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!