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 (Ramit Sethi) 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?”;

There are multiple questions you can use to diagnose, but they usually 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?”;

Underlying Psychology/Biases

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.


Some additional techniques include:

  • Asking for explicit permission to diagnose the issue. This gives you carte blanche to ask whatever you want, no matter how deep and personal;
    • “I would just like to ask a couple of questions to know more, if it’s OK with you”;
  • When making a recommendation later (with a diagnosed justification), only recommending the things that really are a fit
    • For example, with a software of 10 modules, where the person only needs 3, only selling those 3;
      • It’s less immediate revenue, but communicate honesty and being a trusted advisor;


Diagnosing needs:

  • Going to the doctor’s office
    • 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);
  • IT projects
    • A project manager will never recommend a development project until they are absolutely sure what the client’s needs are (this can have a lot of costs), so they perform a diagnostic;
  • Titles
    • Someone being a Doctor or Master will make them have more authority (it’s displayed authority), and consolidate their frame when diagnosing;
  • 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;
  • Unique coaches and consultants
    • Similar example as above;
    • Coaches and consultants that are a commodity, just one more, just state their price;
    • Top coaches diagnose needs first, and make the person feel the pain and see the value so much in a 1-on-1 call that price becomes a non-issue. They diagnose and make a tailored recommendation;

Diagnosing objections

  • Fulfilling the criteria
    • A very useful question is asking, “What would fulfil your criteria?”, which will make the person elaborate on them;
  • What it takes
  • Ideals
    • You can ask, “What would be the ideal version of [ABC]?”, which will make the person elaborate on what they truly want;

Commercial/Known Uses

Key Takeaways

Diagnosing needs:

  • Doing a diagnostic puts you in the driver’s seat. You’re leading the interaction, having power, and obtaining information about the other side. You are an authority and a specialist just by doing the diagnostic;
  • The deeper you can go, the better. The more you know about the person’s needs and pains, the more you can use these to build desire and persuade them later;
  • The opposite of the diagnostic can happen. Since diagnosing someone gives you more power over them, someone with power may reject the diagnostic to cut off your authority and try to break your frame. This will cause a frame battle;

Diagnosing objections:

  • Diagnosing is excellent to obtain more information you can later use against the person. You can ask about their criteria, ideals, how to make something happen, and more;
  • It’s also useful to flip the power dynamic. The person is asking you to justify something, and suddenly, they are the ones now justifying themselves;