5 Questions You Should Avoid Asking Your Prospects
Let’s start off by saying questions are great. Salespeople should ask lots of questions and then listen to the answers as intently as possible. A good salesperson spends much of their time asking questions – especially open ended ones – and then using the answers to those questions as a road map to an effective sales presentation.
So here’s a question for you: are all questions good?
Some questions are counterproductive and should be eliminated from every seller’s vocabulary. And a few of them (like some of the ones below) are still included in sales training across the globe. So go ahead and ask lots of questions – just make sure to avoid the following five the next time you’re on the phone.
1. “Are you the decision maker?”
Of course, you need to find out (and speak to) the decision maker, but phrasing the question this way can backfire spectacularly. Here’s why: by presenting it as a close-ended question, you’re challenging the person you’re talking to to say ‘yes’. They won’t want to say ‘no’ and feel unimportant, or listen to you try to persuade them to be connected to someone else. Instead, ask if there’s anyone else who is involved in the decision-making process. It’s open-ended, and more polite.
2. “What keeps you up at night?”
If you’re a salesperson who asks this question, you have to admit that it sounds absurd. An honest answer to this question would probably be: “back pain,” “marital problems,” or, “my neighbor blasts the Foo Fighters until 2 am every night.” You probably wouldn’t ask this question on a first date, so why would you ask a prospect? If you’re trying to discover which problems, needs, and concerns a prospect has, then phrase the question accordingly. Don’t sound like you’re trying to pry into the deepest recesses of their mind.
3. “Can I be honest with you?”
Salespeople say this in a misguided effort to build trust, but, more often than not, it has the opposite effect. If you’re asking if it’s okay for you to be honest, does that mean you weren’t being honest before? Why do you need the prospect’s permission to be honest? Are you incapable of being honest otherwise? You get the point. This is one of those “filler” expressions where we feel like we need to introduce a point instead of just making it. If you’re looking to qualify what you’re about to say, try going with something other than “can I be honest?”
4. “Can you afford this?”
In sales mythology, there’s a belief that using reverse psychology and challenging a prospect to buy can be an effective sales strategy. To be sure, there are certain prospects who actually may be receptive to it. But for the overwhelming majority, if you’re going to try it, you should expect to lose the deal. If, however, you’re asking this question in an effort to uncover the prospect’s budget, then you should consider rephrasing to something a little less brash, like: “How much have you budgeted for this (project, item, etc.)?”
5. “How could you not want this deal?”
When you offer a deal that’s better than your competitors, which gives the prospect exactly what they asked for, it can be incredibly frustrating if they turn it down. But challenging the prospect on their decision needs to come from a place of confidence, not desperation (which is how this question sounds). There are a myriad of reasons why the prospect isn’t taking the deal, some of which may be outside your control. But asking the prospect how he or she could possibly turn the deal down won’t make them change their mind. It’ll just further convince them that they’re making the right decision.
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