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.