Answering questions? Don’t do it!


Upon arriving home, a husband was met at the door by his
sobbing wife. Tearfully, she explained, “It’s the druggist. He
insulted me terribly this morning on the phone. I had to call
multiple times before he would even answer the phone”.
Immediately, the husband drove downtown to confront
the druggist and demand an apology. Before he could say
more than a word or two, the druggist told him: “Now, just
a minute, listen to my side of it. This morning, the alarm
failed to go off, so I was late getting up. I went without
breakfast and hurried out to the car, just to realize that I’d
locked the house with both house and car keys inside and
had to break a window to get my keys”. “Then, driving a
little too fast, I got a speeding ticket. Later, when I was
about three blocks from the store, I had a flat tire.” “When I
finally got to the store, a bunch of people were waiting for me
to open up. I got the store opened and started waiting on these
people. All the time,the darn phone was ringing off the hook.”
He continued, “Then, I had to break a roll of nickels against the
cash register drawer to make change, and they spilled all over
the floor. I had to get down on my hands and knees to pick up
the nickels, and the phone was still ringing. When I came up I
cracked my head on the open cash drawer, staggered back
against a showcase with a bunch of perfume bottles on it.
Half of them hit the floor and broke.”
“Meanwhile, the phone
is still ringing with no let up, and I finally got back to answer it.
It was your wife. She wanted to know how to use a rectal
“And believe me Mister, as God is my witness
………. all I did was tell her.”

5 thoughts on “Answering questions? Don’t do it!

  1. Funny timing, Rick. The other day I overheard one of my reps mention the need to answer a prospect’s question very directly. The question was a setup, though, and would have let the prospect get away with disqualifying our solution, even though they don’t know the other [more important] reasons to consider it. Prospects don’t usually know the right questions to ask and they rarely know how to evaluate different strategies they have no experience with. Even with all of the “content” published on the web, experience applying solutions is still something a good salesperson has that prospects often don’t. Just because a prospect asks a question, doesn’t mean you should answer it. Now, there are skills required to deftly handle the conversation, of course, if you’re not going to answer your prospect’s questions. They shouldn’t know that you’re avoiding it, of course, until you’ve changed (or opened up) their mind through your questions.

  2. Pete, good observations. A sales call doesn’t have to be confrontational. It doesn’t need to be buyer vs. seller where somebody wins and somebody loses. Don’t the best sales calls happen when buyer and seller are on the same side of the desk? There is something that commonly happens to salespeople though that really gets exposed in this story. Clearly, the druggist was getting emotional and when we get emotional, we lose intellectual control. Additionally, if a salesperson is smart, well educated and/or is very experienced in his/her field, they may feel the need to prove how smart, educated or experienced they are by answering the question immediately. So, prospects often ask questions in such a way as to make a salesperson emotional so that they’ll feel the need to prove themselves.

    Good salespeople listen actively and closely and ask clarifying questions rather than blurting out answers to assure that when the salesperson does answer, it’s the right answer to the right question.

    Thanks for reading and sharing, Pete.

  3. I have learned, the hard way and through Rick, that answering a question before you know WHY someone is asking it, is asking for trouble, misinterpretation, and usually leads to a wrong answer.And asking them, ‘that’s a great question, why do you ask?’ doesn’t always work so well, I have seen it get asked and all it does is put people on the defensive. But, if you can ask questions that get you there, like, “I haven;t heard that question before, are you asking because of XYZ or ABC?” you usually learn a lot more about why they are asking and how best to lead them to their own answer.For example, I had a client ask me about pricing, and it was too early. Before I answered, I asked something like, “Most of the time when I get asked that question, it is because of A, b or C. Is that why you are asking, or is it something else?” The prospect agreed it was too soon to get there, and we were off and running.

  4. Another good tactic I learned from Rick is to frame the question as part of a structured discussion – one that I am in control of.

    “I’m going to answer that question, but first we need to get a few things out of the way – a, b, c, d…”

    Those are my questions to qualify the prospect. By the time we’re through with those questions, it should be crystal clear whether or not their original question is even relevant.

    Rick himself used that one on us when he sold us on his sales course. It worked. Why? Because we realized the beauty of his approach and wanted to learn how to do that.

    Nobody gets by me now with that lame approach. Few get by me at all, but those that do…

  5. The technique that I usually prefer is to half answer the question and then ask a qualifying question. A simple example. Prospect: What is the price of your service? Salesperson: It goes from a few thousand per month to 10s of thousands per month. But, I’m not sure if we can help you yet, or how we would help you yet. So, I can’t determine the actual investment required. Do you have a specific budget that you’re trying to stay within?Prospect: Well. That sounds expensive. We were trying to stay within a thousand dollars per month. Our current provider only charges $500/month. Salesperson: How are you measuring your ROI from that provider? etc…

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