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4 Common Questions That Irritate Customers

Ask any of these dumb questions during an initial conversation with a customer and you've probably lost the sale.

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Sales scripts often include questions intended to move the sale forward.

Unfortunately, many scripts contain questions that are guaranteed to irritate the customer.

Here are the four biggest "eye-rollers," along with better alternatives:

1. "Would you agree that...?"

  • Why you asked it: You're trying to manipulate the customer into saying "Yes" to something small, so that they'll say "Yes" to buying.
  • Why it's irritating: The customer knows exactly what you're trying to do because this technique is at least a hundred years old.
  • Ask instead: "What are your priorities around...?"
  • Why this is better: This opens a discussion of the actual issues so that you can learn more about the customer's situation.

2. "If I could save you 15%, would you be interested..."

  • Why you asked it: You're holding out the promise of cost-savings as a way to hook the customer into listening to the rest of your spiel.
  • Why it's irritating: It communicates accurately and clearly that you haven't bothered to find out anything specific about the customer.
  • Ask instead: "Where would cost reduction be of particular value?"
  • Why this is better: It allows the customer to expound on where they're having challenges, so that you can better craft a solution.

3. "Do you have a budget for this?"

  • Why you asked it: You're trying to qualify the lead so that you don't waste time selling to somebody who doesn't have the money to buy.
  • Why it's irritating: It tells the customer that you're only interested in making a sale and (worse) are hoping to run up the price to match the stated budget.
  • Ask instead: "How are decisions made for this type of purchase?"
  • Why this is better: It launches a discussion of the buying process, so that you can tailor your selling activities to match. Remember: if the need is great enough, the budget will follow.

4. "Are you the decision maker?"

  • Why you asked it: You wanted to ensure that you're talking to the person who can say "Yes" and (if not) use that person as a bridge.
  • Why it's irritating: You're implying that you suspect your customer contact is some flunky gatekeeper who needs to be schmoozed.
  • Ask instead: "Who are the stakeholders?"
  • Why this is better: This question will uncover the various people who will need to reach consensus on the purchase in order for it to be actually made. Ideally, you'll get a roadmap of whom you must contact in order to close the deal.
Last updated: Dec 12, 2011

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

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



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