Every salesperson knows that the key to developing a B2B opportunity is asking questions that uncover needs and determine whether or not the opportunity will eventually result in a sale. 

However, there are four questions that can annoy customers, and thus might better be avoided.  Fortunately, there are other, better ways to find out the same information.

1. "Would you agree that...?"

The problem this phrase is that it always introduces a leading question.  The idea is to manipulate the customer into saying "yes" to something small, so that they'll eventually say "yes" to buying.  Unfortunately, most customers realize that they're being manipulated and resent it.  Instead, ask:   

"What are your priorities around...?"

This question opens a discussion of the actual issues so that you can learn more about the customer's situation.

2. "If I could save you 15%, would you be interested..."

In this case, you're holding out the promise of cost-savings as a way to hook the customer into listening to the rest of your spiel. However, this kind of "offering" communicates to the customer that you're only selling a commodity and that you haven't bothered to find out anything specific about the specific customer.  Instead ask:

"Where would cost reduction be of particular value?"

This question allows the customer to expound on where they're having challenges, so that you can better craft a solution.

3. "Do you have a budget for this?"

It's no secret why you're asking this one!  You want to make certain that you don't waste time selling to somebody who doesn't have the money to buy. However, this question implies that you're only interested in making a sale and (worse) are hoping to run up the price to match the stated budget. Instead ask:

"How are decisions made for this type of purchase?"

This question usually launches a discussion of the buying process, so that you can tailor your selling activities to match. Remember: if the need is great enough, the budget will follow.

4. "Are you the decision maker?"

Again, your motives for asking this one are pretty obvious. You want to ensure that you're talking to the person who can say "Yes" and (if not) use that person as a bridge.  However, this question, phrased this way, implies that you suspect your customer contact is some flunky gatekeeper. A more effective question is:

"Who are the stakeholders?"

This question uncovers the various people who will need to reach consensus on the purchase in order for it to be actually made. Ideally, you'll get a roadmap of whom you must contact in order to close the deal.

Asking your questions in a better way can elevate the conversation, open up your prospects more, and ultimately lead to better results.

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