As salespeople, we tend to have our own go-to questions—and most of the time, we ask prospects those questions without even thinking about it.
It’s great to have a set of questions you ask in every selling situation. But there are certain questions you should NEVER ask a prospect…ever.
Some questions should always be avoided in sales—at all costs—because they make you sound like every other cheesy salesperson out there.
In this video, I’m going to show you the 5 terrible sales questions you should never, ever ask a prospect. Check it out:
1. How are you?
It might surprise you that this is a bad sales question. Let me explain why.
Almost every salesperson out there is starting their sales conversations by asking, “How are you?” There’s no inherent flaw in this question itself. The problem is that it’s a thoughtless question, and rhetorical in nature. Everyone asks it reflexively, and no one really cares about how the other person responds.
So when you ask a prospect, “How are you?” the prospect will immediately put their walls up. They’ll get the signal that you’re just like every other salesperson out there.
Instead of using this terrible sales question, break the pattern. Use a different type of question to open up your sales conversations.
Literally any question or statement (within reason, of course) would be better than “How are you?” Mix it up and try a few different options at the start of your next cold calls, in-person meetings, or Zoom meetings. Say something that gets the prospect to wake up from their stupor and to realize that you’re different from other salespeople.
2. What’s keeping you up at night?
Many years ago, this was actually an effective sales question because it wasn’t yet being used very often. But today, a huge swath of salespeople are using this question to open up every single conversation they have. As a result, prospects are weary of these types of questions, particularly when it comes to starting conversations.
So let’s say you’re dealing with a high-level buyer and you open up the conversation with, “You know what, George? Tell me, what’s keeping you up at night right now?” Immediately, that buyer is thinking, “Oh man, I’ve been asked this question a million times. It’s super salesy. It’s cheesy.”
Don’t start with that type of terrible sales question. Instead, use something that’s a little more engaging, and more specific.
3. What would get you to buy right now?
This just might be the sales-iest question out there. When you ask a prospect, “What would get you to buy right now?” they immediately feel immense pressure and discomfort. Their response will be to resist, either by way of asking for a discount or just getting out of the conversation as quickly as possible.
Rather than ask terrible sales questions like this that naturally put pressure on the prospect, focus instead on their commitment to solve the challenges that they’re facing.
Don’t focus on getting them to buy. Just focus on them.
4. Are you the decision maker?
This is one of the most destructive sales questions to ask later on in the sales process.
If you’re the prospect and the salesperson asks you, “Are you the decision maker?” you’re either going to start beating your chest, saying, “Yes, I’m the decision maker,” or you’re going to be kind of offended that I asked and wonder why I doubt your ability to make the decision.
Just imagine if you’re selling to two homeowners and you turn to the husband and ask, “Are you the decision maker?” Painful, right? That husband might beat his chest and say he’s the decision maker, but is he really? Chances are, no. Of course not. They’re making the decision together as a team.
Even in a company setting, there’s typically not just one decision maker. So you always want to avoid asking, “Are you the decision maker?” because you’ll either offend someone or you’ll get incorrect information about who’s really calling the shots.
Instead, you want to ask questions to uncover the prospect’s decision-making process in general. Don’t ask outright who the decision maker is. Slow it down and just find out about how they typically go about making a decision, who’s involved, and what that process really looks like from start to finish.
5. Would a discount change your mind? (The worst of all terrible sales questions…)
This is such a desperate question. And yet I hear salespeople asking some version of this terrible sales question all the time.
When it seems like a sale is starting to go south, salespeople tend to panic and try anything to get the prospect to move forward. But put yourself in the prospect’s shoes. If a salesperson asked you, “Would a discount change your mind?” how would you react? You would probably think to yourself, “Well, clearly they don’t have any price integrity because they’re just willing to ask if I would accept a discount.”
This question shows weakness and makes the prospect doubt your value.
If you’re in a situation where you’ve lost a sale, it’s likely not because of the price. So asking about a discount is putting yourself on the sales-iest, cheesiest level that you could possibly be. Avoid discount questions at all costs and instead use the sales process to create value.
So, there you have it. Now you know never to ask these 5 terrible sales questions in selling situations. I want to hear from you. Which of these questions will you kick to the curb? Be sure to share below in the comment section to get involved in the conversation.
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About the Author Marc Wayshak
Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.
Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.
Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.