Sales Prospecting: Ask hard questions to keep from wasting everyone’s time
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Sales Prospecting: Ask hard questions to keep from wasting everyone’s time

Overlooking or not reacting to obvious red flags is one of the biggest mistakes overly optimistic salespeople make. In their enthusiasm to generate a lead or to fill their pipeline, 80% of sales reps will ignore danger signs and waste their time chasing down unqualified leads, says sales guru Mike Brooks.

They cling to the hope that any objection or disqualification they hear on the front end will miraculously go away once the prospect sees their information or product or service.

Leads never get better
But you know from experience that rarely happens. Brooks puts it like this: Leads Never Get Better!

What appears to be an objection or deal killer on the front end always is. Yes, you might be able to overcome it, but don’t kid yourself about your chances. For example, a sales rep once told Brooks about a prospect who wasn’t calling back. Finally the prospect told the rep he was leaving the company. The rep said, “I guess intuitively I knew he wasn’t the right guy to make the decision anyway.”

It wasn’t intuition. The rep probably saw and heard plenty of red flags. But he didn’t question them because he was (a) hoping for the best, and (b) didn’t want to be rude.

Ask the tough questions
Here’s what’s really rude: wasting the buyer’s time (and your own) by failing to qualify properly. As soon as you hear something that triggers your intuition or gives you that sick feeling in your gut, stop and ask the tough questions. Here are some examples you can start using today.

If someone says that they usually buy from Giant Widgets but would like to see your information, ask:

“Why would you consider switching vendors?”

“How many other companies have you looked at in the last six months?”

Then follow up with:

“And how many did you buy from?”

Similarly, if someone on the phone says they will pass your information on to so-and-so, say:

“Thanks. I’d just like to make sure I wouldn’t be wasting her time — so could I speak to her for just a few minutes, please?”

(If you’re told the decision maker isn’t available, ask for her direct line or extension and keep calling until she picks up.)

If someone says they’d be glad to look your information over, ask:

“Great, and if you think that it can help you (or your business), when would you move on it?”

Those are aggressive questions, to be sure. That’s why they’re useful; they cut right to the bone.

If you get pushback, explain to the prospect that it’s better for all concerned for you to disqualify nonbuyers early in the process than chase after people who are never going to buy. Take some time to script out tough questions that address the “red flags” you are getting currently — and begin using them. You’ll feel much stronger as a sales professional, and you’ll begin making more money.

To learn more from Mike Brooks, visit

photo credit: mangpages


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