Updated March 22 at 6:45pm

What keeps me up at night? Not your business

'People will make their day more important than yours.'


Salespeople (not you, of course) are known for asking poor questions – questions that are not only embarrassing, questions that are also rude. And I would be remiss if I didn’t add: questions that make them appear desperate and pressing for a sale.

The dumbest question in sales is “What will it take to get your business?” It’s by far the worst question you can ask a customer. It makes you a price seller rather than a value provider, and it makes you look like you “need” the sale rather than want to earn and grow a relationship.

There is a close second to the dumbest question, and it’s the subject of this article. “What keeps you up at night?” Are you kidding me? NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS, that’s what!

You’re at the beginning of a sales call, trying to build positive rapport and earn some level of “like” and “trust,” and you’re asking me that kind of question? It’s almost as dumb as trying to “find the pain.” Please don’t get me started on 1972 sales manipulation and insincerity.

Why not ask the prospect a question that relates to their real life, and their present situation, that’s potentially more revealing than a Miss America question?

What wakes you up in the morning?

It’s a positive-based question that, when asked with a smile, will get you real answers, real facts and reveal real truths. It’s light-hearted, but powerful, and when followed up with “what else” or “then what” will create a dialog that is totally customer-focused – thereby achieving the purpose of the interaction.

You ask, “What wakes you up in the morning?” They answer:

• Light of day. Easy answer. Leads to, “Then what?”

• Alarm clock. Another easy answer. Still leads to, “Then what?”

• Kids. Great answer! Leads to all kinds of mutual discussion points and common interests if you also have them.

• Relationships. A bit touchy. Let the prospect lead.

• Coffee – shower – exercise – the news. These subjects will provide more superficial answers that might reveal things in common.

• The day and things to be done. People will make their day more important than your day. And you’ll feel it when they chatter and complain about “having so much to do.”

You might ask, “What else wakes you up?” or the more powerful, “Then what?” They might say:

• Money, or the lack of it. Think of this one in terms of yourself. Go lightly, but it’s very revealing.

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