How to Know What Sales Questions to Ask to Prospective Customers

This post details the best sales questions to ask to prospective customers to develop the business relationship and establish the seller as a think-partner.

More often than not, the prospect feels pushed in the first business meeting. When the potential client feels pushed, they react in one of the following two ways:

  1. They push back
  2. They withdraw.

Neither of these options is a good reaction to have from your prospective customer. In this blog post, Program on Persuasion offers the best practices on how to navigate the Middle of the Predictive Sales Funnel™, without pushing your potential client.

What’s the Point of Sales Questions?

The reason you established trust and developed credibility with your prospective customer was to earn the right to ask for more information. As you move into the Middle of the Predictive Sales Funnel™, though, you must remember,

The biggest mistake sellers make is offering our solution too soon.

At this stage, the seller should instead work to position him or herself as a think-partner to the buyer. As their consultant, we bring them value by making them think, and not by providing solutions.

Why Should I Ask My Prospective Customer Anything?

The Middle of the Predictive Sales Funnel™ (MOFU) is the Discovery phase. We call it Discovery because in the MOFU, the potential client discovers the urgency of fixing their problems or attaining their goals.

As a seller, you should not only merely show prospective customers their problems or opportunities, but also develop the urgency so that the buyer will take action. We develop this urgency by simply asking questions.

How to Ask the Right Questions in the Business Meeting

According to one Forbes article that studied how meetings are usually so boring, results showed that asking the right question at the right time can change the whole tone of the business meeting itself:

“…although some meetings continued and concluded with the same humdrum tone, others ignited into passionate discussion when and if one of the attendees asked a thought-challenging question.”
Safe questions are very seldom thought-challenging, and in order to establish him or herself as a think-partner, sellers must remember that they should challenge ideas and processes as they stand.

What Kinds of Sales Questions should I Ask to My Potential Clients?

The role of the question is to communicate, and check that communication was successful. In order to ask successful questions, two things must happen: the seller sends a message, and the prospective customer has received that message.

After all, just because you said something doesn’t mean it was heard. The best way to know if you communicated is not to tell but to ask.

The Four Types of Questions to Ask Customers

There are four types of Discovery questions: they are Circumstantial, Problem/Opportunity, Impact, and Desired Results. In this post, we will discuss the most dangerous kind of questions to use, circumstantial questions.

Circumstantial Questions

Circumstantial questions are designed for use early in the process and provide us with a context for having a dialogue. They can serve several purposes: they can set up the next type of question, to clarify something, or to give us context.

Circumstantial questions are fine to use, but the danger is that we often overuse them. In fact, about 95% of the questions that professional salespeople ask are circumstantial. By doing some brief research, we can eliminate many of them from our conversation. Their elimination is preferable because for the most part this type of question is self-serving and leads nowhere.

In their most effective appearance, Circumstantial Questions set up Problem/Opportunity Questions.


The question is the most useful tool in the seller’s toolbox because it establishes the seller as a think-partner, someone who challenges the status quo in an effort to improve. Although in this post we have only described the first, most dangerous type of question, there are three other kinds of questions that can be used with ease to establish the business relationship.

Over the course of the next week, Program on Persuasion will detail each of those kinds of questions. As well, below is a link to our eBook, “Create Urgency,” which illustrates not only what each question is and does, but also real-life examples on how to use them!


Photo by Mike Wilson.