Why You Should Never Ask A Buyer What They Want | A Sales Guy's Sales Blog Copy & Close
February 23, 2016 Keenan

Why You Should Never Ask A Buyer What They Want

I’m looking to do the audio version of my new book Not Taught.  As I was calling around, the owner of one of the studios began to ask me a lot of questions.

She asked, “How many hours do you need?”

I said, “I don’t know.”

She asked if I wanted to read and record the forward.

I said, “I don’t know.”

She asked me how fast I read.

I said, “I don’t know.”

She asked me if how long I wanted to record in a sitting.

I said, “I don’t know.”

The sales women, who happened to be the owner as well, kept asking me what I wanted, and I didn’t know.

I hated it.

Here’s the problem, when we ask our buyers what they want, it assumes they know what they want and that what they want, is accurate. These are dangerous assumptions.

Don’t ask your buyers what they want. Instead, ask them what they are looking to do.

When we ask buyers what they want, we’re giving control of the sale away. We’re making the customer do our job. Sales is not about order taking. You’re not a waiter or waitress. It’s our job to help them solve a problem and deliver on their goals.  Selling can’t be done by asking customers what they want.

Instead, ask your buyer what they are trying to accomplish.

Let’s flip this script.

Imagine if the owner of this recording studio started with questions like this.

  • Tell me what you’re trying to do.
  • Has your book been published yet?
  • Where are you currently selling it?
    • Is it on Amazon?
  • Why do want to do an audio book?
  • How long is the book, how many words/pages?
  • What type of book is it?
  • What is it about?
  • How’s it selling right now?
  • What are your thoughts on doing the voice over, you or a professional? Why?
  • Have you ever read in a studio before?
  • Would you do me a favor and read for me?
    • Could you read a paragraph from the book, any paragraph will work?

By asking these types of questions, the owner would have a much better understanding of how she could HELP me achieve my goals and objectives. She would have positioned herself as an order maker, not an order taker. It would have allowed her to make recommendations to the questions she had asked earlier, based on my answers. She could have recommended the number of hours I needed, based on hearing me read and the style of the book. She could have let me know if using a professional voice over person would be a better option and why. She could have suggested if it would have been helpful to read the foreword. She could have consulted me rather than trying to take my order.

Don’t ask people what they want. Ask them what they are trying to do and why.

Once you understand what your buyer is trying to accomplish, you’ll know what they want and more importantly, what they need.



  • TheIrreverentSalesGirl

    I could not agree MORE! The salesperson is the expert! They know the field, the competition, the tools available, and the outcomes their customers can achieve with their services!

    It’s just like my hair stylist. She asks – what do you want to do today? I say, “Walk out of here looking like a super model.” And then she does that. The point is: I don’t know if I want bangs or blonde hair or a weave today. But, I know the outcome I want and I trust that her expertise trumps mine.

    Great post, Keenan!

    Love it UP!

    The Irreverent Sales Girl

  • Andrea Tyrones

    Best analogy ever!!!! Love it!!!!
    Said that to my stylist once, she said,”its a comb, not a magic wand.”

  • It’s comb not a magic wand! Ha, ha, That’s funny.

  • @Keenan:disqus – I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this to you, but you gotta read the book B4B (no affiliation with them – I just f’ing love the book http://goo.gl/3u3BvV)…it’s totally focused on this very topic i.e. the most successful companies won’t be the ones that sell you a widget and walk away, the most successful companies will be the ones that use their experience to make sure you’re getting the most out of your purchase.

  • arthurstrout (arth)

    Good Day to You Mr. Keenan,

    I’m someone who is looking to put the customer first, before offering my first product for consideration on my new blog.

    The “platform” is newly published with an introductory post, explaining my concept of not being a “sales person”, but a helper.

    I’m totally transparent about being a new and learning Affiliate Marketer. Sharing my plan to do online product research, as though I were considering purchasing the product. Then, providing Resource Links that will function to allow them to access my findings, view the results and perform their own research, using the same sources I used.

    No attempt to list build or offer a product (yet).

    Now, I’m learning how best to research what products are popular, have a low return (refund) rate and so on.

    Studying up on different traffic building techniques, while avoiding “black hat” tactics is also being studied, before the first Affiliate Program is even joined.

    Your explanation regarding the difference between asking a buyer “what they want” and asking “what they are looking to do”, gives really good insight.

    As a retired customer service representative working for state government, I often fielded calls from someone who was frustrated because they just couldn’t seem to get connected to the appropriate state agency for help.

    One of the more rewarding moments for me was being able to ask the very question you talk about with some variations.

    It sometimes took a while and some trial and error, but by staying with them and researching the state website, eventually the connection could be made.

    Sometimes they wouldn’t even have the right state or needed a federal agency instead, so I became familiar with finding other state and federal agencies as well.

    At first my co-workers and supervisor would question me about being “on the phone so long”, but after they did some “ease dropping” on some to the conversations, they began to understand the value of my approach.

    Anticipating our customer’s needs and helping things go smoothly is not only the very best customer service we can do, but also ensures loyalty.

    It’s a very good feeling, when a co-worker connects a call to you, because they asked for you by name, or a co-worker decides the customer needs your “special” approach.

    This is why I’m taking the time to do all the additional self-preparation and education, before actually starting to offer a product.

    Now that the basic platform is in place, I can learn the business and best practices for finding products and building traffic.

    At last products will be offered one at a time, while enabling the customer to easily do the “due diligence”, most people don’t take the time to do.

    In this way, my visitors will begin expecting to be able to not only find reviews and other valuable information they need, instead of just some “testimonial”. They will expect to find my affiliate link, only after being given that opportunity.

    Then they will be ready for my affiliates “sales pitch”, knowing that I’m letting them make all the “noise” and “blow their trumpet”. They will also realize that I’ve done my job, giving their Intelligence the Respect they deserve.

    I’ve just followed you on Twitter (my social media of choice) and plan to re-tweet yours connecting to this post.

    Thank You for the wonderful insight!

    My Best to You
    Arthur Strout (Arth)

  • Jill Rowley

    B4B is an excellent book — you can get the gist of it by watching J.B. Wood’s 60 minute presentation here – https://www.tsia.com/b4b It’s all about transitioning your value proposition from being product-focused to customer outcome-focused in order to defend, protect, and grow revenue. @Jill_Rowley