Many articles, books and sales training programs are based upon the importance of questions, and for good reason. The questions you ask can and do significantly affect your quality of life — at home and in the showroom.

When you wake up in the morning, do you ask yourself what problems await you in the day ahead? Ask a negative question and your brain will provide an appropriate answer. You may find yourself plagued by feelings of inadequacy, unpreparedness or just plain old bad luck, all before you even get out of bed. Try asking yourself, “Why am I so lucky?” Your brain will reward you. My point is that every question has an answer, so ask better questions.

With that in mind, let’s consider the quality of the questions we ask of our customers — and whether we ask enough. How many times have you asked a customer what they they thought their trade-in was worth before you presented your figures and backed them up with a third-party value? How many sales managers have you seen jump into the presentation and demonstration without even asking the customer what they like about the vehicle?

There is something to be said for promoting a sense of urgency, but skipping the interview process entirely can derail a potential sale. A few high-quality questions can get the deal going in the right direction and let each customer know you have a genuine interest in their wants and needs. Let’s start with these three rapport-building questions:

1. How Will You Use the Vehicle?

This is a very open-ended question and an excellent conversation starter. People love to talk about their families and most people like to talk about their work. Their answers will help guide your presentation. If they’re taking the kids to school or joining a carpool, talk about the ease of access, cabin space and rear legroom. Do they like to take road trips or go camping or skiing? Talk about the cargo space and quiet ride. If they’re flying solo, focus on performance and drivability.

2. What Are You Driving Now?

Take a moment to get to know the customer’s current vehicle. Most drivers have some affinity for their old ride, but if they just want to complain, let them. Your goal is to tailor the presentation of their next car or truck to their old one. What do they like about it? What would they change? You can lead them down the path to the perfect selection and pick up tons of useful information along the way.

3. What Prompted You to Get Into the Market Now?

It may sound like idle chatter, but this question can help you get outstanding results. If your customer is in the market because of a recent promotion, for instance, you can get them talking about the new job and congratulate them. If they have a baby on the way, show them how simple and easy it is to install a car seat and put a stroller in the trunk. If they just totaled a vehicle, they probably have safety on their mind. Ask how their car performed in the crash and demonstrate your vehicles’ long list of safety features. Loyal new-car and lease customers will want to know they are sticking with a safe brand.

The list of useful questions is endless, and there is no shortage of expert advice available in these pages and beyond. But the questions listed above are proven winners. Work on asking better questions and you will get better results. And remember to start with the questions you ask yourself!

Jason Heard is the general sales manager at Frank Ancona Honda in Olathe, Kan. He is a 20-year industry veteran with extensive sales and sales management experience. [email protected]