The Diagnostic / Diagnosing

Performing a diagnostic or diagnosing is the act of asking your target or prospect questions in order to know more about their needs.

  • This allows your recommendation, at the end of it, to seem more tailored (whether it actually is or not);
    • The key here is that the tailored recommendation will be authentic. Sometimes, the recommendation will not be what you’re offering. It will be something else. But when the best selection is what you’re offering, it allows you to recommend it unapologetically;
  • It also instantly puts you in a place of authority, as you give off the impression of being a specialist asking questions. It’s the opposite of a pushy, “salesy” type of frame where you push anything at any cost.

A useful statement is to mention, “I’m not even going to mention my price/service/myself until I’m sure I really know what your needs are, and that I can help”.

There are usually two key types of diagnostic:

  • Diagnosing the person’s needs. This is usually done by a top consultant (or other top performer) in the beginning of the relationship to ascertain what the person needs. All this information can then be used to persuade them later;
  • Diagnosing an objection. This is used to flip the power dynamic on the person and get them to prove themselves, not you;
    • If the person says, “I’m not sure you have the required qualifications”, you may ask back, “What kind of qualifications would be necessary?”;

The Persuasion Psychology Behind the Technique

Doing a diagnostic immediately puts you in a seat of authority, as you seem like a specialist knowing more about their client/target. The person immediately assumes you have authority and specialization. It also assumes, by itself, that you are diagnosing so that you recommend the best thing possible, so it reinforces a trusted advisor frame.

Diagnosing also works to put you in a seat of power, because the person asking the questions has the power. You’re getting the other side to reveal information (sensitive information, possibly) that makes them vulnerable. While you reveal nothing. As it’s polarizing, it can cause a frame battle.

Both to know more about the target and to handle objections, there are usually a couple of key questions you can use. They mostly leverage some form of implementation intention:

  • “What criteria would you have for [ABC]?”;
  • “What would [ABC] mean to you?”;
  • “How would you do [ABC]?”;
  • “What kind of [ABC] do you have in mind?”;
  • “What’s kind of [ABC] would you be looking for?”;

For example, to diagnose on price:

  • “What criteria would you have to accept a price like this?”;
  • “What would a product with this price mean to you?”;
  • “How would you make this price work?”;
  • “What kind of price range do you have in mind?”;
  • “What kind of price range would you be looking for?”;


(2 in Total)


Medical consultations

The canonical example. The doctor will do a diagnostic to figure out what’s wrong with you, and you will respect them for it and heed their recommendation

Strategy sessions

A consultant or coach will, for one hour, just elicit the needs and pains of the possible client, without adding any value. They’re just screening for fit to then recommend themselves (or not)

Unique candidates

Top performing candidates, unlike others that are a commodity, are not “just one more”. They don’t apply with a CV and go through the same mechanism. They meet directly, diagnose needs 1-on-1, and then state their price

Examples (Objections)

Fulfilling criteria

very useful question is asking, “What would fulfil your criteria?”, which will make the person elaborate on them

What it takes

You can ask, “What would it take to do [ABC]?”. It’s diagnosing and implementation intention at the same time

The ideal version

You can ask, “What would be the ideal version of [ABC]?”, which will make the person elaborate on what they truly want

Use Cases For the Four Quadrants

Key Takeaways
(4 Total)

How to Stack This Technique