Radio Sales Today

RAB Sales Tips

Yes, There Really Are Stupid Questions

Jake grew up with our kids. He just passed his insurance exams and is an intern at a big insurance/financial planning company. As a favor to him, we agreed to meet with him and his “training mentor” as prospects. For me, life is one big sales seminar, so to get a glimpse of how this major company trained its sellers was going to be enjoyable, or so I thought.

We were told that because Jake was in training, he was just going to observe the meeting. Then the trainer started the meeting by asking, “So, what do you do?” Carolyn (my wife) cringed because she knew what was coming next. “We teach salespeople to prepare in advance for meetings, so they don’t ask stupid questions and waste prospects’ time,” I said. After some nervous laughter trying to figure out if I was serious, he explained that they usually spend the first 20-30 minutes of a new client meeting getting to know the client. Had the trainer spent just 10 minutes reviewing our website, LinkedIn, Facebook etc., he would have had some focused questions and would have been armed with information that made the start of the meeting far more productive and engaging.

It’s amazing to me that a huge insurance/financial company has a “mentor” teaching new sellers to ask stupid questions. “So, what do you do?” indicates laziness, lack of preparation and is a horrible way to start a meeting. Twenty years ago, before the existence of LinkedIn, Facebook and the availability of information, MAYBE it was more acceptable. Today – inexcusable. Beyond that, Jake set up the appointment, and his “trainer” certainly could have asked Jake what we did for a living. He didn’t even bother to do that.

Purchasing magazine conducted a survey and came up with the top 10 things salespeople do that buyers dislike.

1. Lack of preparation (“So what do you do?”)

2. Lack of interest or purpose (“Got anything coming down this week?” or “Just Checking In.”)

3. Over aggressiveness and failure to listen

4. Lack of product knowledge

5. Lack of follow-through

6. Taking the customer for granted

7. Lack of awareness of the customer’s operation (“So what do you do here, anyway?”)

8. Failure to make and keep appointments

9. Lack of creativity

10. Failure to keep promises

It’s hard to imagine anyone in the profession of selling being guilty of such seemingly easy things to avoid; yet it happens every day. Sadly, I even caught myself using the phrase, “Just checking in” with a client this week.

You might consider re-typing the list of buyer dislikes and hanging them in your office. If we all commit to avoiding the dislikes, we can get better. Or, better yet, take the list of dislikes and turn them into your “TO-DO” list: (This goes back to the basic concept of visualizing what you WANT to do instead of what you DON’T want to do… )

• Prepare

• Show interest and purpose (“The reason I called today is...”)

• Listen

• Know the product/service inside out

• Follow-through

• Say “Thank you” and appreciate customers

• Be keenly aware of what customers’ operations are all about

• Make and keep appointments

• Be creative

• Keep all promises (Say what you will do, then do what you say)

The meeting wasn’t a total disaster. It was, after all, a teaching moment.

When you invest the time before the meeting, not only do you have the ability to create smarter, more focused questions, you show the prospect that you care about them enough to work for their business.

Jeff Schmidt is SVP-Professional Development at the Radio Advertising Bureau. You can reach Jeff at or follow him on social media: Twitter and LinkedIn.

Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB