Do Not Ask A Prospect These Questions

We all know that asking prospects questions is the best way to learn more about them, their needs and how they can best be served. But, salespeople may actually be asking questions that hurt, more than help, their chances of making a sale. “Millions of professionals have been given poor advice and coaching with either outdated, or poorly conceived strategies,” writes Ian Altman, in an article for Forbes. “Misguided questions generally have great intentions. However, such questions will trigger an adversarial response from a potential client.”

Altman lists what he believes are the three worst questions to ask, and he also suggests more appropriate alternatives, including the two below:

  • What’s been keeping you up at night?

While this seems like an innocent question, it actually is too general and not helpful. The prospect likely will not give you a specific enough answer that can help you determine a helpful solution. They may even give you a response that involves an issue that you can’t address at all. Instead, Altman recommends detailing problems that your services or products solve, which will pique their interest and encourage them to discuss their own problem(s). This then can lead to learning more about their situation and how you can help.

  • Who Is The Decision Maker OR Have You Made A Decision Yet?

Altman believes that neither question will get you an honest response. Also, the questions focus on the “decision” to buy, rather than the prospect getting results they need. There are other ways to find out this information, and it involves asking the questions differently. “Ask questions about who will be involved in ensuring and measuring results of your solution,” Altman suggests. “Also ask questions about who has the most to lose if the issue is not solved.” By asking these questions, you show the prospect that you both have a common goal: Getting results.

Even though you have the greatest intentions when asking these questions, they won’t get you any closer to making the sale or establishing a trusting relationship with the prospect. By following Altman’s advice and reworking the questions, you have a better chance of uncovering the prospect’s true needs and establishing a solid rapport.

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica is a senior research analyst for SalesFuel focusing on selling to SMB decision makers. She also reports on sales and presentation tips for SalesFuel and Media Sales Today. Jessica is a graduate of Ohio University.