As a purchaser of services for 18 years working for sexy brands like Pepsi, Pizza-Hut, Frito-Lay and Smirnoff, I can honestly say that I’ve heard a lot of stupid questions. But my insider info actually comes from a much more recent source: the buyers I work with through diversity certifying organizations that I specialize in such as WBENC and NMSDC etc. Here, from the horse’s mouth, are the stupidest questions we’ve been asked:
What Is It That You Guys Do?
Ok, this one’s an obvious one but it scores as the number one most hated stupid question that buyers I speak to get. Especially in matchmaking or roundtable sessions where there’s a middle-man organization doing the introduction. Not only should you know what they do but you should know what pain is costing them a lot of wasted money. Then you should only talk about their pain and how you’ve helped solve it for a similar company in the past.
Can I Tell You a Little About Us?
The biggest lesson for anybody who is pitching anything to anyone is to have self-amnesia. Forget about talking about yourself. Talk about THEM and their problems. You may only talk about yourself within the context of HOW you can help and what you can do for them. Bake in your differentiators and credentials into case stories that are similar to the buyer’s own situation.
How Much Is Your Budget For This?
Don’t get me wrong, talking about budgets within the first sales meeting increases the close rate by double digits. However, I much prefer the indirect route of asking about their budget. Instead of asking them this uncomfortable question, why not co-create the scope of work together in the meeting and give them a rough range of an estimate of what the whole enchilada will cost? Then ask them the magic question of ‘which piece would you like to bite off right now?’ This will not only get them behind the whole plan since you built it together, but also reveal their budget based on their ability to see the whole project cost. Trust me it works!
Where Do I Email My Proposal?
Read my lips (or my words in this case..) never never never email a proposal unless it’s an RFP situation. The first and only thing most buyers will do is to look at the last page with the price on it. Instead, walk in a proposal, or better yet, co-create the scope-of-work (as mentioned above) and have the price discussion right then and there in the meeting. In-person proposals allow you to overcome objections in the moment and read the room much better.
So if you’re in the habit of asking these seemingly innocent questions to B2B buyers, beware: there are better ways of finding out information.