"The Question is the Answer"

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The Question is the Answer
by Joe Bonura



What multi-purpose tool can you add to your Business Tool Box that will help you dramatically improve sales and service? The Question is the answer. If you have read this far, then the power of the Question has already appealed to you. No other tool has helped me excel more in my professional and personal life, so let us explore how you can use the question-the power tool of the new millennium.


The late Fred Herman, author of Selling is Simple, was truly a most persuasive sales person who very powerfully practiced the questioning method. When Fred was a guest on a nationally televised talk show, the host challenged him with an ashtray, "If you are such a great sales person, sell me this ashtray."

Fred: What would you do with it, if I sold it to you?

The Host: Well, I don't smoke myself, but guests on the show are always getting ashes on the floor. I would probably use it for that.

Fred: How much would you pay for an ashtray like this?

The Host: I would say about five dollars.

Fred (smiling): You just bought yourself an ashtray for five dollars.

Fred asked only two questions to make the sale. By learning to skillfully ask the right questions, you too can become more persuasive in every aspect of your life.


How do you get what you want? Just ask-it comes naturally. Have you been with a small child at a supermarket checkout?

Asking for the order:
Child asks, "Can I have some candy?"
"No, you cannot have candy."

Principle of repetition-ask for the order again:
"Please can I have some candy?"
"No, you cannot have candy."

Addressing the objection:
"Why can't I have any candy?"
"Because I want you to eat your dinner tonight."

Handling the objection:
"If I eat my dinner, can I have some candy then?"
The parent gives in to defeat, "Yes, you can have the candy!"

The triumphant child leaves the store with a fistful of candy, and probably gets to eat it on the way home.

As grownups, we fear asking for what we want. Children are fearless little soldiers who persist until they get what they want. Rekindle the little child in yourself, and put all fears behind you-the fear of rejection, the fear of objections, and the fear of embarrassment. Consider what would be the worst thing to happen if you ask for what you want.

As a professional businessperson, do you complain because your client did not give you the business that you wanted? Could it be because you didn't ask? Didn't ask the right questions? Didn't ask at all? Didn't ask persistently? No more time to complain-Just Ask!


Questions are the core of caring and quality customer service. If you really care about your clients, you will develop a spirit of inquiry to find out their true desires and objectives. The trend of the millennium is to stop selling and start servicing your customers. A better name for the sales person of today is Serve person.


How do you develop life-long relationships with your customers? How do you show your customers you care? The most effective way to get the customer's attention, and keep it, is to ask questions. A customer will never hang up or walk out on you if the customer is doing the talking. Asking questions shows that you have a sincere interest in their needs and desires. You do not want to simply sell them your product-you want to service their needs. You cannot help someone who does not need you or want you.


A few years ago, I went to New York to meet a potential client who commenced my visit with a statement that he could give me only ten minutes of his time. All the years of training to ask questions were summed up in that one moment. I had two choices: I could regurgitate all the wonderful things about me, or I could ask him about all the wonderful things he needs. I chose ASKING, "What 10 objectives do you want to accomplish most?"

He gave ten of his biggest objectives, and I answered, "I can help you with nine out of ten of your objectives." It was the fastest sale that I can recall. I knew that if I had chosen to TELL before ASKING, it would have been like throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping it would stick. Discover what your customers want and give it to them-that is the essence of service.


Finding the appropriate questions begins with the answers that you want to hear. List five benefits of working with your organization, and turn each benefit into a question. For example, pretend that one benefit is that you offer round-the-clock service. Convert that benefit into one or more questions: Is round-the-clock service important to you? How would it affect your bottom line if you were able to save time? Listen to your customer's answers; they will spark ideas for additional questions. Do not be afraid to ask several questions about one benefit because if it interests the client, it should also interest you. Move on if you see that the client is not particularly interested in one of the benefits.


Although some experts advise to never ask a close-ended, yes-or-no question, I say do it. Alternating close-ended questions with open-ended ones eliminates the monotony, and avoids sounding like an interrogator.


If I commanded a hammer to nail nails, would it? It is useless without the action of your hand holding the hammer. The same principle applies to your new power tool, the Question. You must pick it up and use it in order for the question to have value.

Go out and experiment with it today. Get out your Benefit/Question list, and call a potential client. Ask as many questions as possible, and you will be amazed at how much you will learn, from just listening to their answers.


© 2004 Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.

To see Joe and hear one of his favorite selling tips, follow this link to a video he created to share with folks who are interested in making more sales, or finding a job:



Joe Bonura would be pleased for you to reprint the article text free of charge (non-exclusively), but asks that you include his name and contact information:

Joe Bonura
Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.
Website: www.bonura.com
407 Landis Lakes Court
Louisville, KY  40245

(502) 553-1746 phone

E-mail: joe@bonura.com

About Joe Bonura

His background is unique. Joe owned and operated a highly successful advertising agency for 18 years. During that time, he found his advertising campaigns were more effective when he educated his clients in the areas of sales and service. He conducted training seminars for his clients as added value. Word spread that Joe was a quality speaker and more and more people asked him to speak. The demand became so high that he sold the agency to three of his associates to start his own speaking and consulting company, Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.

Joe is past President of the Kentucky Speakers Association and a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), a prestigious designation earned by only 8% of the 3,600 member National Speakers Association. Joe presently serves on the board of directors of NSA.

He is author of the audio learning systems "Three-Dimensional Selling®" and "Turning Customer Satisfaction Into Customer Excitement®." He is author of the book Throw the Rabbit—The Ultimate Approach to Three-Dimensional Selling.




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