The words we use can make the difference between landing a sale or getting kicked to the curb. When observing salespeople selling, I’ve found many phrases used over and over again causing negative reactions 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 late in the process that someone else makes the decision.
Better: “Who else is participating with you in making this decision?
2. 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?”
3. 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 Customer Service or Technical Support in case they have issues with your product or service. So, what happens if they need help at 11:00pm on a Saturday night? What happens to your customer when you’re no longer with the company? What happens when 50% of your workweek is tied up with customer support issues instead of selling new accounts? If you think you’re building trust offering this to your potential customer, you’re not. 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.”
4. If we can solve your problem, will you buy today?
This is yet another setup question. Yes, you want your prospect to become your customer – 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 a prospect to buy prematurely. 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.”
5. 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”, or “yesterday”, etc. As a salesperson trying to make a sale, it’s so easy to believe that you need to immediately get a contract into their hands because they’re ready to buy now. Actually, “ASAP” may mean, “by the end of the year.” The lesson here is to not ask ambiguous questions. If you really want to know when someone will make a decision or when they want delivery – choose your words and ask them plainly.
Better: “What date do you want it delivered?”
The Golden Rule is a universal application. 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 replace them with the ones I’ve suggested. You and your customers will both be glad you did.