Are You Asking Dumb Sales Questions?

Are you Asking Dumb Sales Questions?
by Adam Garrett

I stopped for gas at the convenience store in my neighborhood and the automated pump wasn’t working so I needed to pay inside.

After I paid for my gas, the clerk then asked me the question, “Will there be anything else?”

I would bet most of you reading this would respond the same way I did. That is, with a trance-like, “Uhh, no, that’s all.”

I’ve been asked this question many times. But never can I recall responding, “Gosh, that’s a great question. Thanks for reminding me — I need to buy all of my groceries here.”

On the other hand, the manager of this gas station, whom I’ve seen and spoken with before, (and whom I suspect gets a cut of sales), usually asks a better question at the end of a transaction: “How about a newspaper today? Need a lottery ticket?” Oh sure, you can moan how that’s similar to the McDonald’s line of “Do you want fries with that?” and that people are tired of hearing it. But the fact is, it’s a better sales question — and sells a heckuva lot of potatoes.

Here’s another fact: Dumb questions get dumb answers. The quality of your question determines the quality of the answer. Ask a dumb question, get a useless answer.

Maybe there aren’t dumb questions in school or in training, but there are dumb questions in sales; those that give you worthless information and require another question to clarify the answer.

Here are just a few examples of dumb sales questions and their smarter counterparts:

Dumb question: “Will you be using the program for a long time?”

Better: “How long will you use the program?”

Dumb question: “Does that happen often?”

Better: “How often per day, approximately, does that happen?”

Dumb question: “Do you anticipate getting approval soon?”

Better: “When do you anticipate getting approval?”

Dumb question: “Do you take a lot of checks?”

Better: “How many checks do you get per week?”

Dumb question: “Should I check back with you later?”

Better: “When do you anticipate finishing the evaluation so I can check back with you?”

Open-ended questions are one of the most vital tools for those who sell (if followed up by listening). They help gather information, qualify sales opportunities, and establish rapport, trust and credibility. With such core value to the sales process, the professional leaves little to chance when it comes to owning a repertoire of powerful open-ended questions… questions that are answered by more than a simple yes or no… questions where the prospect or customer gets directly involved in the sales discussion.

The key here…

Ask the question and let the prospect or customer give you their answer.

  • No leading.
  • No prompting.
  • No interrupting.

Write down the one’s you find valuable. Commit them to memory with your team. Practice them on your drive in or on the way to your next appointment. Print them out. Tack them up near your phone. Pass them on to your sales team. It’s all about sales.

The open-ended questions…

Information Gathering

  • What prompted you/ your company to look into this?
  • What are your expectations/ requirements for this product/ service?
  • What process did you go through to determine your needs?
  • How do you see this happening?
  • What is it that you’d like to see accomplished?
  • With whom have you had success in the past?
  • With whom have you had difficulties in the past?
  • Can you help me understand that a little better?
  • What does that mean?
  • How does that process work now?
  • What challenges does that process create?
  • What challenges has that created in the past?
  • What are the best things about that process?
  • What other items should we discuss?


  • What do you see as the next action steps?
  • What is your timeline for implementing/ purchasing this type of service/ product?
  • What other data points should we know before moving forward?
  • What budget has been established for this?
  • What are your thoughts?
  • Who else is involved in this decision?
  • What could make this no longer a priority?
  • What’s changed since we last talked?
  • What concerns do you have?

Establishing Rapport, Trust & Credibility

  • How did you get involved in… ?
  • What kind of challenges are you facing?
  • What’s the most important priority to you with this? Why?
  • What other issues are important to you?
  • What would you like to see improved?
  • How do you measure that?

Listen to recordings of your calls. If you are not getting the responses you’d like to your inquiries, analyze and modify the questions.

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