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The Selling Power of “What If?”
Blog / For Sales Pros / Mar 12, 2018 / Posted by Robert Jolles / 6949

The Selling Power of “What If?”


Because I was raised by a salesman, you could certainly say that selling runs in my blood. I sold many different things between school clubs, boy scouts and sports teams. These included toothbrushes, light bulbs, doughnuts, fertilizer, and first aid kits for card—and I sold all these items door-to-door. Upon graduating the University of Maryland I just wanted to sell. I got my wish within two weeks.

It was the New York Life Insurance Company that hired me, and I never had any doubts that life insurance was a necessary product. My potential customers, however, did have such doubts, and I had difficulty convincing them otherwise. I guess that it’s kind of rare for a person to awaken in the morning, yawn, stretch, and sit up and say, “You know, I feel like buying life insurance today!”

As it turns out, that was a correct assumption. During my three years as a life insurance salesman, my phone rang exactly twice. I was thrilled the first time—a potential client was actually looking for life insurance! But the second time, I responded by asking, “What did your doctor tell you today?”

It doesn’t take a great deal of skill to help another person who is already looking to make a change. It does takes a great deal of skill, however, to help someone find the desire, and the courage, to change before a loss or failure occurs.

  • The person who becomes ill, and cannot buy life insurance, knows this.
  • The person who receives a DUI, and loses his or her license, knows this.
  • The person who struggles with relationships, and loses his or her job, knows this.
  • The person who fails to make difficult business decisions, and then loses his or her company, knows this.

In a sense, you have two basic choices. You can tell someone what it is that he or she must do to avoid a catastrophe, or you can wait for that catastrophe to actually occur. Neither are viable choices if you actually care about the person you seek to help. The fact that people will avoid addressing problems until they become large problems, is not a reflection of stubbornness, or even procrastination. It is human nature. If you truly want to help someone, there is another way.

True selling power doesn’t focus on “What is?”; it focuses on “What if?”

The words you are looking for to begin your questions are this: “What if…?”

  • The person who feels well and can buy life insurance needs to be asked, “What if you get sick?”
  • The person who drinks and drives, yet has never received a DUI or lost his or her needs to be asked, “What if your luck runs out?”
  • The person who has never lost a job, even though he or she has no desire to fit in, needs to be asked, “What if you are placed on a team with a manager who feels fitting in is of paramount importance?”
  • The person who owns a successful company, yet has become lazy about keeping the company up-to-date needs to be asked; “What if the company doesn’t keep pace with the companies of tomorrow?”

It’s been many years since I worked for New York Life, but I credit that company, and that industry, for teaching me this invaluable lesson: the art of helping someone else make difficult, yet proactive, choices. The irony is that often, you will be pursuing a conversation about a problem that doesn’t even exist yet. Starting down that path with a simple phrase like, “What if…” could truly save someone from his or her own lack of foresight. That’s a conversation worth investing in.

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About Author

A sought-after speaker and best-selling author, Rob Jolles teaches, entertains, and inspires audiences worldwide. Rob draws on more than thirty years of experience and his keynotes and workshops are in global demand, including companies in North America, Europe, Africa, and the Far East.

Author's Publications on Amazon

Persuade, Don't Push! Surely you know plenty of people who need to make a change, but despite your most well-intentioned efforts, they resist because people fundamentally fear change. As a salesman, father, friend, and consultant, Rob Jolles knows this scenario all too well. Drawing on…
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How to Run Seminars and Workshops is the classic guide for trainers and presenters in any industry. Packed with clear advice and real-world practicality, this book covers all aspects including planning, setup, delivery, coaching, and more—including valuable guidance on selling your services. This new Fourth…
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The Way of the Road Warrior offers weary business travelers inspiration, advice, and practical skills for conquering the competition while conducting business on the road. This business traveler handbook is written by Robert L. Jolles salesman, consultant, professional speaker, and veteran Road Warrior who has…
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Whether you are presenting a product, giving a press conference, interviewing for a job, addressing an audience - you are selling. Selling is about persuading, and you have to think fast on your feet to be adept at it. As one of the most popular…
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This revised edition of Robert Jolles's classic book on sales technique features brands new material throughout, including illustrations, teaching aids, coaching techniques, and true implementation strategies! When you have a process, you have a way of measuring what you are doing. When you can measure…
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For some, projecting confidence and credibility is second nature. For others, it seems like a foreign language they'll never learn – until now. Rob Jolles delivers down-to-earth solutions for anyone looking to enhance the most basic need of all; to be believed. He leverages his…
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