Six Sales Questions You Should Stop Asking

June 27th, 2012

bad sales questionsYou hear it again and again: “In sales, it’s important to ask good questions.”

The problem is, nobody ever tells you exactly what those questions are. As a result, too many salespeople, business owners and professionals ask bad questions. Questions that can make your job more difficult and even cost you the sale.

If you’d like to boost your sales, start by eliminating these questions from your repertoire:

1. “Can I help you?”
The answer to this question is typically “No.” Which means you’ve lost all chance to interact with your prospect. Instead, ask, “What brings you in today?”

2. “Do you want to save money?”
This is what I call a “duh” question. Because the only reasonable response is a sarcastic “Duh!”

Questions like this insult the prospect’s intelligence, making them less likely to want to do business with you. On top of that, it doesn’t provide you with any useful information. For a better, more helpful response, try asking something like, “Where does saving money rank in your list of priorities?”

3. “Are you the final decision-maker?”
Most people answer this question with a resounding “yes,” even when it’s not true. That’s because the question challenges the person’s ego. To say “no” would be to display vulnerability, an act prospects avoid at all costs.

As a result, you may invest hours, days, even weeks working with this person, only to discover they need someone else’s approval after all, and you have to start all over from scratch. To avoid this frustration, ask something along the lines of, “Who else do you think should be involved in this decision?”

4. “When were you thinking of buying?”
The subtext of this question is, “When do I get paid?” The problem is, prospects can hear that subtext and it causes them to trust you less. They see you as merely another huckster who only cares about getting your hands on their money.

To find out what their decision-making timeframe is without sounding like a sleazebag, ask a question like, “How soon would you like to start using it?” or “Are you working within a deadline?”

5. “How much were you looking to spend?”
This is another “duh” question. The obvious answer is, “Duh! As little as possible. Preferably less than that.”

Nobody’s looking to spend money. And when you ask this question, prospects assume you’re trying to determine how much commission you can make off them. Which means you’ll either get an evasive non-answer or a low-ball figure, neither of which helps you.

A better question to ask is “Are you working within a budget?” When the prospect answers yes—as they typically will—they’re implicitly giving you permission to ask what their budget actually is. (Feel free to use softening phrases such as, “Do you mind if I ask…” or “If I’m not being too personal…”)

6. “What would it take to get you to buy today?”
This is the ultimate stereotypical-used-car-salesman question. It reeks of desperation and unprofessionalism. And it can drive prospects right out the door.

If you ask enough good questions, the prospect will tell you everything you need to know about their wants, needs, concerns, values, priorities and buying process. If you sense they’re close to buying, but they’re hesitating, try asking, “What do you need to feel comfortable and confident making a decision?”

Contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as a stupid question, as the above examples prove. Each of these questions takes you further away from the sale, rather than moves you closer to it, which makes them all very stupid.

Simply swapping these six questions with the recommended replacements will help you improve your closing ratio. If you’d like to increase your sales even more, check out Outsell Your Competition: How to gain a massive edge in a tough marketplace. In it, you’ll discover 37 questions—along with a host of other strategies and tactics—that will enable you to  close more business, and do it faster and easier than ever before.

What other questions do salespeople ask that drive you nuts? Leave them in the comments section below!

Sales Advice from Hannibal Lecter

June 19th, 2012

Sales Advice from Hannibal LecterHannibal Lecter would have made a great salesperson. And by that, I don’t mean that he’d eat the competition for lunch.

The cannibalistic psychiatrist in The Silence of the Lambs understood that people’s actions are a result of their motivation. And he was an expert at divining human motivation, as evidenced in a pivotal scene in the movie.

FBI Agent Clarice Starling is seeking his help in identifying another serial killer. Dr. Lecter asks her, “What does he do, this man you seek?”

Starling replies, “He kills women.”

Lecter corrects her. “No, that is incidental. What needs does he serve by killing?”

Starling struggles with this question, having never considered it before. The answer to it, however, proves to be the key to solving the case.

In much the same way, understanding your prospect’s motivation is the key to boosting your sales.

Virtually everything we do—and certainly everything we buy—stems from some emotional need we’re trying to fill. Whether it’s to feel secure, happy, loved, accepted, envied, or conversely, to avoid feeling anxious, guilty, sad, lonely, scared or something else.

So what emotions are your prospects trying to achieve or avoid? And which of those emotional needs does your product or service fill?

The emotional need is the important thing. Your product or service is—as Lecter would say—incidental. Our purchases—like our other actions—are merely a means to an end. Uncover the end your prospect has in mind, and you’ll boost your sales.

Become an expert at divining people’s needs and then delivering a truly outstanding product or service that fills them, and you’ll make a killing.

39 Useful Things to Post on Twitter

June 11th, 2012

twitter logo 3dTwitter—like other social media sites—has enormous potential as a sales tool. The micro-blogging service gives you a direct, unfiltered communication channel with both prospects and existing customers. It’s unlimited PR in 140 characters or less.

To maximize Twitter’s effectiveness, however, you need a following. And to develop a following, you need to post content (“tweets”) that your prospective customers will value.

With that in mind, here are 39 useful things you can post on Twitter:

1. Tips
2. Quotations
3. Original thoughts, insights and opinions
4. Lessons learned
5. Humor
6. Blog posts
7. Photos
8. Videos
9. Breaking news
10. Industry news
11. Staff or organization news
12. Complaints
13. Compliments
14. Event announcements
15. Event reminders
16. Event cancellations
17. Contest announcements
18. Contest updates
19. Contest winners
20. Links to valuable web sites
21. Links to cool blogs
22. Links to articles
23. Mini book reviews
24. Mini movie reviews
25. Mini restaurant reviews
26. Mini software or app reviews
27. Word of the day
28. Questions
29. Requests
30. Poll or survey results
31. Other people you follow—especially on “Follow Friday” (#FF)
32. Warnings
33. Recommendations
34. Challenges
35. Invitations to meet up
36. Freebies
37. Promotions and sales
38. Weather updates
39. On-site reporting

Based on the people you want to attract, decide which of these items makes sense for you and start posting (“tweeting”) them regularly. In time, you’ll boost your following, your exposure, your engagement and your sales.

Want to see what I tweet? Follow me at @DonCooper.

What other useful things do you tweet? What have seen others tweet? Share them in the comments below!

What to Do When Selling Benefits Doesn’t Work

June 6th, 2012

when selling benefits doesnt workIt’s not merely frustrating—it’s maddening!

You’ve made your case. You’ve pointed out the many benefits of your product or service. It’s a no-brainer. And the prospect STILL won’t buy!

Why??? And more importantly, what can you do about it?

Listen to my appearance on Breakthrough Business Strategies Radio with Michele Price. In this hour-and-15-minute interview, I discuss:
• The common presentation mistake most salespeople make
• How too many sales “experts” have misled you about sales presentations
• Why benefits aren’t always enough to move people to action
• How continually pushing benefits can actually COST you the sale
• The two types of buyers and how to distinguish between them
• How to move a buyer to action when benefits don’t do the trick
• And much more!

To listen, just click on the link below. Or to download the segment to listen later, right-click the link and select “Save Target As…”

What to Do When Selling Benefits Doesn’t Work: Don Cooper on Breakthrough Business Strategies Radio (mp3)

To learn more about Michele Price and listen to her interview other business experts on Breakthrough Business Strategies Radio (which I strongly recommend), check out