To convince someone to buy, you must spend 40% of your time asking questions, 40% listening and 20% presenting the product.

To convince someone to buy, you must spend 40 percent of your time asking questions, 40 percent listening and 20 percent presenting the product or service. Keep in mind that you must believe in what you're selling to succeed.

Without this belief, you are left with a phony presentation or you let buyers establish the value and you try to "sell" on price. Let's examine the first part of any sale, learning why customers want and need the items you are selling.

Every sale requires that you get buyers involved. The easiest way to do this is by asking questions. The art of questioning has unlimited potential in selling, because it allows you to uncover buyers' motives to buy and their reasons not to. But there is a right way and a wrong way to ask questions.

There are many different of questions. There are close-ended questions that require short answers and don't get buyers involved in the process. Two types of questions fit this category - "fact-gathering" and "yes or no" questions.

The fact-gathering question has to do with exact figures or very specific information. It is used to get specific information concerning the sale. For instance, "How often do you purchase this item?" or "What temperature do you try to maintain?" The information must be used to make the sale. Never ask a question without a reason.

The yes-or-no question allows only a one-word answer and very little discussion. It may be required, but it will not make buyers feel like they're a part of the sale. Because you want to keep the sale a positive experience, you should design the questions to get a "yes."

Involve the buyer

Open-ended questions require buyers to become involved in the selling process. These questions make buyers give answers that provide insight into how you can sell.

The opinion question is often used to see where you are in the selling process. I like to call these questions "opinion trial closings." These questions require buyers to think about their response and goes beyond the "yes" or "no" answer. I like to continually see how buyers feel about what I have just said. This question can be very short or it can be extensive.

The "judgment question" should be asked to have buyers express the pluses and minuses of the items you're selling. It is not just about how they feel. It requires some thinking. Sometimes this question is called a probing question, because what you're looking for are answers that will allow us to change the prospect to your product or service.

You may ask questions that cause you to lose control of the interview. Questions must be focused on the conclusion you want.

Questions have to be phrased so that you will receive a "yes," keeping buyers in a positive mood rather than a negative mood that could kill the sale.

When asking questions, always allow time to fully answer your question. Often the first response given is followed by the "real" answer. If you cut someone off, you never hear it. Give every question plenty of time.

Sometimes what is being said may not be what buyers mean. Often there are hidden answers in the words spoken. Take time to make sure you fully understand an answer.

There are no "magic bullets" in selling, but there are methods that allow you to increase your closing rate. Asking questions is the biggest difference between good and great salespeople.

(Dave Gleason has more than 40 years of experience in contracting, engineering and wholesaling. He has put these experiences into a comprehensive consultation and training company called Systematic Selling Inc., which offers customized sales seminars and workshops. Contact him at 1165 Antioch Campground Road, Gainesville, GA 30506; phone (800) 447-7355; fax (717) 698-6555.)