Top 10 Mistakes Salespeople Make #1 Asking Dumb Questions

#1 Asking Dumb Questions

Dunce with Dummy textLet’s list a few dumb sales questions and see if you recognise them. What does your company do? What do you do in the company? What is your best selling product? So how many staff do you have? Or how about calling up reception on the way to your first meeting with them to say you need directions? Why not hang a sign around your neck that says “I haven’t done my homework” or “I don’t care about your winning your business”?

Most questions asked by sales people are dumb questions they think it’s called the gift of the gab but in any modern day sales situation your brain and not your mouth is your greatest asset.

Dumb questions make you look like a dummy and people don’t buy from dummies! People buy from smart, involved engaged professionals whom they trust.

Want to look smart, make friends and build trust with a buyer? Ask smart questions, smart questions engage the buyer, smart questions make the buyer think, they show that you have thought about the company and about how you can help them, smart questions uncover the buying reasons and buying reasons are the key to generating more customers.

The smartest and most important question of all however, is the least asked question in sales and it should be the very first question in all sales processes and it is “How exactly will the buying decision be made”? I can’t stress enough how important this question is – some 50% of all sales presentations are delivered to the wrong person! Ever heard a sales guy say they had a great first meeting and they expect to get the order agreed next week, only to be told the following week that now the buyer wants a proposal to show his boss? The problem was he wasn’t actually selling to the buyer but someone who works for the buyer – the monkey and not the organ grinder!

Even if the contact says “I will make the decision” don’t believe it, not till you have asked the question several times in several different ways over the course of the meeting. Try asking “well who will help you make the decision”? and “who are the other stakeholders that WE need to get on board to make this happen”?

I got the idea for this blog as last week I got the same answer five times over the course of a sales meeting but my gut feel told me to keep pushing and eventually I asked “who will try to kill this deal”? The response was shocking he said “well just about everyone as the board is trying to push me out and I won’t be here within a week or two”.

Don’t worry if you get a response like that, it can be the best thing that can happen to you. Now you know this isn’t a sales meeting, the pressure is off both you and the contact. This now becomes the best time to show how much research you have done on the company and to ask those probing smart questions. Show a genuine interest in the person and his problems in business, if you can identify what is stopping the company from achieving his goals then you have the reason that the buyer will buy and a great chance of a sale once he gets you in front of the real buyer.

Once you have agreed it is not a sales meeting then the contact will be more open and willing to share information with you that you just wouldn’t get otherwise. The late great Dale Carnegie said “everyone’s favourite topic of conversation is themselves” so get them talking and learn all you can about them and the company, engage on a deeper level. When 80% + of the meeting has gone match your product or services to your new found knowledge and explain how your service or product can really help the company meet its goals. Then ASK “when is the best time to make the sales presentation to your boss”?

Consider the alternative:

1) One maybe two sales meetings with someone who can’t make the decision
2) Hours preparing a proposal that might never reach the real decision maker
3) Your boss (if you have one) will wonder why your predicted sale stalled
4) Your pipeline will be weak as you spent two weeks closing the wrong sale

OR by asking the smart questions and realising that it’s not a sales meeting you can:

1) Gather more information about the prospect company than any competitor
2) Start to create a valued relationship with a key influencer in the buying process
3) Get a quality introduction to the real buyer who might not have agreed to meet you in the first place
4) Most importantly of all you will probably get the sale and many other follow up sales!

Want to look smart, make friends and build trust with a buyer?

Ask smart questions – Get the sale.

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp

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1 Response to “Top 10 Mistakes Salespeople Make #1 Asking Dumb Questions”


  1. 1 Stephen Smith July 15, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Couldn’t agree more on this post Gordon. A common misconception from sales people is “if they agree to see me, then they must be in a position to make the decision to buy”.

    The quality of the sale is dictated by the quality of your questions.


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