Professional Sales Techniques: Directive Questioning, Designed to Take You to a Specific Point

When a sales person knows where they’re going and you don’t, you may end up a place you don’t want to be; in your wallet or purse.

I believe the best illustration of directive questioning is to show it.

The general concept of directive questioning is that I know where I am going and you do not. It is often used in sales. I give reference to “Wilson Counselor Selling”. This concept is taught most often in sales classes. And, if I have knowledge of it and you do not I am stronger than you to wit:


This is gibberish, correct?

Let’s play a game. Do you know anything about cards? You will need to have a basic idea to play.

First, how many cards are in a deck of cards excluding the jokers? Right, fifty-two. Next, what are the two basic colors in a deck of cards? Right Again! Red and black. Let me ask you this; of the two colors which one is your favorite? Red you say? Good. If you said black let me ask you another question? If you pick back what color does that leave? You got it, red.

Now it gets tough. First let’s re-establish that we are working in the color red. Let us move forward. Can you name the two suits in the color red? Very good! They are diamonds and hearts. Yep, you know what’s coming. Which suit is your favorite? If you said hearts great. If you said diamonds, what suit does that leave? Yep, hearts.

Lastly, why is the highest card in the deck in most card games? That is right the ace.

So, would you agree that we have worked our way to the “Ace of Hearts”? Because, that is what we have done. This is a process called “directive questioning” and is based on the premise that I know where I want the conversation to go but you don’t.

If we were doing this exercise in person I would write down the card I was going to lead you to and put it someones hands to keep while we went through the exercise. When over, it can be impressive on some occasions. There are some “cheats”. Women will most often pick the Ace of Hearts and men will most often pick the Ace of Spades. However, nothing is “cast in concrete”. Hence the usage (and need) for a directive question when trying to get at a matter. Some people see it as manipulative but is only that when you try to lead to involuntary action, not “awareness”.

So, if you look back over this piece you will see I took you from identification of the universe of cards to the general division of color; to the more specific division of suit; to the most specific division of card. If in person you were to answer a color or suit which wouldn’t get us to my goal I would use the corrective phrase “which leaves”.

Oh yeah, the “gibberish”. As you recall in the exercise we identified the “Ace of Hearts”. So that you know I was leading you there, if you carefully examine the markings left to right you will find ace of hearts spelled out. You shouldn’t be able to find the spelling of any other card.

To help you I have put the first letter, “a” and the last letter, “s” in bold print. Also all of the letters are small case.

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