The Importance of Good Open-Ended Questions in Sales
Open-ended questions are crucial to getting prospects to open up to you so you can get your sales faster. But before you understand the importance of using good open-ended questions, let’s first define open-ended questions so you can understand what they are.
What Does “Open-Ended Question” Mean?
An open-ended question requires the person you’re propositioning to provide give answer in which a simple “yes/no” is never uttered. Though this concept seems very simple, effectively and skillfully utilizing the questions requires you to first gather some knowledge about (1) why they’re so crucial and (2) how to ensure you’re keeping prospects interested and engaged.
Using open-ended questions during sales conversations will help guarantee that you generate great back-and-forth discussions with the prospect while also searching for useful information in scenarios such as these:
-Determining what the customer needs
-Figuring out the root-cause of why customers reject you
-Creating sales opportunities
Because open questions are so important to eventually making a sale, it’s important to understand exactly how to use them.
Who, What, When, Where, and Why
Good open questions often start out with the classic five W’s that we all know: who, what, where, when, and why. Those words, along with the H-word, “how,” are the basic words you will use to get important details about your prospects.
Here is how these five W’s and the H should be used during sales calls. Inquiries like these are the questions to ask.
-“Who benefits most due to this, and why?”
-“What’s the biggest challenge you have with that implementation?”
-“Where do you encounter the biggest number of problems in your organization?”
-“When are you certain that you’re doing it the best way possible?”
-“Why isn’t that issue being solved any longer?”
-“How can we see the process unfolding after two weeks with the group or yourself?”
Despite closed-ended questions also starting with the aforementioned W’s or the H, they should be kept to a minimum since they only draw out concise answers based on provable information. Here are some things to ask that are examples of open-ended questions:
-“Who supplied your inventory?”
-“What company did you decide to work with?”
-“When can you meet with me next week?”
The Main Traits Concerning Open Sales Questions
Good open-oriented dialogue in sales does not have much structure; meaning, usually it does not lead a prospect to provide a certain response. The prospect must give some thought and respond in his or her own unique way. There are additional characteristics that separate open questions compared to ones that are closed:
-Say a prospect has to take time to ponder and give some thought prior to answering the question, it’s a question that’s open.
-Say the response consists of someone’s personal views or opinions instead of just what’s provable and universal, it’s a question that’s open.
-If the dialogue goes back and forth between the salesperson and the prospect, then the salesperson is asking questions that are open.
-If the salesperson dominates the dialogue, then questions that are closed are taking place.
The entire purpose of applying open questions to sales calls is to ensure that the prospect opens up, expands on important points, and provides new or helpful information. Though it’s not technically a question, saying, “Let me hear about…” can get you similar objectives as the five W’s and the single H; however, be careful. Some questions are simply just too ambiguous and will not lead to the desired answers. For example, if a salesperson were to ask, “What are you seeking in terms of a solution?,” nothing would probably be gained. The question is too ambiguous. If the salesperson only cares about criteria such as time-frame and budget, he or she has to be more specific or time will be wasted. Without some structure, the prospect is capable of taking the conversation offtrack by talking about something that’s irrelevant to the salesperson.
It will take a lot of practice to give out good open-ended questions and be successful, however the time applied doing so is completely worth every second. Eventually, you will effortlessly be conducting consultative sales calls that add tremendous value to both yourself and your prospects.
As a salesperson, it’s extremely important to always have an arsenal of truly effective open-ended questions at your disposal. Remember, all of these questions should be answered with more than a simple yes or no. You want the prospect to be directly involved in the conversation. Ask your question and sit back and let the customer give you an answer. Remember: No leading. No prompting. And no interrupting.
If you’re still wondering how to ask open-ended questions, don’t worry. Below are some of the most useful open-ended questions for you to use. Obviously, you should have additional questions that are specific to your industry, but these will get you ahead of the curve very quickly. Jot down the questions you think are most effective for you. Memorize (or familiarize) these questions with your team. You don’t have to practice them during a sales call. You can practice them on your drive to work or even role-play the questions with a spouse, friend, or colleague. Here’s a list of open-ended questions to ask:
Top Open-Ended Questions to Implement
Open question examples that gather crucial information:
-What made you or the company decide to do it this way?
-What are your expectations when you use a product like this?
-What process did you go through to come to that conclusion?
-How do you see this playing out?
-What do you want to gain from that?
-With whom did you have the most success?
-With whom did you encounter the most difficulties with?
-Can you help me understand that a little more?
-What do you mean by that?
-How does the process usually go?
-What obstacles have you had to overcome by doing it this way?
-What challenges have you faced when the process didn’t go well?
-What do you like most about doing it this way?
-What else should we go over?
Qualifying open question examples:
-What do you see as the next steps you need to take to solve this?
-What is your timeline for improving this product?
-What other data points should I be aware of before we move forward?
-What budget has been implemented for the project?
-What are you thinking about this?
-Who else was involved in this process?
-What changes could occur that would derail this process?
-What’s new with you since we last spoke?
-What are your main concerns?
Open question examples for rapport building and establishing trust:
-How did you get involved with this organization?
-What are the main problems you’re having?
-What’s most important to you moving forward? Why?
-What other issues do you see as the most important?
-What improvements would you like to be made?
-How did you come to that conclusion?
Good open-ended questions are extremely important to the sales process but only if you actively listen. They help you gain much-needed information, maximize your sales opportunities, and build good rapport, trust, and establish credibility. Now get out there and practice the above list of open-ended questions so you can put more money in your pocket as fast as possible.