Back when I first started training to be a Dale Carnegie instructor, I took the opportunity to sit in on every class I could and observe as many different instructors as possible.

In one sales training program where I was an assistant, the instructor ran the participants through a practice drill. He took the role of the prospect and had the participants run through their sales opening. In almost every instance, the participants opened their sales call with something like, “Hi Bob. How are you doing today?”

Immediately after they finished the word “today” the instructor would just rip into a nonstop organ recital.

“Well, I just had an operation on my leg and it’s really killing me right now. I had tacos last night and my stomach has been acting up all morning. I haven’t been to a dentist in a while and my back teeth have been acting up. My doctor called and said that I needed to have my appendix removed. My lawyer called and told me that needed to appear in court after all…”

All participants had 60 seconds to run through their sales opening. In almost every case, the instructor took up 95% of their time with his nonstop monologue. I say almost every case because there were two participants who were able to open the call and engage the instructor without getting him started on his rant.

What was their secret tactic that enabled them to succeed where everyone else failed?

They didn’t’ ask the question, “How are you doing”.

When I coach people on opening their sales call, either face-to-face, on a cold phone call, or now in sales email, I encourage them to refrain from asking the question “How are you doing today?” It doesn’t add anything to the conversation and it leads the prospect to a place where the sales rep may not want them to go.

Just today, I encountered the same situation. I called the car dealership to schedule some maintenance work on my car and reached Bobbi, who was answering calls and scheduling appointments.

Now, mind you, this was a customer support call where I was the customer and Bobbi was the support rep. I said, “Bobbi. How are you doing today?” Her response was surprising, but not totally unexpected.

“I’m hot! The temperatures are through the roof. Everyone here is hot and irritable. It’s so hot I’m having trouble breathing. I can’t get comfortable in this heat… I’ll bet you’re sorry you asked.”

I laughed and said, “You know, if I didn’t want to know, I wouldn’t have asked. And yes, it is hot.”

“Yes. Well, that’s probably not why you called, now is it?” and we got back to scheduling service for my car.

That was a simple customer support call to schedule service for a car where I was the customer and the person “going off” was the customer support rep. If the last bastion of poise in the business environment can lose control and go off on a rant, just imagine what your prospects will do mentally when asked that question. Do you really want to leave your sales call, which is a lot more complex and has a lot more riding on it, vulnerable to that kind of lack of control?

Remember, when you conduct your sales call, speak with purpose and intent. Don’t ask the question “How are you doing” unless you are prepared to deal with the answer.