6 Questions Never To Ask A Customer


Current customer or potential customer it makes no difference, here are 6 questions that need to be dead.

1. “How are you today?”  Nothing screams I’m a sales rep like “How are you today?”  Jeepers Criminy!   You just interrupted a customer with an unannounced visit or a phone call and you ask that?  Might as well have the words “Commissioned Sales Rep” read across their phone display or plastered on a bright red button affixed to your lapel.

2. “Are you the decision maker?”  What, are you stuck in “Boiler Room” reruns?  How much more offensive can you be?  Most people you need to ask that question to have some influence (if not being the wife, the husband or colleague of the one who is).  Talk about self serving and rude.   Try being polite and ask “Who besides yourself has a say in the decision process?”

3. “Are you happy with your current supplier?” All right!  You are looking to trash the current vendor!  Way to make a sale.  Or maybe you are hoping you are calling at the right time (exactly) when dissatisfaction is underway (good luck with that sales strategy).  So 80’s.  Presume always the customer is happy with the current provider and sell on your competitive differentiators.  If there is dissatisfaction, you’ll hear it then.

4. “Would you like 100 or 200?” The assumptive sale died in 1979.  It really did along with Disco and literally, John Wayne.   Don’t you realize that more than half the people you sell to today used to, or currently “sell” in their own jobs today?  You don’t think they recognize an assumptive close?  You don’t think it raises all kinds of tension and slams the door on you?  So sad.  Well at least now you know 31 years later and “I’m not going to have to hit you, kid”.

5. “Would you like to “save money”, “save time” or “save the planet?”  Lords of Light!  This is the most offensive of them all.  Never ask a question in which there is only one right answer or the person sounds like an idiot.  I am shocked how often I hear these types of questions, or worse see them in marketing material or training material.   Of course people care about saving money, time and the darn planet; quit trying to wrap your product around that offensive question.  

6. “May I ask what you are wearing?”  True Story.  His name was David.    It was 1991.  He was a young promising sales rep in the call center.  I was his coach.  We were working on “building rapport”.   I taught young David to ask intelligent questions during the order entry process as a means to build credibility and thusly improve his chances of a cross sell.  Solid stuff.  David was flustered.  I was sitting plugged in next to him listening.  I whispered “..Ask her a question!”  He looked at me wide eyed and clueless.  I whispered louder this time..  “Ask her a question!”  He did.    I wonder how David is doing today.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.


9 thoughts on “6 Questions Never To Ask A Customer

  1. Bonnie Hanson


    I believe your post encourages truly LISTENING as key to building trust and gaining entry into the heart and pocketbook of a business owner. Just asking questions for the sake of asking them is transparent to even the least savvy business owner. How can you really provide the right solution if you don’t understand the challenges the business owner is currently facing. In fact, you may uncover additional opportunity you would have never thought of.

    My big question is, especially in a call center environment, how do you ‘manage’ the conversation? Does the model have to change such that initially you may be ‘upside down’ in building a relationship prior to actually closing sales? Query me this oh insightful one.

    • Ahh…back from Chicago and actually have decent access to the web. Bonnie, your question is somewhat cryptic ( intentionally?..mmmm). Here is the problem about LISTENING; if the customer ain’t talking there is nothing to listen to. So questions are important ( except the 6 I outlined in the post of course).– and that is a craft and a science. The science being questions need to be wrapped in credibility and/or have an immediate return to the prospect /customer or they will not be answered.

      Have a look through this blog (or even my internal Deluxe one) and in the search box type in “question”– I’ve written a lot about that topic and perhaps that will help answer your question…

  2. Bonnie Hanson

    Oh – and… I’m wearing a denim skirt, brown boots and giraffe print sweater. Is there something you think you can sell me based on that? : )

  3. All of these (except for #6) are outdated, tired and overused. What scares me is how many sales people still ask those question, though. Good reminder to all sales professionals to ask high-value, strategic questions, not weak and feeble ones.


  4. Bonnie good questions ( and fun too! When I land this afternoon, I will give a more thoughtful answer.

    Kelley, thanks for the validation (sad though it may be) that the questions are still out there!

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