they would ask questions like 'Have you been having any problems or issues?' or 'Has anything not got according to plan on the deployment?'

In a study with two groups of Canadians, one group was asked 'Are you unhappy with your social life?' The other group was asked 'Are you happy with your social life?' Those who were asked if they were unhappy with their social life were 375% more likely to declare themselves unhappy.

Instead of asking your client what problems or issues they may be having with the proposal, the presentation, the communication throughout the sales process, or any part of the deployment. You should be asking questions around what is going well, what has been the most valuable component, what are you happiest about. For example, 'Has everything been going smoothly and according to plan with the deployment?' 'Are you happy with the results you are getting?' That way you will understand the strengths of your company and where you can offer the most value at a higher level. You will magnify your strengths and have a much higher probability of a very positive, win win situation and conversation.

If you are going to talk about problems, you may as well bring up what problems they have had in the past so that you can make sure to avoid those issues. If you ask a question focused on problems, you will hear about issues, so make sure it is about past issues with a different provider.
Rick Middlemass
Rick Middlemass> all articles
"Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, it is that we are powerful beyond measure .." - Marianne Williamson

I am Rick Middlemass, a budding entrepreneur, with a passion for growth and contribution, who is looking to learn something new everyday. I love spending time with my family, friends, and mentors. I believe that there is something inspiring and interesting that i can learn from everyone who comes into my life as well as the many books i read throughout the month.

I am VP of Sales for the National Association of Sales Professionals. I get to talk to different companies and partners throughout the United States and the world. We focus on supporting sales professionals and sales driven organizations globally.

I am also an Advisor for NASP - The National Association of Sales Professionals - as well as Growth-U. I get to experience the privilege of listening to sales professionals, leaders and growth minded individuals, giving feedback, learning from helping others move forward on the path to growth.
  • /data/userPictures/C69D4536-C657-4D73-A3C4-9098D95A6E9F.jpgRobbie Gongwer5/31/2017 10:34:55 AM
    This is so true. Anyone that has had a toddler knows this well. "Don't run!" "Don't put that in your mouth!" Oh gosh, there she goes. Verses, walking is best, and this is yummy want to taste this?

  • /data/userPictures/BC6343E3-4897-4208-A619-28D18D3A11CC.jpgRick Middlemass5/31/2017 10:56:27 AM
    Great examples Robbie!

  • /_ckcommon/images/blanks/userPictureFemale.jpgAshley Johnson10/6/2017 10:35:48 AM
    Great article!

  • /data/userPictures/BC6343E3-4897-4208-A619-28D18D3A11CC.jpgRick Middlemass10/6/2017 10:37:38 AM
    Thanks Ashley!

  • /_ckcommon/images/blanks/userPictureMale.jpgGreyson Curry10/6/2017 7:47:40 PM
    Very well written and to the point.

  • /_ckcommon/images/blanks/userPicture.jpgHenna Raina10/13/2017 12:23:29 PM
    Very Insightful ! what we focus on grows - it is common to see people lose the agenda of the meeting in asking the wrong questions.

  • /_ckcommon/images/blanks/userPicture.jpgOlumuyiwa Kusimo11/15/2017 12:40:58 AM
    Asking the right questions helps us with providing the right solutions to customers need.

  • /data/userPictures/13CE870F-39EC-41CC-BB7A-E4EC1DE2E645.jpgYismik Daboin11/22/2017 5:50:32 PM
    Great article and great read. I have a comment though; during proposal development or when the proposal is being reviewed by the customer; I often tend to ask what could be improved or if there is something we haven't addressed so that we can be sure we are not leaving anything out that might slow the buying process around the corner.

  • /data/userPictures/591003BA-98B9-445D-971C-713701E7EC98.jpgApostolos Plytas12/21/2017 5:44:02 AM
    Right on spot! In coaching it is urged to use Appreciative Inquiry, meaning to focus on things that go well and strengths and elaborate on those to achieve development or change. The same applies to day to day sales activities. Focus right where you can elaborate on, and be sure you will achieve great results with clients.

  • /data/userPictures/1259D8E5-7BF0-46DA-9C42-B758A4F550D9.jpgAllison Pruden1/31/2018 9:14:50 AM
    great reminder to try on focus on the good parts of your sales process and the strengths you and your company bring to the table

  • /data/userPictures/DA043A01-2CE7-4E72-AC1A-FDE3C3C6EE62.jpgCatherine Ing2/16/2018 9:42:30 AM
    Exactly! Although knowing what's wrong is important, knowing what went right may be even more so. Negative phrasing only encourages negative thinking, especially when one hears the negativity coming from a team leader. This applies just as much to employee relations as it does to our clients.

  • /data/userPictures/093EC457-52A5-41BE-93A4-6B10D775DCF9.jpgMike Morgan3/6/2018 9:25:59 AM
    Good insight Rick. The nuances of how we ask questions to others can subconsciously set the tone of the conversation. This article gives me pause to shape questions in a more positive way.

  • /data/userPictures/434FD119-E89F-42C6-AFE2-5903FEC72685.jpgLaura James3/27/2018 7:16:40 PM
    I am not unhappy with my social life! :)

  • /data/userPictures/F83B34B8-5376-4D75-8EBE-7B5A57D02991.jpgMichael Hare4/10/2018 5:27:47 PM
    Thanks, Rick! We have seen a dramatic shift in customer satisfaction and actionable answers since we deployed a shift exactly like this a few months back. You are ABSOLUTELY right.

  • /data/userPictures/414B7551-D218-4F85-88C1-CAA0A06959C6.jpgBlaise Craft4/19/2018 8:16:20 AM
    Great point on staying positive when asking questions!

  • /data/userPictures/C9880537-3E0E-4264-8A54-54CC7AD95B85.jpgEarvin Corpuz4/25/2018 2:49:06 PM
    Positive Mindset = Positive Results. Great read!

  • /data/userPictures/F22A5405-880A-418B-A8C6-CF9B48CAF469.jpgSarah Payano4/25/2018 11:04:29 PM
    The power of the mindset, excellent way to explain it. Thanks!

  • /_ckcommon/images/blanks/userPictureMale.jpgAbhishek Patil5/8/2018 9:17:52 PM
    Very useful

  • /data/userPictures/CBC45CD6-4846-4EC8-866F-897237754470.jpgArsenio Bell5/8/2018 9:36:04 PM
    It's simple yet profound to see that the way a question is posed/positioned can lead to a said answer.
    This is great advice in tweaking the conversation in a good way with clients.

  • /data/userPictures/77A38D44-11E6-46BB-B041-8C0E9B0C8562.jpgFabio VillasBoasDeAlmeida5/23/2018 7:55:59 AM
    I enjoyed the article very much. It is refreshing to see the importance placed on asking questions during the sales process. Sometimes we get too caught up on product knowledge and benefits, and forget that questions are key to understanding how we can help our customers. And, off course, asking the right questions...great article. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.

  • /data/userPictures/18D257BD-B292-4363-9955-61D188D61EEA.jpgRohit Madaan7/18/2018 1:04:43 PM
    This is so right. Always be positive with customer and try to bring his best positive energy out and keep him happy.

  • /_ckcommon/images/blanks/userPictureMale.jpgCaleb Kelsey, Mr.8/2/2018 12:42:49 AM
    Great article!

  • /data/userPictures/3272A88C-A375-4A94-AFE1-98ECC8B3EDDE.jpgCarson Baird8/15/2018 4:19:13 PM
    The last line wrapped the strategy up perfectly. When discussing your plan, focus on the positives. When discussing the old system, ask about what was NOT to like about it.

  • /_ckcommon/images/blanks/userPictureMale.jpgScott Kemp9/25/2018 8:11:57 PM
    You get what you ask for. If you ask a negative question, you will get a negative answer. Everyone prefers a positive attitude. Great article.

  • /data/userPictures/0AC92538-D4A7-47F6-BAE0-2B7281B3DB02.jpgAmanda Albert1/2/2019 6:01:09 AM
    Very useful! Get the client to see the positive and lead with that!