They're the questions from hell — the ones lawn and landscape professionals hate to hear, but often do. The questions may deal with price (as in, "Why is your company so expensive?"), safety ("The pesticides you use are dangerous, aren't they?") or a variety of other topics.

Failing to come up with right answers to these challenging questions may cost you more than time and stress. It may cost you money. You may end up cutting your prices or giving away your time to avoid a confrontation with a difficult customer. Or you may foster doubt and fear, and lose business by dodging queries about chemicals.

Problem is, a meeting with a client or prospect is rarely a time for impromptu brilliance. You're not likely to come up with a stellar response to questions out of nowhere, such as: "Can you give us a free trial?" or "If your products are so safe, why do your employees wear protective gear?"

That's why you should approach meetings with prospects and clients hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. Expect the unexpected, and craft good answers to lousy questions ahead of time.

Prepare today for a question like: "Why do you charge so much more than other landscape companies in town?" Develop a response, now, that points out that you're "the area's only firm that offers such a full range of property management services," or that "we actually save customers time and money by processing and providing our own materials, like loam, compost and mulch."

Questions about chemical applications can be particularly troublesome, considering that pesticide packages contain words like "warning," "danger" and "caution."

Dennis Shepard, a technical support specialist for Syngenta Turf and Ornamental Products, suggests that lawn care professionals remind customers that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "will not register a pesticide unless it meets stringent safety requirements."

"New products take 7 to 10 years to develop and undergo more than 120 safety and efficacy tests that are required by the EPA," Shepard points out, adding that companies should have a risk communication in place to respond to customer environmental concerns.

Difficult questions go beyond the realm of the usual customer queries on topics like references ("Do you have any?"), guarantee ("Do you offer one?") and payment plans ("How can I pay?"). Lawn care professionals should expect to be asked about things like whether they carry liability insurance, what kind of training their technicians have, and whether they require long-term service contracts.

They should zero in on questions they don't expect.

Sit down and create a list of every question from hell you can think of, and craft responses to them. Then provide each member of your staff with a copy of the cheat sheet.

Don't let tough questions tie you up, bring you down and stress you out. Take a proactive approach by arming yourself with the answers before you hear the questions.