Don’t Say That, Say This!

Sales is set of skills that anyone can learn. If you learn and then practice the right skills, then things will be easier for you, and you’ll have more success. But if you don’t learn and use the right skills, then you’ll tend to wing it and make it up as you go along. This strategy is proven to lead to more frustration and less sales. It’s sad but true: most sales reps use ineffective skills and techniques that actually make it harder for them to succeed. And until you change what you do, you’ll just keep getting those poor results.

Below are five examples of poor techniques, I call them “Don’t say that,” followed by what to say instead. Look at these and ask yourself how many of these you are using and then make a commitment to begin using the more effective statements instead, and see for yourself how much easier selling over the phone becomes…

While prospecting, don’t say:

“Wonder if I caught you at a good time?”


“Is this a good time for you?”

While I know it sounds polite to ask permission before you begin a conversation, giving your prospect a chance to avoid speaking to a sales person (you) is almost always a bad idea. If I’m ever given that option, I always say it’s a bad time just to get you off the phone. There is a better way to acknowledge that you are barging into someone’s day unannounced, and here it is:

Say this instead:

“________ I know you’re busy, so let me briefly ask you just one thing: we provide (your product – to other like companies or clients) and it may help you, too. Quick question:

“How do you currently..”


“When was the last time you compared…”


“Are you the right person to speak with regarding this?”

This technique works on several levels: First, you’re acknowledging they are busy and letting them know in advance that you’re going to be brief. Second, the opening is short and you immediately get to a qualifying question. And by getting to a question quickly, you’re giving your prospect the opportunity to tell you if they’re busy or not – don’t worry, if they don’t have the time, they’ll tell you. This is much better than offering them the out in the beginning. Third, by asking a qualifying question (and feel free to customize what you want to ask), you’re actually learning something about your prospect. Overall, this is the much more effective opening.

While prospecting, don’t say:

“I’m calling to learn a little bit more about your company…”

Quick: what’s the one thing you and your prospects don’t have enough of? Time. One of the biggest causes of resistance from your prospects is the idea of a sales rep taking some of their precious time to pitch them on something they probably don’t want anyway. I groan when a sales reps calls me and starts pitching, and when you’re at home and a telemarketer calls you, how do YOU feel?

While opening your call by asking, “I’m calling to learn a little bit more about your company,” might sound consultative and in your prospect’s best interest, it isn’t perceived that way. That’s why it’s much better to:

Say this instead:

“________ briefly, we help companies do XYZ, and I just have a quick question to easily find out if this is a fit for you as well…

“How do you currently..”


“When was the last time you..”


“Are you the right person to speak with regarding this?”

Once again, the key is to be brief and to get to a qualifying question quickly. Your prospect will appreciate that you’re getting to the point right away, and this immediately separates you from all the other sales reps calling to steal their time.

While prospecting, don’t open your call like this:

“The reason for my call is that we provide accounting solutions for companies that process more than 150 employees in a month. Our solution is ideal for companies like yours in that we can save you both time and money handling…..”

Believe it or not, most sales reps start a call with a product dump monologue that instantly puts prospects in a bad mood. Nobody cares what you do or how you do it. Instead, what they want to know is if it’s a fit for them and how it can help them. And that’s why you must, absolutely must, get to the point quickly and ask them a question so they can engage with you. Try:

Do open your call this way instead:

“The reason I’m calling is to see if you’d be a good candidate for what we do. _________ in a nutshell we have a super easy solution that saves companies as much as 15% monthly in the way they process their employee checks. Let me ask you just two quick questions:

One: Who are you using now to process employee payments?

Two: If we could also save you 15% of your monthly expenses, how open would you be to seeing if this would be a fit for you?

This opening is much better for several reasons. First of all, it’s short (always a good thing on a cold call). Next, it lets them know you’re simply calling to see if they would be a fit (which is what they want to know as well before they’re willing to invest more time to speak with you). It also tells them your solution is “super easy” (and who doesn’t like that?). Then it gives them a benefit (the 15%). Lastly, you’re immediately giving them an opportunity to interact by asking them questions.

While prospecting, don’t say:

“Are you the person who would be making a decision on something like this?”

The biggest problem with this approach is that it’s closed ended. It requires a “Yes” or “No” answer, and that allows the prospect to hide behind a smokescreen answer. It’s much easier for them to say yes and avoid getting into the real decision tree that you’ll unfortunately find out later on (when you’re trying to close the deal).

Say this instead:

“Besides yourself, who else would weigh in on a decision like this?”

Ah, the power of the open ended, assumptive questions. This question immediately cuts through any smokescreen your prospect would otherwise use, and it automatically gets them to reveal who else is involved. And let’s face it, most people will consult with someone (or multiple people) when making a decision. Isn’t it better to find out in advance?

While closing, don’t respond to the objection:

“I’ll run this by my regional manager (or boss or partner, etc.) and see what he/she says”


“And when should I get back with you?”

So much time and energy can be saved if you prepare yourself for this common stall in the beginning and learn how to answer it correctly. First of all, the last thing you want to do is hand control of the close over to your prospect by asking when you should get back with them. Instead:

While closing, do respond to this objection this way:

“Terrific, and if he gives you the O.K. to move on this, what other questions would you have for me?”


“O.K., and let me ask you: Based on what you’ve seen so far, is this something that you’d be inclined to move forward with if the decision were up to you?”

[If Yes]

“And how much influence do you have with your regional in deciding on something like this?”

One of the big keys to success in sales is to understand that 80% of the objections you’re going to get are the same ones you got yesterday and that you’ll get again tomorrow. In other words, they’re all the same! Once you realize this, you’ll have a distinct advantage if you take the time to prepare the right responses to the stalls and objections you know you’re going to get.

The response above allows you to isolate the stall at the end of your close and get right to the real objection. In other words, if the prospect isn’t sold, then speaking to someone else is just a smokescreen that won’t go away when you call them back. Finding out now gives you the ability to deal with the real objection, and it’s best to do it now while you’re in the closing arena.

As you can see by the techniques above, sales is a series of skills that anyone can learn. The key, however, is to learn and use the right skills! Remember, practice doesn’t make perfect; it only makes permanent. If you use poor skills over and over, you’re not going to improve. Conversely, making small adjustments in the techniques you use can have a BIG impact on your results.

But don’t take my word for it. As always, try these scripts for yourself and see how much better of a reaction you get, and how much easier your cold calling and closing presentations go.

How to Qualify Prospects without Interrogating Them

Qualifying prospects during the initial call is one of the most important things you can do in sales, but for anyone who’s done it, you know that what’s difficult is asking a series of good questions without sounding like you’re interrogating your prospect.  Admittedly, there is a fine line between having a dialogue with someone and asking enough questions to see whether they qualify for your product and service, but how exactly do you do that?

It’s easy if you follow the steps below. Remember to always feel free to customize these questions to suite your personality and your product or service:

Step One: The first thing you need to do is frame an opening question that gives you the right to continue asking questions. Strange, I know, but the key word here is “frame” your question to earn the right to qualify. Here are some examples:

“_________ would it be O.K. if I asked you just a couple of quick questions to see if this would be a fit for you?”


“_________, it sounds like this might work for you; do you mind if I ask you just a few questions so I can find the right fit?”


“__________, I know you’re busy, and I’ll be brief. There’s just a few questions that will help give me an idea of what best to focus on when we next speak – do you have just a couple of minutes for me now?”


“__________ let me get a clear idea of just a couple areas of importance for you, and then I’ll be in the best situation to tailor a demo for you next week.”

“_________, would you mind if I took a few minutes to ask you a couple of questions so I can understand exactly what you might need, and how we can help?”

Framing your qualifying questions in this way always gives you some leeway in where to start and what to start asking. It also sets the right expectation for your prospect, and earns you a window to begin the qualification process.

Step Two: The way to seamlessly continue the qualification process is to use layering questions, when appropriate, to drill down on some of your prospect’s answers. Layering questions are simply questions that tag on to the previous question, and they are used to get even more information on a specific area.

Most sales reps have never taken the time to learn the fine art of the layering question, and haven’t developed the ability to truly listen enough which is a prerequisite for using them effectively. If you’re willing to learn and use them, though, you’ll be rewarded with a wealth of information which will make the closing process that much easier. Here’s some examples:

Question: “And besides yourself, who else weighs in on the decision?”

Layer: “And how do you figure in to that?”


Layer: “And how much influence do they have?”


Question: “In terms of budget for this, how would our solution at (your price point) fit in right now?

(If their budget is tight right now, or they are not sure, then use:)

Layer: “What other department or bucket could you get the budget from if you really liked this?”


Layer: “When you find something that you absolutely must have, where do you borrow the budget from?”


“How have you made something like this fit in before?”


“What one thing can you think of that might prevent you from moving ahead on this in the next two weeks?”

Layer: “And how would you get around that?”


“How have you been able to side step that in the past?”


“And what would you propose to do if that happens?”

As you can see, with the proper use of layering questions, you will not only learn more information about the important qualifying areas, but you’ll also be able to seamlessly continue the conversation. Layering questions allow you to extend the qualification phase naturally as each question is a continuation to the question that was asked previously. This is the way you’ll earn the right to continue qualifying without sound like you’re interrogating someone.

Step Three: Address any Red Flags that come up during the process. One of the biggest problems sales reps run into is hearing possible problem areas come up and not addressing them. Many sales reps just hope these problems will go away or not come up again, but if they’re honest, they know they never do. In fact, the truth about Red Flags is that they almost always come back up and often tend to ruin the deal in the end.

By addressing them when you hear them, you not only have a chance to qualify them, but you also earn the right to keep asking questions while keeping your prospect engaged. Here are some examples:

Red Flag: “Well, I’ll have to run this by corporate.”

Ask: “What has their answer on something like this been in the past?”


“And what do you think the chances of them approving this is?”


“Based on where you see them leaning, what do you think they’ll say?”

And then:

“How can we best get them to approve something like this?”

Red Flag: “We’re getting several quotes on this…”

Ask: “Which one do you like best so far?”


“What does the winning quote have to look like from your point of view?”


“Our price point on this will be X. How do you think that will stack up with what you’re willing to spend on something like this?”


“And what do you think they’ll need to see to pick us?”

Red Flag: “Well, we’re in no hurry on this.”

Ask: “And what is your realistic time frame like?”


“What might change that?”


“What’s going to motivate the decision to finally act on something like this?”

As you can see, asking questions of prospects – without sounding like you’re interrogating them – is easy if you take the time in advance to prepare the right kinds of questions. And don’t forget why you’re asking all these qualifying questions: 80% of the sale is made during the qualification call. If you do this part of the process correctly, then your closing percentage will go up effortlessly. And if you don’t thoroughly qualify, then you’ll likely just continue putting unqualified leads into your pipeline, and you already know how that turns out…

So reframe the prospecting call and learn how to earn the right to ask, and continue asking, qualifying questions without sounding like you’re interrogating a prospect. As you can see, it’s easy if you know how.

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The Two Most Important Qualifiers (And How to Ask For Them)

Based on my last article “A Fresh Prospecting Approach for You,” many people are wondering what the two most important qualifiers are for any given sale. That’s a good question, and I’ll tell you that over the years I think they have changed. In the past, budget was the big stumbling block and the issue that sales reps really needed to drill down on. Now don’t think that budget isn’t important – it is! – but now with pricing being so transparent on websites and across social media, I don’t think that budget qualifies anymore as one of the “Big Two” qualifiers.

Before I go on, let me remind you that there are six main areas of qualifying that you need cover and know the answers to. They are:

• Why a prospect will buy (their buying motives)
• Why a prospect might NOT buy (potential objections)
• The budget
• Who the decision maker is (or decision makers)
• What their timeline is for making a decision
• And who your competition is for this sale

For all you sales managers out there, if you want greater control over your team, and you want them to get out more qualified leads, then simply put a checklist together for each lead that goes into the pipeline, and make your reps get the answers for the six areas above. I’ve covered in-depth qualifying questions for each of these areas in my book, “The Ultimate Book of Phone Scripts,” so I won’t go over them again here. If you’re a sales rep, remember you still must qualify for ALL SIX of these areas, but I believe now even more emphasis needs to be placed on the “Big Two” below:

• Decision Makers & Competition

The reason these are now so important is because of the Internet. It is now estimated that because of the plethora of information available online (social media sites, websites, blogs, customer reviews, wholesale sites, etc.) that over 60% of a sale is already determined before a prospect even talks to a sales rep. What this means is that the old sales standbys of yesterday “features and benefits” are far less important than they used to be. And that means competition and the decision tree is more important.

So here are some techniques and questions you can use to qualify for these two important areas:

For decision makers start with this basic question:

“And ________, besides yourself, who else weighs in on this kind of a decision?”

Asking this DM question in the assumptive (“who besides yourself”) rather than the closed-ended way of “Are you the decision maker…” often times exposes who else is involved and can even reveal what the decision time-line is like, too.

Once they reveal they have to talk to their regional manager, boss, or partner, you can then begin drilling down on this. Use any of the following layering questions:

“And how are you involved in the decision?”


“And how much input do you have in this?”


“And if you make a recommendation, do they usually go with it?”


“Based on what you know of where they’re leaning right now, do you think this is something they might be interested in?”


“What do you know about their timeline for something like this?”


“What’s your gut telling you about the viability of this going through?”


“What do you think they’d need to see to say yes on something like this?”

The point of layering your questions like this is so you can gather enough information to make your close easier later on. You see, nothing ambushes a closer more than getting to the end of their presentation only to be told that the prospect has to “Show it to someone else.” By qualifying in advance in this way, you’ll get information that you can then leverage at the end of your closing presentation to avoid falling into this trap.

For competition, you can use the following questions:

“And _________, who else have you looked at for this?”

[If they tell you a couple of names, then]

“And what do you think so far?”


“And who do you like best so far?”

And then:

“And why is that?”


“Who else are you going to reach out to for this?”

And then:

“And what are you hoping to accomplish by that?”


“And why is it important to get several quotes?”


“Who have you already looked at and said no to?”

And then:

“And what about them wasn’t a fit for you?”


“Based on what you know of other company’s offerings, what do you like best about us?”


“If you had three very similar proposals on the table, what would be the deciding factor of who you’d go with?”


“What would you need to see from me to stop looking elsewhere?”

Asking these and other qualifying questions to uncover potential competitors will once again prevent you from being blindsided at the end of your presentation. Again, the Internet has changed the buying landscape for most companies and consumers, and it’s crucial to know these (and the other four) areas well before you go into your closing presentation.

And by using these questions, you will!

A Fresh Prospecting Approach for You

Like you, I get calls every week from inside sales reps trying to sell me their products and services. I used to just hang up on them, noting that I wasn’t missing much as most inside sales people are just not that good at engaging, listening, building rapport, etc. Lately, however, I’ve been listening more, realizing that I can learn just as much from a bad call as I can from a good one. Recently, I received a qualifying call from an appointment setter, and it turned out to be a fresh approach I’d not heard before. It also wasn’t that bad…

Here’s what happened: The call I received was from a company selling some sort of oil drilling private placement investment. For those of you unfamiliar with these, this is the kind of investment that a private company can sell directly to an individual investor. In other words, the company usually (and I use “usually” very loosely – check with your individual state governing body) doesn’t have to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and so can “usually” avoid a ton of administrative and regulatory red tape. But…

The big “but” here is that this type of investment vehicle can “usually” only be offered to, and sold to, what is known as an “accredited” investor, meaning someone who has at least a one million dollar net worth and income in excess of $200,000.

The company who contacted me is using a “qualifier” whose job it is to call and qualify people as an accredited investor before any sales rep speaks with them. This is a good strategy and one I’d not heard of before. Here’s how it went down:

Caller: “Hi, my name is Sonya, and I’m calling with the ABC Oil and Gas company here in North Carolina, am I speaking with Mike Brooks?”

Me: “Ah, yes…”

Caller: “Mike, this is not a sales call at all, and I only have two quick questions for you and then I’ll go, O.K.?”

Me: “Ah…sure, go ahead.”

Caller: “We have in our records that you are an accredited investor with a net worth of at least one million dollars, right?”

Me: “Sure”

Caller: “And is your income still at least $200,000 or over?”

Me: “Sure”

Caller: “O.K., great. One of our representatives will be in touch with you in the next few days. Good day…”

And that was it. She was gone almost as quickly as she appeared. And in the span of just a few moments, she had qualified me enough to pass me on (as a lead) to one of the closers. Very interesting. Let’s break down why this was so effective:

#1: She make sure she was speaking to the decision maker before she continued, “Am I speaking to Mike Brooks?”

#2: She sensed my hesitancy and immediately had a reply for it: “Mike this is not a sales call at all…”

#3: Next, she earned the right to ask just two questions because she then said she would be off the phone: “I only have two quick questions for you and then I’ll go, O.K.?”

#4: Then she qualified me for the two most important criteria in her sale – net worth and income.

#5: The ending was interesting. She told me that someone else would be following up, and before I could object, she hung up.

I’m not saying I love this call or hate it; I’m just impressed by how bold it was in qualifying, and how quickly she was able to generate a lead and then pass it on. Obviously, these two qualifiers are crucial to know before one of their sales rep gets involved, and this turned out to be an effective way to do it.

Now, how could you use this technique? First, if you work with appointment setters, lead gen reps or qualifiers, then pick out the two most important qualifications and then use the script above to create your pitch. Here are three examples:

If you’re selling lead or marketing services, it could be: 1) “Do you handle the lead-generation for marketing?” And 2) “If you plan to compare services or companies in the next quarter, would you be the one to speak with?”

If you’re selling online advertising, it could be: 1) “How much do you get involved in the online advertising decisions?” And 2) “Are you open to at least knowing about options to improve your current results while perhaps also saving money?”

If you’re selling real estate, it could be: 1) “Are you the home owner?” And 2) “Do you have any plans to consider selling your home in the next 12 months?”

You get the idea. Almost any product or service has a couple of key questions that a qualifier can ask to pre-qualify a lead. And the best part of this script is that it takes under a minute! Again, you’re on and then off with a prospect very quickly.

And, as I found, the prospect is left somewhat expecting the next call – whether they want it or not…

So, what are the two most important qualifiers for your sale?