Mix it Up with Anxiety Questions to Prevent an Exit

There are times in a sales cycle when you realize your prospect has lost momentum and you sense that you are no longer on the same page. Perhaps they outright state they’ve lost the urgency to make a change, or worse, after a number of promising calls, you now get total silence.

How can you get the results you want without destroying the rapport you’ve built? The answer – Be prepared to ask anxiety questions that get your prospect thinking differently. At ValueSelling, we consider an anxiety question to be a carefully phrased inquiry that creates some urgency and changes the customer’s perspective. It’s important to ask the right questions at the right time – and that includes those to get someone to consider the consequences if they don’t buy from you.


First, a quick refresher on the different kinds of questions used in the sales cycle.

Open-ended questions

These questions are designed to better grasp the prospect’s perspective on current conditions. Your goal is to get someone to open up and share information about their business and what’s most important to them. You also demonstrate genuine interest in their needs by asking and then actively listening to responses.

Probing questions

Used to differentiate and create need for your products and services, probing questions raise issues that didn’t surface on their own. With this line of questioning and listening, you also establish credibility by revealing how much you know about the industry, company and common problems within it. Probing questions are closed questions with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

Confirming questions

Pausing to ask confirming questions following a discussion revolved around open-ended and probing questions, provides the thoughtful opportunity to verify the shared understanding of what the prospect is saying.

Anxiety questions

With the sense – or sometimes the message is loud and clear – that your prospect doesn’t believe there is a business issue or problem that requires your solution, it is time to draw off your arsenal of prepared anxiety questions.

When should you use Anxiety Questions with your buyer?

  • They are overconfident or complacent
  • They don’t share Business Issues or Problems
  • They think a competitor has a better Solution
  • To help them believe in a new or unique way

Anxiety questions are provocative but do not damage rapport or trust by being assumptive or confrontational. And this is why you need to be prepared to ask anxiety questions, sometimes without notice or warning. Preparation is key to insuring your questions are aligning your solutions to the specific difficulties someone is facing (or wishes to avoid). In scenarios where your outreach has been dodged, this could be your last opportunity to get their attention. Delivered in a genuine, conversational style, anxiety questions can cause your buyer to experience the consequences of not having your solution. They create a sense of urgency when none exists and anxiety questions help them to see things differently than they currently do.

Such questions often begin with:

  • “I understand where you’re coming from. Tell me, have you also considered what happens if ____?”
  • “Interesting. Are you concerned about the ramifications if going in that other direction does not unfold as you expect?”
  • “Is there a risk if _____?”

It’s also critical that you be as positive as possible, even when discussing negative consequences. Remember: You want to help someone be better.

After delivering the anxiety question, don’t expect the prospect to say, “Oh my goodness, you’re right. I’m ready to buy now.” The goal is to re-engage the prospect. What you want them to say or think is, “Hmmm. I haven’t considered that. It might be worth my time to talk more about it.”

In the end, you want to make sure that your prospect realizes how imperative it is to take action and do business with you. Anxiety questions help you re-engage the prospect in a conversation. Once you’ve done that, you have a much better shot at requalifying, advancing and following-up on the sale.

Sell with Value!

Relevant topic? Listen to the recorded webinar, originally aired on Thursday, March 21: Mitigate Risk by Posing Anxiety Questions.