Ask, don’t tell: the power of questions in a sales conversation

1 September 2022

Cheerful saleswoman listens to her client

In the first instalment of our 2-part Sales Success series, David Forman facilitator Natasha Gunn provides some helpful tips on how to (and why you should) improve your questioning techniques.


In an effective sales conversation, who will be doing most of the talking? The customer.
How do you make that happen? You ask questions.

A good questioning technique will:

  • Allow you to understand your customer’s needs and buying criteria better.
  • Get potential objections and obstacles out in the open before you are asking for the sale.
  • Expose new opportunities.
  • Put the customer at the centre of the conversation.

So what does a good questioning technique involve?

Most importantly, it involves active listening. People generally know when the questioner isn’t really engaged and is just waiting for their turn to speak.

Active listening

  • Responding to what is being said with appropriate follow up questions or comments.
  • Verbal and non-verbal indications that you are following what is being said – facial expressions, body language, eye contact, verbal encouragers.
  • Establishing rapport by responding appropriately emotionally. For example emotions may include humour, sympathy or pleasure.
  • Not interrupting or talking over them.

In the end however, your conversation does have a purpose, so it’s good to know how to use questions to best effect.

Open questions

  • Have no one specific answer.
  • Invite the customer to express their thoughts, feelings and opinions.
  • Are good for exploring new ideas or finding creative solutions.
  • Are a good way to start the conversation and get the customer talking.

Closed questions

  • Have a specific answer.
  • Help to clarify facts.
  • Are good for steering a conversation back to its purpose.

Remember this is not an exact science. Just because a question doesn’t work once doesn’t mean it might not work with a different customer, or with the same customer on a different day.

If your questions are getting short or no responses, try rephrasing them in a more open way or be more specific and direct in what you are asking – or ask what the problem is. Your customer may just be having a really bad day.

David Forman’s Sales Performer programme can help you practice your questioning technique.

Practice makes perfect!


With more than 20 years as a trainer and learning specialist in both New Zealand and Australia, Natasha Gunn, understands how to develop and deliver training that produces results.
As a facilitator, Nat knows David Forman inside out. Along with her team of experts, Nat led our team of SME to re-design our face-to-face programmes, transforming them into live online experiences.
When relaxing, Nat is running trails or hanging out in a forest or at a beach with her dog. When she’s inside you’ll find her at her PC or wearing her VR headset, maybe working – more likely gaming.



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