Don’t know the answer to a question? Turn it into a sale!

Don’t know the answer to a question? Turn it into a sale!

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at

When a prospect asks a question, and you don’t know the answer, there is a universal look of terror that comes over salesperson’s face, right?

Let’s get one thing straight. The only person who knows everything is your boss. (If you’re the boss, then it’s your spouse or partner or both.) But take heart if you don’t know all the answers, it could be a selling opportunity.

Here are the, “If you are asked a question that you don’t know the answer to,” ground rules:

  1. Complement the person asking the question It makes them feel important, intelligent and respected.
  2. Be human Admit you don’t know the answer.
  3. Don’t fake an answer Tell the truth in a creative way.
  4. Be funny “You should have asked me this question 10 years ago I used to know everything back before I turned twenty.
  5. Listen to everything associated to the question And the implication that the answer may bring.
  6. Write down answers and facts To show you care and that the customer is important.
  7. Look for the opportunity To use the answer as a sale clincher.
  8. Find out when the information is needed And write down the date and time.
  9. Determine how important the answer is to the sale If it’s critical, the answer and the opportunity are greater.
  10. Complete the rest of the presentation And if possible, try to have the sale hanging on the answer to the unknown question.

Here’s an example of how to admit you don’t know it in a positive way, “Wow, that’s a great question, no one ever asked me that before, I’m clueless about the answer but I’m dying to find out myself. I’m going to personally find out and get back to you with the answer. By the way, what should I do with the information? If the answer is ______ should I go ahead and place the order?”

Here are some helpful ideas about the situation and the answer:

  • Deliver the answer in person the phone gives you no leverage
  • Use the unanswered question as a reason to reschedule before leaving the prospect’s office.
  • Find out the answer before you promised Surprise the prospect with the speed of your service.
  • Use the tactic of “if then” if possible, “If the answer is then would you?”

Not knowing an answer is not a problem. It’s a symptom. There are implications of the unknown answer that may be the root of the issue.

  1. You may need more product knowledge.
  2. There may be product or service applications you never thought of.
  3. You’re not as familiar with how your product is used by your customer as you need to be.
  4. You may not be familiar enough with your prospect’s industry.
  5. You may not be knowledgeable about how your prospect’s customer is served.
  6. Your market may be changing.

If you decide you are going to try to fake the answer, here are the ramifications:

  • You will probably guess wrong making you look even more stupid down the road.
  • The prospect will be able to sense that you are unsure of yourself.
  • Sometimes salespeople try to avoid the question this is worse (and more insulting) than anything you can do.
  • By not telling the truth and being found out later or on the spot any chance for a relationship (much less a sale) is over. Relationships are built on trust truth is the foundation of trust.

If the answer does lead to a sale, there’s a big bonus. You may be able to use the answer to sell others in the same business category or industry as your prospect. WOW!

If it’s a question you can’t answer…tell the truth…it may lead to a sale.”


Want a few real smart questions? Well, since everyone sells something different, I’ll give you the leadins to the questions and you adapt it to whatever you sell. Fair enough? Just go to register if you’re a first time user and enter SMART QUESTIONS in the GitBit box.