Dr. Karl Blanks is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from London. He is the co-founder of Conversion Rate Experts, a consultancy that scientifically grows many of the world's most successful web business, including Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. We asked Karl for tips on growing sales. Here's what he had to say:

To help us grow our clients' businesses, we carry out extensive research. Over 10 million people have seen our surveys. In doing so, we have discovered one question that almost always reveals an easy way to increase a company's sales. It works like magic on any business. It is:

"What nearly stopped you buying from us?"

The wording can be modified depending on what your company does. It could also end with "... from using us" or "..from signing up." You can also ask the question in many ways. For example, you can use a survey on your website's thank-you page or even email the customer a link to the survey. For SMEs and startups, our company uses tools like Qualaroo, Hotjar, FluidSurveys, SurveyGizmo, and Google Forms. In other cases, it's worth asking the question when speaking to customers--either face-to-face or on the phone.

In my experience, there are some important subtleties and realizations as to why the question works so well.

You put it to your customers, not to those who didn't buy from you.

This might sound counterintuitive. Surely, you might think, if Alice buys one of your sports cars and Bob doesn't, it's Bob's opinions that you need to hear. But the problem with nonbuyers like Bob is that they are a mixed bunch. Some of them will be qualified to buy from you and many of them won't. For example, some Bobs just want to test drive a sports car and have no intention of buying. If you ask Bobs why they didn't buy, their responses can be red herrings; often they complain about price. The Alices, on the other hand, are (by definition) qualified prospects. And you'd like more of them.

Your customers have been through the entire sales funnel and your nonbuyers haven't.

Your customers know what they are talking about. They've paid enough attention to make a decision, so they know enough to be able to make good suggestions. A nonbuyer, on the other hand, may have bailed after only a few seconds. His or her opinion--however strong--is much less likely to be accurate. When your buyers criticize you, they are likely to be right.

Even though your customers overcame every barrier to buying from you, they weren't oblivious to the barriers.

When you ask Alice, "What nearly stopped you buying from us?" she will still remember the biggest barriers. And for every Alice who successfully overcame the barriers, you'll almost certainly find there were several people who gave up. When you remove the barrier, sales increase.

There are clear benefits to asking this question. So ... what's nearly stopping you from asking it?

Published on: Apr 4, 2016