How to Get Customers Buying by Asking the Right Sales Questions

You already know you need to be asking the right sales questions to get customers buying. You read the articles and the books, telling you how important questions are to making the sale.

The problem is learning how to ask the right sales questions.

Which is more than just merely understanding the importance of asking questions.

Most articles, blog posts, and books I read in the past, only talked about the Why. But I needed to understand the How.  I needed a formula to develop the right questions like ‘who can write my paper‘ or ‘do you have kids that love candy’ to get customers buying whatever product or service I was selling.

Today, I’m going to share with you the Gumball Formula that will enable you to actually formulate the right questions to ask your target customers to get them buying.

The Gumball Formula (the easiest way to ask the right sales questions)

One of the top performing sales guys I used to work with, always told me, never ask a question you don’t want the answer to.

What he meant by that was, avoid backing yourself into a corner. Lets say you were selling Gumballs down at your local downtown street corner.

And lets say, when a potential customer approached you, you asked, Hey, do you like gumballs?

And they responded with an immediate, No.

You would find it very difficult to make a sale based on this verbal exchange. They obviously did not like the gumballs they tasted in the past. And since you asked them whether they liked gumballs, you unintentionally associated your gumballs with those they tasted in the past.

At this point, its very difficult to change their way of thinking. You have backed yourself into a corner because you asked a question you didn’t necessarily want the answer to. Its so easy to make this mistake and so hard to grow your sales if you continue to do so.

Lets go through how we formulate a better sales question to achieve your desired outcome.

Simple step-by-step process for using the Gumball Formula to get customers buying

There are three simple steps for using the Gumball Formula.

Step 1: Define all the benefits of your product
Step 2: Get to know your target customers
Step 3: Ask them questions to confirm what you already know

Ill go through each step in greater detail to boost your sales results.

Step 1: What are all the benefits of your product?

If you don’t have a destination, you cant figure out how to get there. In every sale you make, your product benefits are the destination.

Think about it. The progression of any sale you make starts with an introduction to a potential customer (call it whatever you want; prospect, lead, whale), then moves to understanding their specific situation, discovering their needs, and then finally matching your product benefits to their situation and needs.

Your product benefits are the destination. You will ultimately arrive at sharing them with your potential customer, but not until you have gathered information about them.

To develop the right sales questions, you have to work your way back from your sales destination.

So first, list out all your product features and their associated benefits.

If you have multiple product lines, write out the features and benefits to each of them individually. Then go back and include any overarching benefits gained from selling your different products together. Like those gained from joining the Senator Club.

When you’re selling Gumballs, it may look something like this:

List of Gumball Features; and Benefits

  1. bigger; can chew for longer
  2. sugar free; healthier, doesn’t rot your teeth
  3. multiple colors; fun for kids
  4. tropical flavors; delicious tasting
  5. natural flavoring; keeps flavor for longer

Be thorough in developing your own list. This exercise will take longer than 30 minutes. Set aside 2 hours to thoroughly brainstorm all your product features and benefits.

Sometimes your product provides unintentional benefits that you weren’t initially aware of slow down. Go through all of them before you move onto the next step.

Step 2: Get to know your target customers

Think about the next step back in the sales process. Before you share your product benefits with the potential customer. What are you doing?

Gathering information. That’s right. Understanding their specific situation and discovering their needs.

Using the Gumball Formula, keep working your way back from your sales destination, your product benefits. After you write out your product features and benefits, write down a detailed profile of your target customer.

This is so important.

Look at your product features and benefits, then describe exactly who benefits most from your product. What is their specific situation? What are their specific needs?

Write down all the different attributes to describe your target customer. Start with the most ideal customer profile, then expand your list with other target customer profiles. For example:

Gumball Target Customer Attributes

  • Situation: 35 year-old, Mom, with 2-kids under 12, 40 lbs overweight, wearing a pink, long-sleeve cotton shirt with high waisted jeans
  • Needs: to keep kids happy, healthy, and quiet; to eat a delicious snack right now at an attempt to quell an insatiable appetite; to eat a delicious snack later

Once you complete step 2, you then use this information to formulate the right sales questions in step 3. Still moving backwards through the sales process.

Step 3: Ask them questions to confirm what you already know

Now that you know your target customer profile, and you know all your product features with their corresponding benefits, you can better develop the right sales questions.

Think back to your local downtown street corner where you are selling Gumballs.

Of all the people that could possibly walk by your Gumball stand, you want the 35-year old, Mom with 2 kids to walk by. Because her customer profile is the most likely to buy your product.

You understand her situation and needs. You understand how your product features and benefits help meet her needs. You know this about your target customer really well.

The problem is that your target customer, isn’t always walking by your Gumball stand.

Same goes for your sales call, meetings or website visitors. You are not always dealing with your target customer. But they may share many similarities.

Your goal is to find out what they are and relate to them.

You have to confirm their actual situation. You have to learn what similar qualities and characteristics they posses of your target customer profile.

And you do that by asking the right questions.

This is the final and most important step to the Gumball Formula, formulating your question. Develop your questions by matching your product features and benefits to asking a question about your customers attributes.

Such as the following:

  • Example #1: Because my gumballs are sugar free, they are healthier for kids and wont rot their teeth > Do you have kids that love candy, but you want them to stay healthy?
  • Example #2: Because my Gumballs have natural flavoring, the delicious taste last longer > How would you like to taste a delicious candy snack, with a flavor that last longer so you can enjoy it now and later?

For both examples, I chose a specific feature and corresponding benefit, then asked a question confirming the situation and need it would fulfill.

By doing so, you have now asked a question whose response will lead you to your destination of sharing your benefits. It gets you asking the right sales questions because you already have your response prepared for their answer.

Building your sales questions backwards, gives you the clearest understanding of where to direct the sale because you have already specified the destination.  This approach to asking questions will get customers buying faster than questions like, Do you like gumballs?

What you should do next

Write out your own examples using this sames method. Spend 2 hours to explore different ways to ask your sales questions. Over time, you will be able to formulate the right questions on the fly. This is something I personally work on every day.

Are you going to take the time to use the Gumball Formula to your advantage and start developing the right sales questions for your product?

Share how you plan to improve your question asking in the comments below.

Next WEEK, I’m going to share how to set your product apart from the competition to get the sale. And it wont just be about having amazing customer testimonials to stand out from the crowd.


The Only Sales Strategy Guaranteed to Grow Revenue

You just received guaranteed, proven sales strategy advice on how to sell your product and grow revenue. A generous individual, who so kindly shared their valuable advice, said it was the best and only way to do it if you want to succeed. Then a few days go by, and you meet another generous soul, who gives you their invaluable advice on how to sell your product. They are trusted. Proven to deliver. And guarantee performance.

Well, now what do you do. Two completely different pieces of advice about how to sell your product, and both are seemingly guaranteed to work.

As an entrepreneur, youre getting pulled in a thousand different directions at the same time. Ideas and advice are abundant if youre willing to listen. But figuring out who to actually listen to is the hard part.

You have to fight the urge to follow all of it a common trap for early entrepreneurs and easy to fall into.

No guaranteed sales strategy

Just because a specific sales strategy worked for someone else, does not guarantee it will work for you. Thats the best sale going. Did the title catch your attention?

If you dont want your business to fail, you must figure out your own sales strategy to sell your product. Not someone elses strategy. Your own. Specifically for your product, targeting your customers.

75% of startups fail because they never get customer traction. Customer traction is the name of the game. Without customers, you have no revenue. And without revenue your company will eventually die. Even if you can raise more capital to alleviate your cash pains, eventually you will need have to make money from customers to survive.

So how do you define the right sales strategy for you product?

Does everybody have the right advice?

When you start your own business, a lot of people are suddenly willing to share their opinions and ideas on how you should sell your product. What you should do and how you should do it. But it is so hard to know who to actually listen to. You dont know which advice will help you reach your goals. Which advice will waste your time. Or which advice will completely destroy your business.

No matter whether its advice on your sales strategy, marketing, operations, product design, capital raising, hiring etc. Sifting through all the noise is one of the most challenging aspects of being an entrepreneur. But just because its challenging doesnt mean you cant do it.

I definitely messed up. When I started my first company, I took advice from everyone. Friends, family, entrepreneurs, press releases, blogs, books, conferences, webinars and all other channels shouting at me. What everyone else was saying sounded like gospel to me.

The kicker was that I took advice from certain people only because I thought they knew more than me. I took their advice because I valued their experience more than mine. Therefore, I thought following their words of wisdom would be wiser than continuing down my own path. Always making decisions based on what other people think is a dangerous habit.

If youre experiencing this now, knock it off!

Take a step back and rethink your approach. Not doing so will only lead to disaster. This was a big mistake for me.

I was swayed by anybody who shared their opinion with confidence and illustrated a certain level of competency in the space. But over time, after heeding the advice of all these people, I realized I was listening to folks who were not even qualified to be guiding my decisions.

What happens if you follow everybodys advice

If you follow everyones advice, you will lose focus. If you lose focus, your business will die.

One person recommends you make your product self-service online then just drop ship it. Someone else shows you their proven telesales system that will drive huge growth. And someone else suggests you forget about the smaller transactions, hire another business development employee and just focus on big partnership deals.

When you try to take all of their advice and adopt a little from each advised strategy.

You will fail, at all of them.

You end up with a primordial soup kind of sales strategy. And instead of bringing your sales to life, your business will die in a diluted mixture of efforts.

Lets say you should you sit down with a sophisticated investor to discuss an investment in your company. They will ask you, how will you generate sales? If you respond by listing off a series of different sales channels and strategies, they will tell you to focus on ONE. And probably say, were not ready to invest at this time, but lets keep in touch.

Listen but dont always follow

Theres a distinct difference between listening to every bodys advice and following it. A big part of being an entrepreneur is blazing your own trail.

Of course, its good to listen to new advice and ideas. You never know when that one piece of advice unlocks the door to opportunity.  Find time to have conversations with lots of people. Gather up as many different ideas and opinions, so you can make the most informed decision. But DONT act on everybodys advice. Its better to collect knowledge on as many different sales strategies first. Then see how they fit into the sale of your own product and your customers.

And finally consider your resources. You must align your sales strategy with your available resources. Hiring a direct sales team to drive larger opportunities may be a great approach, but if you lack the capital to hire anyone, then starting with online, self-service sales may be a more strategic fit.

Learn the potential strategies (will cover in future posts), then decide which one aligns with your vision and can be executed with your current resources. Theres a lot of people willing to share their advice. Its your job is to listen and process it. Just make sure your strategy decisions are the product of your own conclusion.

How do you overcome the noise and follow the best advice?

One Major Reason the House of Cards Could Change Your Life

Have you ever heard a story that really moved you? A story that effected you with strong emotion? One that gave you the opportunity to truly feel and relate to someone elses experience.

This just happened to a friend of mine. Its a moving example of how the power of stories can effect people.

Watch online content with educational value

Whenever I watch online content either on Youtube, Hulu or Netflix I am very deliberate in my content selection. I must perceive to the ability to gain or learn something from the program. I must perceive there to be at least the slightest bit of educational value. If I dont see an opportunity to learn at least something from any online or television program, I simply wont watch it. Its not of interest to me.

One show that, without question, fulfills this requirement is The House of Cards on Netflix.

This brilliant series gives the audience a chance to contemplate how decisions are really made in our political environment. It stands as a looking glass into the mind of a man who makes a career out of psychologically persuading and influencing people to his way of thinking. The story follows Francis Underwood, House Majority Whip, through his labyrinth of deception to gain ultimate power within the executive branch.

I recommended the show to a friend of mine because he has always been interested in understanding human psychology. And how it effects our ability to influence others. He took my advice and began watching the first episode that night.

Well, my friend had a very unique experience.

He had lived through the very same experience in the first scene of Season One, Episode 1. He relived it right on screen. He was deeply effected by the story being told. He related to the experience, and therefore related to the show. The story bridged a connection between him and the show.

Life changing story

Below is the the email my friend sent me right after his very unique experience. He details exactly how the story effected him and why:


To: Ian
From: Mike
Subject: Re: quick story (inspired by house of cards!)

Without a doubt I can tell you I love this
show. Matter of fact this show has already CHANGED MY LIFE lmao!

No joke. My life has literally already been changed.

I thought Id just share a quick story on how it has done so. OK, so
the very first scene of the premiere episode has Kevin Spacey calmly,
quickly, and methodically assessing an unfortunate accident with what
to do for a (not shown) yelping dog that had just been hit by a car.
Spacey says to himself/and dog,There are two kinds of pain The
sort of pain that makes you strong, or useless pain, the kind thats
only suffering. I have no patience for useless things. Moments like
this require someone who will act, do the unpleasant thing, the
necessary thing. He then strangles the dog to a horrendous but
necessary death. Spacey doesnt flinch, second guess himself, nor does
he tell the dogs owner how it had to end, just that the dog simply

So check it out. About 4 years ago while visiting my parents I went
outside to the front yard and loaded my car preparing to leave back to
Sac. The front door had remained open and there I saw Jersey the
family dog, our adorable Yorkie, running around my car. With a
watchful eye I kept her close to my side that is until I received a
phone call which I proceeded to answer. No more than 30 seconds
later I hear a treacherous scream-ish sound in conjunction with the
shrieking of tires followed by a nonstop yelping. Jerseys broken body
floundered in the street helpless in pain and confusion. I yelled
NOOOOOOOOO! at the top of my lungs, I ran over to her, spoke a soft
word to her and proceeded to strangle our family dog to her death. I
felt life leave through my hands. I felt the last gasp for air, the
body twitching and yearning to stay alive then motionless death
quietly lay in my hands.

The guilt of her getting ran over on my watch combined with the
numbing feeling of taking life with my own hands really messed me up
the following couple of days.I finally got over it later that week but
ever since it happened Ive been haunted by it. A couple of times a
year I will literally get a flashback and just have to shake it out
of my head and sometimes even jolt a quick scream. Ive always refused
to address what happened and have never willingly replayed the scene
in my head. Anytime a flashback emerges I eliminate it instantly and
try to forget.

Whew bro Man, I replayed that first scene of House of Cards
about 10 times in a row, dissecting the first scene. And after doing
so it helped me finally come to complete peace with what I had to with
ending my dogs life that day. Its was sadly a brutal process of how it
had to be done, but it simply just had to be done. Last night I
vividly pictured and remembered what happened that day, on my own
accord. I addressed the sounds and images that were etched in the back
of my mind and dude, I am at complete peace with what went down. Its
actually quite a relief. Pretty cool.

After 2 minutes of watching the House of Cards. lmao!!!!! I can truly say.

I love that show!!!

The right story can powerfully effect any one of us.

My friend was captivated by this initial scene and touched by it on a personal level. He will continue to watch every episode in the entire season.

Always tell stories

Tell stories through your sales. Create stories for customers to follow and relate to. Weave stories across all your content. Story telling is powerful in all different content mediums. Including blogging, social media, print, ads, video…tell a story.

Youll start making a deeper connection with your customers. Because that story you tell them about how they relate to your product brings them closer. A prospect will remember you if you trigger an emotional response, where they say me too.

What story triggered you to immediately buy something?

Here’s the Truth Behind Successful Self-Promotion, Can You Handle It?


You will not accomplish anything great if you’re too afraid to tell anyone about it.

But when you have anything worth saying, some people will hate you. Thats a fact. Self-promotion exposes you to ridicule and negativity from the all the haters out there.

Self-promotion is no accident

Every day, we see politicians, business executives, musicians, actors and athletes on TV or in the news. This was not an accident. Every one of them intentionally exposed themselves to the press. They asked for it. They demanded our attention.

Have you ever been approached by the press to share your accomplishments? Have you ever asked for it?

Many people think celebrities inherently get press because of their occupation. This is not true. You have to reach out to get it. Even when theyve reached the top, they still have to give people a reason to listen.

The same goes for you. When you want to accomplish a goal, you have to tell people about it. You wont succeed at selling a product or service if no one knows about it. And it all starts with your personal brand as the product.

We live in a competitive market. Just as products need to differentiate themselves against the competition, so do people. When your personal brand is the product, some people just wont want to buy.

Why should a company hire you instead of the competition? Why do people buy into you?

Products dont have feelings

A unique personal brand (your product) makes the difference. Tangible products dont have feelings. But people do. When a customer says, I hate the iPhone, and chooses an Android instead, the iPhone doesnt care. The business executives running Apple care, but the phone does not. The little iPhone didnt get offended. Its feelings didnt get hurt. It didnt cry or get angry or become demoralized. It just sat on the shelf for one more day.

People on the other hand, feel those emotions. Engaging in self-promotion to get your personal brand out there risks people choosing the other product. Except this time, they may say, I hate you.

Has someone ever said that to you?

I know a few of my ex-girlfriends have. Does that mean I shouldnt date anymore? No.

The risk of rejection does not outweigh the benefit of a great relationship. Same concept applies in business. You have to put yourself out there. If you want to get noticed, you have to stand for something. But…youll have to overcome the fear of the haters.

The most successful people in the world regardless of their occupation or opinion have to deal with the negativity. It is unavoidable in your rise to popularity.

The President can take it

Consider the position of President Obama. Forget about your personal political position for a second. This is not a political endorsement. In the last US presidential election of 2012, 62 million people voted for Obama while 59 million people voted for Romney. 59 million voted against him! Thats a lot of people publicly expressing support for the competition. Same goes for Romney. 62 million people said we dont believe in you. Few can stomach this level of opposition.

Political success is dependent on the ability to self-promote. And success is easily quantified by the number of supporting votes. President Obama and the Democratic Party spent $985 million marketing their message to the American people. Thats a lot of money to promote a personal brand.

Any level of success in business comes at a price. Some people will HATE you. Thats the way it is and the way it always will be.

Thousands of people may LOVE you. But one nasty email, blog comment, facebook message, text or phone call from a hater can be devastating.

So what do you do?

Ignore them. Forget about them. They are not your audience. They are not your customer. They are not your friend. There are 7 billion people in the world. Who cares what one a$$hole thinks. In your case, for every 1 hater there are probably 100 supporters. Go find them.

You dont have to start by talking to newspapers or a television networks. Start with the people around you. Start defining your personal focus, your personal message. Define the audience you want to attract. Then start standing for something. Have an opinion.

Nobody says, Hey, I wanted to talk to you because youre really good at being like everyone else.

Take the risk of self-promotion. You will reap the rewards. People cant help you achieve your goals if you dont share them. And you cant solve anyones problem if they dont know about your skills.

Do you have friends just blending in? Maybe reading this article will light a fire under them to take action and succeed more in business!