Just ASK the question
On the phone, what might seem like tiny nuances in speech can be major hindrances. Think about it. Because of the absence of visual communication, the listener's complete perception of you is based on the words you use, and the way you deliver them.
Source: Sales trainer Art Sobczak
A habit that some people have is prefacing their questions with "May I ask...", as in, "May I ask how many locations you have?"
When you analyze it, this is a waste of words and also implies that the inquirer is tentative and lacks confidence in asking for the information.
Those who are guilty might argue that they don't want to appear pushy with their questions.
As long as you've piqued their curiosity with your opening and hinted at the value you might be able to deliver, you've earned the right to ask for information.
Plus, you can make your questions sound non-threatening with your tone of voice. Why not simply say, "How many locations do you have?" in a sincere tone of voice?
Here's another related offense: simply asking if you may ask a question. Such as, "May I ask you a few questions about your organization?"
If you say this, you just did ask a question!
The problem here is that their thinking now focuses on whether or not they want to answer any questions. However, contrast that with, "Tell me about how your organization is structured by region."
Now they aren't debating as to whether or not they want to answer your questions. They're thinking about the answer to your request. That's why questions are so powerful. They prompt the person to think about precisely what you ask them.