Brian Geery explains why the structure of your question is as important as the question itself. Whether you are in sales or not, I think we can agree, sales professionals should stop asking these 5 questions immediately.
Asking questions is an important part of the sales process.
And contrary to the popular saying, when it comes to being a sales professional, there is such a thing as a stupid question.
As a sales consultant, I interview salespeople and observe them on sales calls in order to write sales playbooks. For the “sales questions” section of the playbook, I prioritize and categorize the best sales questions for that specific sales process.
Along the way, I have identified these five questions as some of the stupidest, and surprisingly, most common. So without further adue here is a list of five stupid sales questions you should never ask again.
1. What will it take to earn your business today?
First of all, it will take you not asking this question because it automatically makes you sound “salesy.” You are a sales professional; it is your job to do the selling. If the prospect were going to tell you what it took to earn their business then they wouldn’t need you, would they?
Besides, you should know: to earn a prospect’s business your product or service has to be a cost-justified solution to a problem the prospect is currently facing. Oh, and it has to solve that problem better than the competition.
Instead, you should ask questions that elicit information regarding their problems and the consequences of the status quo. For example: explore the problem’s impact on time, money, personal aggravation, or the growth of the business. Then ask about the decision making criteria, cost justification data, and the competitive landscape.
2. What do you guys do? How long have you worked there?
First of all, have you met my friends Google and Social Media? You can easily answer these and other questions with proper pre-sale research. You are doing pre-sale research on your prospects aren’t you? While these are two different questions, they are both in the same category of stupid.
I often take inbound sales calls because it gives me an opportunity to do some reverse prospecting. I listen to the salesperson’s approach, take notes, and then reach out to the company’s VP of Sales with some ideas for enhancement.
I am continually amazed at how many sales calls I receive where it’s obvious the salesperson hasn’t even glanced at my firm’s website, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, etc. Even before impromptu sales meetings, a quick search can give you insight on the person or company you are about to meet with.
3. Who else is involved in the decision making process?
Maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but a prospect may hear this question as, “Since you’re just an underling, who should I really be talking to?”
Why not flip the question like this, “Who, including yourself, should be involved in the decision making process?” This way you still get the information you need without potentially offending your prospect.
The structure of your sales questions is very important and underestimating the value of a properly placed question can cost you dearly in a sales setting.
4. Are you familiar with _________?
There are a couple problems with this question. First of all it is a closed-ended question. This means you are making it easy for the buyer to give you a yes or no answer. But, is that question giving you any new information or is it even necessary for you to make the sale?
This question can also put someone on the spot unnecessarily.
For example: someone recently asked me if I’m familiar with Drupal. I happen to have a basic understanding that Drupal is software used in website development, but that’s pretty much it. If I answer “yes,” I’m overstating my knowledge of the technology, and if I answer “no,” I feel like a dummy.
I suppose I could say “a little,” but why would you leave it up to me to answer your question in the exact way you want it. This is a perfect way to lose all of your sales momentum if you get the wrong answer.
Asking questions during the sales process is important but sometimes it is more important to skip a question and just explain what you are referencing as opposed to placing a hurdle or possible objection in your path.
5. What’s your budget?
First of all, what should their budget have to do with your pricing. By asking this question, you instantly make the buyer feel like your pricing is dependent on their answer. You also have to remember that buyers are often liars. They feel you are trying to game them when you ask this question so they will often use it as an opportunity to game you.
They may feel that answering the question puts them at a disadvantage when negotiating. What if they have not yet set a budget and then you force them to give you a ceiling? Again, be careful about when and where your questions come up. Asking a question like this at the wrong time of the sales process can be a sure fire way to end up with a dead lead.
Instead, when the time is right, ask how they intend on paying for your services. Phrasing your question this way assumes the sale, puts the ball in their court to ask you about your pricing or financing options and otherwise leads you closer to the close.
It also opens the door to start talking about their overall budget and what part of it they might be willing to allocate towards your services.
Questions are an important part of the sales process, but stupid questions are a sure fire way to trip yourself up on that path to making that sale. Think about the way you structure and format your questions before your next meeting so that they are second nature to you when sitting in front of your next prospect.