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5 Proustian Questions to Advance the Sale

May 15, 2015 by Sherpa


The key to relationship-based selling is in having good conversations and showing you are listening. The key to having good conversations is in asking great questions.

So let’s look to turn-of-the-century French essayist Marcel Proust for a few conversation-starters. After all, Proust has inspired Q&A segments for Vanity Fair as well as questions asked by “Inside The Actor’s Studio” host, James Lipton. (Check out some highlights here.) Let’s try some of these interview questions out in a sale and see what happens.

From Proust’s Questionare:

What is your idea of happiness?

Imagine when you were most happy in your life. How close are you to reaching this now? This question helps to draw out positive experiences from the past, as well as goals for the future. There might not be a perfect road to happiness, but you can take the right steps together.

Who are your favorite heroes in fiction/real life?

Heroes are important. You should know who a person’s heroes are to better know what the person values themselves. As a sales counselor, this will give you an opportunity to focus on what matters to your prospect and embody what they see as heroic.

What is your present state of mind?

This is a seemingly easy question, but it’s one that does not get asked enough. Don’t focus on the decision at hand right now. Take things slow. Ask this open-ended question and see what comes up. If there is ambivalence, do what you can to work through it.

What do you appreciate the most of your friends?

This is similar to the “hero” question, but it doesn’t necessarily get the same result. We don’t always want our friends to share the same qualities as our heroes. Asking this question will help you learn even more about your prospect and the lifestyle they want.

What is your chief characteristic?

Who is your prospect, and how do they see themselves? This question allows you to not only get to know a person better, but to learn how the person identifies themselves. Things might not be what they seem, and the only way you’ll know is if you ask.

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