The Secret to Connecting with Buyers: Emotion-Based Questions

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    Guest Author: Michael Boyette

    Chances are you learned how open-ended questions differ from closed-ended ones back in Sales 101. And of course, you learned that open-ended questions are the best kind during sales discovery.

    That makes sense, because the yes-or-no answers you get with closed-ended questions don’t stimulate dialogue.

    But here’s the rub: An open-ended question doesn’t necessarily engage the prospect emotionally.

    That’s where you need to connect. Brain science research suggests that most buying decisions are made emotionally and then justified logically – even when the buyer believes that

    emotion didn’t play a significant role.

    Emotion-based questions

    So it makes good sense to engage the prospect’s emotions early in the sales process. Your discovery questions create a great opportunity to do exactly that.

    No matter what you sell or how you sell it, be it over the phone or across a desk, the need for emotional involvement is there with you. The buyer wants to take ownership, and your role is to get them to visualize that ownership, get engaged, build their “buy in,” have trust in you – and sign on the dotted line.

    Important note: When we talk about emotional involvement, we don’t mean manipulation, or pressure, or “closing” techniques. We do mean genuine emotional engagement that aims to touch both the heart and mind.

    The idea is to develop a different strategy, one that involves emotion-based questions, not just logic-based ones.

    Breaking away from logic

    As you will see, this concept breaks away from traditional questioning styles, and involves formulating questions that are emotionally engaging.

    Before getting into sample questions and phrases you can use as a template, let’s look more closely at the process.

    Logic-based questions typically involve old-fashioned “qualifying” questions that buyers often find aggravating or downright annoying. They may even fall into the “none-of-your-beeswax”


    Examples include financial questions like “What’s your budget?” or “What are you paying for this now?”

    The concept underlying an emotion-based approach is that you want the prospect to qualify themselves because you are engaging and friendly, and sincerely care about them.

    To quote Dale Carnegie, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people, than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in


    For example, before jumping into a sales presentation, ask emotion-oriented questions that open with phrases like: “How long have you been considering…” or “What are you hoping for….”

    As the sale progresses, ask emotion-based questions like, “Is this what you have in mind?” or “Can you see this achieving your goals?” or “How might your company benefit from this?” Consider going deeper with “What do you think the CEO will say?”

    Such questions get prospects to reveal their feelings – and become more engaged. They’re more likely to produce honest answers about your offering and how it will affect their expected outcome.

    Help visualize ownership

    What follows the purchase is more important to the buyer than the sales process. But drawing out their emotions during the process is the key to getting them to take ownership.

    To help them visualize ownership, ask emotion-oriented questions during the presentation: “What do you think about solving this problem once and for all?” “How will your team use this?” or “How do you see this boosting productivity?”

    Pleasure, not pain

    You hear a lot about “finding the pain” as a key to uncovering a buyer’s real needs. And you can use pain to make an emotional connection. But pain is negative, and can be a turn-off.

    Jumping in with pain-oriented questions like “What keeps you up at night?” or “Where does it hurt?” can create a negative, defensive atmosphere. And in any event, the answer you get is very likely to be evasive or only partially true.

    Instead, use questions that find the pleasure. That usually lies in the positive emotions around their expected outcome, their true purpose, and their true motives.

    Author Bio:

    Michael Boyette is the Executive Editor of Rapid Learning Institute and thought leader for the Top Sales Dog Blog. Michael is a nationally recognized authority on selling and has written hundreds of articles and training programs for sales reps and sales managers. Over the course of his 30+ year career, Michael has written ten books for publisher such as Simon & Schuster, Dutton, and Holt. Michael has managed public-relations programs for US Healthcare, Bell Communications Research, and DuPont. Michael is a graduate of the University of Florida College of Journalism.