Demonstrate your sales smarts with these seven queries.

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

You may have heard it said in high school, college or a corporate meeting between the hoi polloi and muckety-mucks.

It’s starts with somebody saying, “I have a dumb question.” The typical response is “There are no dumb questions.” But dumb questions usually have an obvious answer.

I’ve heard a lot of dumb questions in my life. I’ve been on cruises where people ask the staff “Do the restaurants’ servers live onboard?” and at Mickey D’s where customers have asked, “Do I get more fries in a large or supersize?”

There are also dumb questions in retail sales, although the savvy salesperson knows the answer before asking it.  Making these customer inquiries at the right time can help your business close more and larger sales. Rehearse and try a few of these out.  You may be amazed at the results.

Do you sleep with a pillow at night?

Ask it when you have your shopper try their first test rest bed. Most mattress shoppers are either back sleepers or side sleepers and do sleep with a pillow.  So why ask? Getting the first “yes” helps lead into the second question.

Would you like to try a pillow?

Your shopper is used to resting with a pillow and will very likely say “yes” again.  This positive response allows you to introduce the value of a pillow in getting a good night’s sleep.  Grab three pillows (foam, faux down,and contour). Gently place one of the pillows under the shopper’s head and ask:

Does it feel better with a pillow or without?

Don’t be surprised when your shopper answers “Better with a pillow.” You now have the segue to test rest the other two pillows to find out which feels the best.

Do you have a five-sided or six-sided mattress protector at home?

You may have heard it said that “The way to sell accessories is to mention them early and often.” Trainers love to say that, but they rarely tell us how to bring it up. Asking the five- or six-sided question has a purpose.  Your shopper will either confirm that they currently have a protector (new mattress = new protector), don’t have a protector, or don’t know what a protector is or does.  In either case, you now have the opportunity early in the presentation to extoll the value of mattress protection.

(And if you’re wondering, a five-sided protector looks like a sheet and a six-sided protector is an encasement.)

When you get your new adjustable base, how do you plan to take care of it?

Anything you purchase that’s expensive and has electronics comes with a likelihood of requiring maintenance. Most or all your customers don’t know how to fix an adjustable base should a problem arise after the warranty timeframe. Asking the “care” question gives you the opening to discuss the value of extended service policies.

Do you have a TV in the bedroom?

I used to ask if my shopper watched TV in bed, leading to the presentation on how adjustable bases make that a more comfortable experience.  People are realizing that watching TV in bed, especially news shows, leads to a poor night of sleep, and they may not admit to boob tube viewing before bedtime.  Asking if there’s a TV in the room removes the guilt and adds the opportunity to upgrade their comfort.

Do you usually pay for large purchases with credit cards or free financing?

This was formerly known as the “cash or check” question, but chances that none of your customers pay with cash and some may not know what a check is, or how to write one. The value of this dumb question is that you gain commitment to the purchase and will have the ability to help your shopper balance their budget for big-ticket items.

Asking questions, even dumb ones, is a skill. Active listening for the answers is also a skill. Learning these dumb questions, and asking them often, may make you the smartest person in the room.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at