Here’s Why (and How) You Should Ask Irrational Questions

Sales success requires confidence. One surefire way to be more confident in persuasion situations — which, let’s admit it, often involve selling something — is to provide high-quality options, and you can do this through the use of irrational questions.

Yes, you read that correctly.

I first learned of this approach from the incredibly intelligent and innovative New York Times bestselling author Daniel Pink. (He’s a very bright person who also happened to endorse my latest book!)

Regular readers will know that my approach to handling objections is to take two shots and then salute. Of course, the challenge is to always have an approach you can use for your second shot. Irrational questions are a perfect second shot.

Let’s say, for example, I’m speaking with a customer about the Harley-Davidson Planned Maintenance program and they “take a pass.”

I might say, “Fair enough. Don’t say yes, don’t say no, just be willing to hear me out for a moment before you make your final decision, okay?”

Customer: Okay. (This is my first small agreement.)

Me: May I ask you a question? (This is a permission question, which softens your approach and which people almost always say yes to … because they’re curious about what you’re going to ask.)

Customer: Sure. (My second small agreement.)

Me: If you were to rate the Harley-Davidson Planned Maintenance program on a scale of one to 10 — one meaning that it’s absolutely worthless and 10 meaning it’s better than cold beer, what number would you use?

Customer: Well I’d probably rate it a 3 or 4. (This is now my third agreement. They are willing to rate the program and participate in the conversation.)

Me: May I ask you another question? (This one is up to your discretion. Permission questions are powerful, but a strength overdone is a weakness; use your judgement on this one.)

Customer: Of course.

Me: Why didn’t you rate it lower? (Here is where you will get a moment of stunned silence. This is the irrational question. Your prospect is not expecting that question. And when you get stunned silence, you have regained control of the conversation.)

Customer: Well, it does have the free pick-up and delivery. And I guess I do like the wash and wax. Boy, the more I think about it, the fast turnaround guarantee is pretty appealing …

What’s happening here? Your customer is talking himself into buying the plan!

The best thing about using irrational questions as a second shot is that you can apply them to anything!

But what if the customer rates the topic in question at a 1 or a zero? Then shake it off, move on to what’s next, and live to fight — and persuade — another day.

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