Why You Should be Asking Open-Ended Sales Questions (And Best Examples)

Aug 6, 2019

You may feel like you know your product or service like the back of your hand. But, you can’t maximize your sales unless you truly know what your prospects and clients are seeking. What are their pain points? What are they looking for in a product or service?

The only way to truly offer relevant solutions to your customers is to ask questions. Those who are excellent communicators are always naturally curious about the people they are talking with, and that is especially critical in sales — ask questions and then provide answers later.

Asking questions provides valuable insight into the minds of our prospects. More importantly, it will help you develop innovative solutions that will set you apart from your competition. If you don’t know exactly what your potential customer is looking for then you are stuck trying to sell features versus solutions. By taking the time to dive deeper and gather more information, you will undoubtedly be able to offer products or services that solve a prospect’s problem, fit their needs, or make their life easier. Show your curiosity and desire to find the most relevant answer for each and every prospect.

Trust is also built through questions. In sales, if you take the time to ask your clients questions they will see that you truly care about offering the best solution for their needs. Customers are not only looking for businesses and products that will benefit them, they are looking for ones they can trust. Ones who truly have their best interest at heart.

Asking questions leads to active listening which then leads to offering honest and valuable solutions based on that information. Solutions your customers can trust.

Source: barraques.cat

Avoid Trying to Sell To The Wrong Prospects

Imagine prospecting a possible new client and you finally get them to schedule a time to meet with you. You meet and start pitching your product. You get all of the way through your pitch just to hear a quick and resounding “no” because you’re pitching a product that this particular prospect doesn’t want or need. A situation like that can be easily avoided by asking questions before you start to sell. Your product could be the best in the world. But, if you are pitching your product to a prospect that doesn’t need it, it doesn’t matter what you have to say about it. You are not going to get the sale. If they do decide to buy, there is a high chance they will return the product, cancel services quickly, or negatively review your business.

Gather insight from your prospect by asking questions that will make it very clear what solution you have to offer that is relevant to them. Save energy, time, and money by not selling to the wrong buyers.

Why Isn’t Everyone Asking Open-Ended Questions?

It is clear that asking questions can help glean invaluable insight into our customers and prospects. Allowing us to provide the most relevant answers. So if it is so crucial, why isn’t every sales rep asking questions consistently?

Unfortunately, two of the biggest reasons are laziness and pride. As a sales rep, both of these can manifest in the form of assuming that you know all the main “important” things you need to know about your product and your customer and you don’t need to bother learning more. When this happens, you maintain your assumptions and cling to your beliefs. But, this usually doesn’t end well.

Other times, people fear asking questions because they think it will make them look incompetent, unsure, or unprepared. As a sales professional, it is natural to want to show confidence and knowledge and that you are in control. But asking questions does not negate this. In fact, asking questions is actually a sign of intelligence and soundness. The greatest leaders and innovators are constantly learning and constantly asking questions. You have to be aware that you do not have all the answers.

It’s important to stop looking at questions as a bad thing. As Paul Sloane, an author and keynote speaker on lateral thinking and innovation said:

“Intelligent questions stimulate, provoke, inform and inspire.”

Another common reason that sales reps don’t ask questions is that they are in too much of a hurry. Sales professionals lead very hectic lives from day to day. Even more so when they are not utilizing the efficient sales automation tools available in the industry. This causes rushing through tasks, including sales meetings, to try and get everything done. In this situation, some fear that taking the time to ask questions will slow them down even more. This can cause a very sticky situation where you risk rushing into the wrong actions.

So, it is important to put our assumptions aside and take the time to ask questions, learn, and appreciate what your prospects are looking for. This will show your drive, knowledge, and desire to be and provide the most relevant solutions.

Source: Performance Based Results

Asking The Right Questions

It’s important to not just ask questions but ask the right questions. Approach the conversation systematically with your prospect and focus on the intention to gain insights into what they are truly looking for.

The best approach is to open with very basic, broad, and open-ended questions. This will help set the foundation. These open-ended questions give your prospect the opportunity to still feel somewhat in control from the beginning and opens matters up. They will also immediately get the feeling that you care.

Some examples of open-ended questions would be:

  • What is your biggest pain point from day to day right now?
  • Is there a problem you are trying to solve?
  • What are you in the market for currently?

By starting with these types of questions and actively listening, we can formulate further questions to gain more insight. One important thing to keep in mind is to resist the temptation to immediately respond with an answer, conclusion, or proposal. Utilize their answers to your initial questions to keep asking questions to deepen your comprehension of their issues and what they are looking for. Once this happens, we can use the information our prospect provides to use more precise closed questions to get specific information we need. These closed questions only really provide for the opportunity to answer yes or no or specific information.

Some examples of some closed questions are:

  • Are you happy with your current service?
  • When did your problem first occur?
  • How long have you been with your current service?

It is also important to be aware of the manner in which we are asking the questions. Asking a lot of questions is extremely effective but we don’t want to come across as intrusive or like it is an interrogation. Be sure to ask questions in a friendly and non-threatening way to show you genuinely care about providing the best solutions.

Source: Mr. Inside Sales

Effective Questions To Gain Insight

The most effective questions to ask your prospects are ones that address your prospect’s business, probe their needs, and keep the conversation meaningful for both of you. Here are some tips to utilize to ensure you are offering the most relevant solutions for your customers:

1. Probe For The Decision Maker

Oftentimes in larger corporations, the decision-making process will actually involve multiple people. It’s important to make sure that everyone involved in the final decision-making is present in your meeting. This can be achieved by initially asking questions like “who else is involved in this process?” or “who will be using this product?”.

2. “What?” and not “Why?” Questions

Asking “how?” or “what?” questions will be much more effective than asking “why?”. Beginning questions with “why” can often come across as an interrogation and will immediately raise defenses. Starting a question with a “what” approach is much more welcoming and will also help you gain more insight into your prospect’s motives.

3. May I Show You Something?

No one ever wants to feel like they are being sold to. Many owners and CEOs are getting pitched and seeing demos multiple times throughout the week. Set yourself apart by creating a situation where your prospect is wanting you to show them a demo before you even mention it. Start out by asking them something like “what would a successful scenario look like for you in regards to your sales routes?”. If they say something along the lines of wanting to be efficient, then you can offer to show them how you and your product can help with that. Use that as one of the main features of your pitch to this particular prospect.

4. What happens if they don’t?

It is very valuable to find out more about your potential customer’s alternatives if they do not go with your product. You can find out if they are simply not ready to buy yet or they have been offered a better deal from a competitor. But, make sure not to approach with “why” questions and put your prospect on the spot. If they tell you that now is not a good time to invest another integration to their CRM, ask questions like “where will you share your sales reports?”. If they hint at another platform or tool being their solution you can look at how to adjust your offering to be more enticing at this point.

Source: Marketing Land

Wrapping It All Up

Asking questions when communicating with your sales prospects will provide invaluable information that will allow you to optimize your sales. You will be able to provide relevant solutions to the problems, needs, and pain points that your target potential customer experiences on a daily basis. You are never too experienced to not be able to learn more about your industry and your potential customers.

But, it is just as important to ask the right questions. The most profitable sales meetings are absolutely useless if you rely on the wrong questions. You want to ask relevant questions to uncover exactly how your product or service will benefit your customers, even if they don’t really know it yet.

Have you mastered the art of asking questions? What are some of the most effective ones you have utilized in sales meetings? Let us know!