5 Bad Sales Questions That Derail Calls, and What to Say Instead

John Greene

May 26, 2022

9 min

Table of Contents

Asking questions drives the sales process by allowing you to understand the challenges, fears, hopes and desires of your prospect.

They're especially important on that first cold call.

After all, good questions invite good answers. The more you can do to make your prospect reveal themselves (while you engage in active listening, of course) the more likely you are to solve their unique problems and make a sale.

But a bad or untimely question can derail a call... or invite an answer that's not at all helpful to your cause.

Here are five questions that you should avoid asking during your sales calls, and what you should say instead.

1. How Are You?

Asking someone how they are doing is usually a nice thing to do. It's second nature for some. And few can argue that it's good conversation starter in all kinds of situations.

Just not on a cold call.

The person on the other end of the line doesn't know you yet. They may not be particularly happy to hear from you. So a nicety such as "how are you?" is the wrong way to start off.

Instead, your first sales call should open with a killer script that 1) introduces you 2) piques their interest by hitting on a hot button issue or pain point and 3) opens the door to a conversation.

2. Is This a Good Time? Do You Have a Moment to Talk?

In business, virtually every decision maker is busy all day long, so asking if someone if it's a good time, or if they have a moment to talk is pretty useless. Even if they do, you’re portraying the stereotype of the disingenuous sales person by asking the question. Instead, focus your script on showing value that will grab attention and hold it long enough to either speak at length now, or schedule a follow up call.

3. Are You Looking for a Way to _____ ?

Your goal is to find prospects who are open to your solution and the benefit it provides. But there's a lot of room between them being open to something, and actively looking for it.

Don't ask questions like "are you looking for" or "are you interested in." Even if you hit on the right value proposition, you're wording your question in a way that's likely to elicit a "no" response.

Let's use PhoneBurner as an example.

Option 1: "Are you looking for a way to improve your outbound sales efficiency?" (easy to say "no", even if it's a benefit they want)

Option 2: "I help outbound sales teams have 3 times more sales conversations, without spending any more time on the phone. I was hoping to ask you a couple questions to see if our software could do the same for you. Would that be okay?
(more specific, easier to say "yes")

4. What’s Your Budget?

It's important to know whether a lead has a budget for the product or service you provide. But asking someone outright, "what is your budget?" Not ideal.

Even if you do get an answer, which is unlikely, chances are it won't leave you much room to get the kind of deal you want.

Instead, establish an interest in what you provide first. Then, provide a range that's conditional upon some factors/features that can be addressed in the subsequent discussion.

For example, "Our product typically ranges from $__ - $___ depending on ___ and ____. If after learning more you think it will be good solution to help you _____, does that seem within a workable range?"

Not only are you the one setting the range in this case, you're also guiding your prospect to say "yes" without having to commit.

5. What Can I Do to Make This Work for You?

When interest has been expressed, but you can't cross the finish line, it's tempting to ask a prospect what you can do, or offer to get them to say yes. But this is not the right question to ask.

You're in this situation because you haven't established enough value, or overcome certain objections.

Yet, you're asking what you can do to make them take the leap anyway.

A better tactic is to ask what's holding them back from getting started. This gives you an opportunity to address their concerns and remove the obstacles that are in the way - without having to sacrifice margin.

Avoid These 5 Bad Sales Questions

Asking the right questions can give you an edge in selling, but the wrong ones can sink a call in seconds. Give yourself more opportunities to have a discussion, and better chances to close with a sale by avoiding these five bad sales questions:

  • How are you?
  • Is this a good time?
  • Are you looking for a way to ______?
  • What's your budget?
  • What can I do to make this work?

If you're looking for more, creative ways to keep prospects engaged and talking on your calls, download our eBook Outbound Sales: 10 Strategies to Close More Deals. You'll get direct input from five experts, scripts, templates, and more.

The Ultimate Guide to Cold Calls and Outbound

Unlock Your Content

Related Articles

PhoneBurner mark

You’re Gonna Love Our Blog Newsletter

Subscribe and get fresh blogs delivered directly to your inbox.