When You Answer a Prospect’s Question, Avoid Two Words—Yes and No

by Jeffrey Gitomer

When a prospect asks me a “yes” or “no” question, I never answer yes or no. When a prospect asks me any question, I try answer in the form of a question—or ask a question at the end of my answer. This establishes the two central objectives of selling…
1. I’m in control of the presentation.
2. I might be able to close the sale now.
When you answer a prospect’s question, avoid two words: Yes and No.

If you answer a prospect’s question with “yes” or “no,” you may be going past the sale without making it.

Think about it for a moment. When a prospect asks you a question it is often a buying signal. How do you answer a prospect’s questions? As a salesperson your highest skills are called upon when a prospect asks a question, or shows an interest in buying. Your first inclination is to answer the question in the affirmative, if you know it to be true. For example:
• “Do you have this model?” Yes.
• “Does it come in green?” Yes.
• “Can you deliver on Tuesday?” Yes.
• “Are these in stock?” Yes.
All of the above “yes” answers are not only wrong; they are answers that prolong the sale unnecessarily.

You are also inclined to answer the prospect in a straightforward manner.
For example:
• “What is your delivery lead time?” Usually 2 weeks.
• “How much notice do I have to give you?” 24 hours.
• “When will the new model be out?” January 30.
These answers are also wrong. Very wrong.

The rule is, use the prospect’s question to confirm the sale.
In other words, after you get the prospect’s signal, form a response question that implies the answer, and confirms that the prospect wants to buy what you’re selling.

It’s not as complicated as I just made it sound.
Here are some examples of confirming questions:
• “Do you have this model?” Is this the model you want? If the prospect says yes, all I have to do now is find out when he wants delivery, and I’m finished.
• “Does it come in green?” Would you like it in green?
• “Can you deliver on Tuesday?” Is Tuesday the day you need it delivered?
• “Are these in stock?” Do you need immediate delivery?
• “What is your delivery lead time?” How soon do you need delivery?
• “How much notice do I have to give you?” How much notice do you usually have?
• “How soon can someone be here?” How soon do you need someone here?

You can also answer directly, and still pose a closing question immediately thereafter. For example:
• “When will the new model be out?” January 30. But we have special incentives to take the copier now. Let’s compare which will be the best way for you to go. Fair enough?
• “Do you have references?” Here is the list. If our references are satisfactory, when would we be able to get our first assignment?

Here’s the magic process…
1. Recognizing a buying signal is the sales discipline.
2. Being able to construct a response question (much more difficult) requires creativity and practice.
3. Delivering the response soft and smooth is the mark of the master professional salesperson. And usually the one who makes the sale.

Is there a secret to perfect question formation and delivery? Yes! And the answer is the same as the immortal question a tourist asked of a New  York City cab driver: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Practice.

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