Question vs. Concern“Do you have any questions?”

Are you and your staff asking that of your prospective customers? Do your surveys ask the same thing?

While your intent is admirable, your phrasing just might be hampering sales, and I’d like to suggest a far more effective variation.

But to understand the power of the variation, you have to understand what’s wrong with the question you’re currently asking.

The Magic of Word Association

It comes down to word associations. Our associations – our emotional reactions to words – often have very little to do with a word’s dry definitions. Take “discriminate.” Are the host of emotions and mental images evoked by that word explained by the dictionary definition: to note a difference; to make a distinction?

And even though the two words have similar definitions, is it really that surprising that everyone wants to be normal but no one wants to be average?

So, what are the associations behind the phrasing: “Do you have any question?”

Well, let’s skip to the word “question” itself. A question is usually imagined as fully-formed, well-articulated, and for the most part, direct. And emotionally speaking, asking a question is often felt as revealing or implying ignorance or weakness.  And then there’s the presupposition of the “Do you” part of your phrasing, which assumes the prospect may not have any questions.

Ask me if I have any questions and chances are I’ll say, “no.” I probably haven’t formulated my thoughts yet, and quite frankly, I don’t want to sound like a bozo in front of the sales staff. “No” is safe. I like safe; I’d bet most of your prospects feel the same way, too.

How to take the negative associations away from asking a question

But what if you ask me about my CONCERNS? Ahhhh. Now I have permission to be vague, to take my time…and to not feel like I’m admitting ignorance.

If I’m expressing concerns (rather an asking a question), I can tell you about emotional things like doubts.

Did you think wordsmithing was only important to your advertising copy? Is your sales team hearing “No” more often than you’d prefer? Try a little wordsmithing; have them ask, “So what are your concerns?”

Applications to Online Copywriting

And if you’re reading this as a copywriter, ask yourself this:

Are you expecting visitors to use formal navigation in order to arrive at your question-answering content?

Or are you anticipating the associational flow of the conversation and supplying embedded links and embedded page elements like videos, testimonials, and pictures that would allow visitors to quickly drill down on areas of concern without having to explicitly acknowledge and consciously think about those concerns?

Does your copy address concerns, or just answer questions?


  1. Shane Arthur on 12.16.2009

    I taught computer classes for about 4 years. Throughout each lesson I would always ask, “Does anybody have any questions?” I knew people had them and I’d use humor to coax them into opening up, but sh!$ man, I could have used this advice the whole time! 🙂