Peak Your Profits: Asking the right questions

Jeff Blackman

Probe and prosper

Webster’s dictionary defines “probe” as “to examine, to inquire thoroughly, to investigate.” Your ability to do just that may be one of your most important and profit-producing, business-growth tools.

Sherlock hat and magnifying glass on old wooden table.

All too often, businesspeople assume their success is dependent upon their ability to master their pitch, spiel or presentation. It’s not. Of course, that’s a major part of the business-development process, but in the long run your investigative or probing skills help you rise to new levels of success and profitability.

The “Probe” stage enables you to discover what problems your customer, client or prospect has, what needs they’d like to fill and what dreams they’d like to realize. This strategy give you tremendous insight into customer preferences, sense of commitment, budget, expectations and objectives.

Failure to properly assess these things causes most businesspeople to flounder and wonder why. Their assumptions are “Gee, I must be a poor closer! I guess I need more product knowledge.” Or “I knew that customer wasn’t serious anyway!”

Goodbye to gab

“What a smooth talker!”

“She’s got the gift of gab!”

“He’s a born salesman!”

How many times have you heard remarks such as these? Lots? Of course. But to the best of my knowledge, businesspeople are never born.

I have several friends who are obstetricians and they assure me, they’ve never hoisted a newborn high into the air and proudly announced to the parents, “Congratulations, you’ve just given birth…to a salesperson! An entrepreneur! No, no…it’s a business executive!”

Successful businesspeople aren’t born; they’re nurtured, developed and trained. At least the top achievers are. They may have the ability to “gab or talk,” but their real skill is their ability to probe or question. Questions help establish rapport, uncover concerns, reveal problems and peak profits. Questions are a natural way to get others to talk so you can listen and learn.

As a radio and TV talk-show host, the real success of my interviews depended not upon my speaking ability, but instead my questioning ability. Questions gave me the opportunity to explore a guest’s feelings, attitudes and opinions, exactly like your business interview.

Are your decision-makers motivated?

Questions allow you to discover whether a customer has a motivated or unmotivated need. A customer with a motivated need has a problem to solve. An unmotivated need, no matter how eloquent your presentation or beautiful your product, is unlikely to lead to “The Yes.” Why? Because the customer has no “pain” to diminish, problem to solve or dream to realize.

Several years ago, I conducted a three-day business-growth workshop in Toledo, Ohio. Immediately following the conclusion of the first day’s program, I changed into my jogging clothes and hit the pavement. At the half-mile point, it began to pour. Despite this unwelcome and unexpected drenching, I continued to run, eventually seeking protection in a nearby shopping mall.

Upon entering the mall, I was greeted by a cheery representative of a major department store. She immediately inquired, “Sir, how’d you like to fill out an application for our charge card?” I assured her, I didn’t need more “plastic money!”

She then acknowledged my tired, cold and damp condition and asked, “Just for applying, you receive at no obligation—(she then reached beneath the counter, removed and held up an umbrella)—you’d find this umbrella helpful, wouldn’t you?”

I said, “Where do I sign?!” I had a motivated need.

Motivated needs are easily discovered through observation, a natural curiosity and especially, the question and answer process.

As a business professional, you should never sell, tell, reveal or demonstrate your product or service until you discover and understand your prospect’s or decision-maker’s motivated needs.

More:Peak Your Profits: Winning words

More:Peak Your Profits: Breaking barriers and raising ceilings

Jeff Blackman is a Hall of Fame speaker, author, success coach, broadcaster and lawyer. His clients call him a "business-growth specialist." If you hire speakers, please contact Jeff at: 847.998.0688 And visit to learn more about his other business-growth tools and to subscribe to Jeff's FREE e-letter, The Results Report.  Jeff's books include; Stop Whining! Start Selling!, (an Amazon Bestseller) and the revised 4th edition, of the bestselling Peak Your Profits. You can also stay connected with Jeff via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter: @BlackmanResults