The words we use can make the difference between landing a sale or getting kicked to the curb. When observing salespeople, I've found many questions, used over and over again, that elicit negative responses from buyers. Salespeople can ask a question and not get a truthful answer from the buyer--simply because of the way they phrased the question.

Here are five examples of what not to say on a sales call. Some of them may surprise you.

  1. "Are you the decision maker?"

Great question, but it's worded poorly. Surprisingly, this question actually persuades your prospect to lie to you. Here's how. The question is closed-ended, meaning it requires either a yes or no answer. This makes a non-decision maker feel threatened. They don't want say no and appear unimportant, so they will often answer yes. What they're not telling you is that their yes is a qualified yes. What they are really saying is, "Yes, I'm the one who decides who gets to present to my boss--the ultimate decision maker." You're now attempting to sell to the wrong person. This is why so many sales reps lose sales when they discover too late in the process that someone else makes the decision.

Better: "Who else is participating with you in making this decision?"

  1. "If I could show you a way to save money, you'd be interested, wouldn't you?"

This is a setup question. Also known as a leading question. This is an old attorney trick that many sales reps still use today and many sales trainers (sadly) still teach. Some sales reps believe that they gain commitment when they get a prospect to say the word "yes." This is pure manipulation. Salespeople aren't lawyers. They should actually ask questions to which they don't know the answers.

Better: "May I ask you a few questions to find out if we can be of service?"

  1. "You can call me personally if there are any problems with our product or service."

Unless you are an extremely small company, provide your customers with the best way to contact your company's customer service or technical support if they have issues with your product or service. What happens if they need help at 11:00 p.m. on a Saturday night? What happens to your customer when you're no longer with the company? What happens when 50 percent of your workweek is tied up with customer support issues instead of selling new accounts? If you think you're building trust by offering this to your potential customers, you're wrong. You're teaching them that your time isn't very valuable and your company's support services aren't very good.

Better: "If you experience any issues with our service, our customer support team is ready to help. Contact them at this phone number or email address, and they will immediately get a service request started."

  1. "If we can solve your problem, will you buy today?"

This is yet another setup question. Yes, you want your prospects to become your customers--but only if they are qualified. No, you don't want to arm-wrestle them into the decision. And what if they have business issues you can't answer today, much less overcome? What if they have demands as to contract terms that your manager will have to address? Never ask prospects to buy prematurely. Close the sale only after they've been properly qualified.

Better: "Based on what you've communicated to me, let me recommend the following solutions that we can provide to help you achieve your objectives."

  1. "When do you want to make a decision/take delivery?"

Discovering time frame and urgency is a critical part of professional selling. The wording of this question is poor, because it solicits an ambiguous response from the prospect, such as: "right away," "very soon," "ASAP," "yesterday," etc. As a salesperson trying to make a sale, it's so easy to believe that you need to get a contract into their hands immediately, because they're ready to buy now. Actually, "ASAP" may mean, "by the end of the year." The lesson here is that you should not ask ambiguous questions. If you really want to know when someone will make a decision or when they want delivery--choose the right words, and ask plainly.

Better: "What date do you want it delivered?"

The golden rule can be applied universally. Treat your prospect the way you would want to be treated if you were the buyer. Never cajole, manipulate, or attempt to coerce someone into buying from you. Begin building positive, long-lasting, and valuable customer experiences by removing these five items from your sales talk and replacing them with the ones I've suggested. You and your customers will both be glad you did.

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