a blank business card to represent a sales call

What NOT to say on your next sales call

4 min read
Gregg Schwartz

As a small business owner and salesperson, you’re probably eager to talk with prospective clients. You’ve laid the groundwork with careful lead generation and follow-up, as well as research. Now, the time has come to close the deal. Unfortunately, the same eagerness and excitement that makes sales fun and rewarding can also lead to misunderstandings, disconnects and lost opportunities.

Too often, salespeople and business owners unintentionally become overeager during a sales call, and they unwittingly drive their customers away.

Here are a few tips for what NOT to say on your next sales call:

1. I hear you’re in the market for a new solution!

Don’t assume that your prospective customer is in the market for what you’re selling. They might be doing preliminary research, or maybe they have issues with their current product or vendor. For all you know, they could just be vetting new options. Plus, many customers seek out price quotes before actually purchasing goods or services. Whatever the reason, if you open with “a new solution,” your customer might feel pressured and they’ll shy away from the offer.

What you should say instead: “Tell me more about why you decided to contact us.”

This open-ended lead places the ball in your customer’s court. Then, your customer can reveal where they’re at in their buying process so you can understand the nature of the call.

2. What’s your budget?

Salespeople often make the mistake of asking the dreaded budget question. Asking someone how much they’re willing to spend might make them defensive and uncomfortable. You don’t want them to think you’re only interested in their wallet. This question is a mistake for several reasons:

It’s often premature. It’s possible that your buyer is unaware of their company’s budget allocation. They could be exploring price ranges on behalf of someone else (perhaps the CEO with the proper purchasing power and authority to make those kinds of decisions).

It’s sensitive information. Even if a buyer already knows their budget, they probably don’t want to divulge that information to you right off the bat.

Buyers want a good deal. Although you might run into a buyer who is upfront with their spending limit, it’s probably best to avoid the budget question. Everyone wants a good deal. If you have a customer with a budget of $1 million and you come back with a solution priced at $999,000, it’s going to look shady. Even if that is the best solution, it will appear as though you’re nickel and diming your client.

What to say instead: “Let’s talk about return on investment (ROI).”

In the end, your customers don’t care what your solution “costs,” they care about what it delivers.

How much money will your solution save or make? Instead of focusing on the cost of your solution, work with your client to create a customized ROI calculation to show them what they “get” from you.

3. When do you want to make a purchase?

Try not to be overly specific when asking about purchase timelines. The customer might feel pressured or pinned down — and, like with the budget question, they might not know. Many organizations are unpredictable in their purchase decision making, and it might be too soon in the process for the prospective customer to have a clear-cut answer.

What to say instead: “What kind of implementation timeframe are you looking at?”

Instead of asking for a specific date, make the conversation more broad — talk about the overall process from start to finish and show that you’re thinking about the implementation, as well as the sale.

Every sales call is a chance to build a customer relationship and get closer to making a sale. But if you ask the wrong questions, you might drive your customers away. It’s better to avoid putting the buyer on the spot. Ask open-ended questions. Talk about the process. Uncover unstated needs and pain points — these will give you the credibility to take the conversation to the next level.