Win More Customers by Avoiding These 7 Questions



Sales calls can be high-pressure situations for a sales rep, as it can be difficult to hit all the right notes and say the right things to convert a prospect into a paying customer.

But just as important as knowing what to say is knowing what not to say. For instance, immediate questions about budget and when to follow up might be perceived as pushy and turn a potential customer off from working with you.

To help sales teams avoid this fate and instead win their prospects over, a group of successful entrepreneurs explains which questions to avoid during a sales conversation and why.

‘Are you the decision maker?’

While asking a prospect if they’re the decision maker can help you ensure you’re talking to the right person, phrasing it that way can bruise egos and push the customer away, says Karl Kangur, founder and CEO of Above House

“You can get the answer anyway by being a better listener,” Kangur adds. “If they aren’t the decision maker, you should be arming them with the information they need to sell to their superiors or partners regardless.”

‘What’s your budget?’

Asking about a prospect’s budget may seem like an obvious question, but Kristin Kimberly Marquet, founder and creative director of Marquet Media, LLC, says this comes across as trying to negotiate with the customer. 

“They just want to buy what they need,” Marquet explains. “If you ask them, ‘What’s your budget?’ the customer will feel like you are trying to push them into buying something they don’t want or can’t afford.”

‘Can I get your email address?’

People are tired of handing out their email addresses for very little in return, says Nick Venditti, director of e-commerce at StitchGolf. If you want to collect a prospect’s email address, it’s important to promise them more than just a one-time discount or future promotions.

“When you ask for someone’s email, you ask for their time,” says Venditti. “Diversify your pitch and give them a real reason to give you their business.”

‘Do you want to reach out to me?’

Some sales reps try to put a potential customer at ease by giving them the option to start the conversation back up when they’re ready. However, this leaves the ball in the court of the potential customer, says Givelle Lamano, CEO of Lamano Law Office — and if they say they will reach out to you, they may never do it. 

“Instead, I say, ‘How much time do you need to give your decision the attention it deserves so we can get something on the calendar as a control date?'” Lamano explains. “Be clear about who is going to do what by when.”

‘What do you want to buy?’

A successful sale is rarely about the desire to purchase a specific product or service; instead, it’s about solving a problem. That’s why Vikas Agrawal, CEO and co-founder of Infobrandz, advises sales reps to never ask a customer, “What do you want to buy?” 

“Instead, the salesperson should ask the customer, ‘How do you want to get there?'” says Agrawal. “Making an intelligent statement that is problem-solution-oriented can create more customer interest to buy your product.”

‘Have you made up your mind yet?’

According to Stephanie Wells, co-founder and CTO of Formidable Forms, asking a prospect whether they’ve made up their mind yet can be a huge turnoff. 

“It’s a common question for sales teams to ask potential customers when they’re cold calling and following up on a lead,” Wells says. “Focus on answering the questions of your potential customers instead.”

Simple yes or no questions

Qualifying questions can help you understand whether a sales prospect is an ideal customer, but asking a string of yes or no questions to check off criteria in your CRM may not be the right approach.

“People can tell when they are being interviewed like that,” says Samuel Thimothy, co-founder of OneIMS. “Lead a conversation as a person, not as a salesperson. They should speak and you should listen.”

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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