Modern Selling: Improve Sales with One Easy Question

Feb. 9, 2023
How to determine the mood of your potential customer and capitalize on it for sales success

This article originally appeared in the February 2023 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.

About 10 years ago, I was introduced to a decision-maker from a potential client at which I had a strong internal champion. I had been told that this person didn’t like sales trainers or coaches, and that he had authority to say no to the idea of us working together.

As you can imagine, it was impossible to convince him to schedule a call with me, so we decided to meet in person at a trade show. After our 30-minute meeting, the decision-maker agreed to a small “starter program.”

My internal champion was shocked. He said: “I can’t believe that. He never warms up to salespeople. What did you do?”

It wasn’t what I did, but the question that I asked.

The Question

Great salespeople understand the moods of stakeholders and base their behavior on those moods. Unfortunately, this skill isn’t natural for all salespeople; thus, we created a method of encouraging customers to reveal their moods to us by asking one, simple question.

Their answer will reveal if they are in a task-oriented mood or a socializing mood. If a salesperson knows whether a customer is ready to socialize or would rather get to the point, then they can improve every sales call by at least 20%.

So, what’s the question? Upon greeting your customer, ask them “Are you ready for [fill in the blank]?”

There is always something to be ready for, depending on the time of year. For example, “Are you ready for the Super Bowl, or Valentine’s Day, or warmer weather, etc.?”

If they run on about a Super Bowl party, then they are ready to socialize. If they blow off your question and ask you how long your meeting will last, then they are in a task-oriented mood.

How to Handle Each Mood

For someone in a task-oriented mood, be sure to let them know the meeting end time after they answer your question. Get to the point and let them develop their own opinion. Sell by educating.

Using the opening example, after asking my question I realized that the decision-maker was all about the task. I told him that we’d be done in 25 minutes. Before asking any more questions, I told him about our approach and added: “Our approach doesn’t work for everyone, but when we find a good match, we’ve had a ton of success. I’d like to ask a few questions to see if we might be able to help your group.”

That was it. He was disarmed when I told him about the 25 minutes. Afterward, he told my point of contact “That’s the first salesperson that I’ve ever liked.”

For someone in a socializing mood, let them talk. Ask about their family, hobbies, etc., and as the meeting progresses, let them know that the end time is approaching: “I’m OK to go past, but I don’t want to mess up your day” would work.  

A good example is a call that I joined virtually with a client I was coaching. The decision-maker asked the salesperson where she lived. After hearing her answer, the decision-maker revealed how much he liked that town and then started asking questions. After brief answers, she cut him off and said, “Since we got a late start, I think we should jump into the presentation.”

A lost opportunity to bond with a socializer, and literally a lost sales opportunity.

More Tips

In groups, try to get a feel for the mood of the room. If in doubt, assume a task-oriented mood. You will never upset a socializer by getting to the point, but you will alienate all task-oriented people by socializing.

That said, don’t assume moods. Sometimes an analytical engineer is ready to socialize, and a social marketing director is under a deadline. For sales calls, the mood is more important than their personality.

Chris Peterson is the founder and president of Vector Firm (, a sales consulting and training company built specifically for the security industry. Use "Security Business" as a coupon code to receive a 10% lifetime discount at To request more info about the company, visit

About the Author

Chris Peterson

Chris Peterson is the founder and president of Vector Firm, a sales consulting and training company built specifically for the security industry. Use “Security Business” as a coupon code to receive a 10% lifetime discount at the Vector Firm Academy.  •  (321) 439-3025