Ask Open Or Closed Questions? I Don’t Care!

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Businessman and questionsAsking questions; probably THE single most important skill that you can possess as a sales professional.

I’m sure you’ve attended courses in the past that cover questioning techniques and their use in the sales discussion.

Many times we are told that ‘open’ questions (the ones that start with why, what, when, how, where, who, etc.) are the best ones to use, and that you should avoid the ‘closed’ type of questions that tie the conversation down (the ones that elicit yes or no answers).

In my opinion, as long as your questions have a purpose then the type of question you ask is irrelevant. Sure, you are going to get more information from asking an open question but used correctly closed questions can be very powerful as you control the conversation between you and your prospect.

So what’s their role in the sales process?

Answer – To get a clear, accurate assessment of a position, situation, challenge, condition, decision or viewpoint.

For them to work effectively, they should be followed up with a series of clarifying statements or questions.

For example:

“Are your productivity levels as good as they could be?” (Closed question)

“No”

“That’s interesting. What makes you say that?”

That follow up question shows you’re interested in and sympathetic with the prospect’s position.

Here’s another example:

“Do you see this situation continuing?” (Closed question)

“Yes”

“Right. If you don’t mind me asking, what impact is that going to have on your manufacturing processes? Will you continue to manufacture at your current rates?”

“No”

“That’s something I’ve heard from many other of my clients. So, let me ask you, what are your plans for future manufacturing?”

You see, you can ask further questions that elaborate on the situation, and it doesn’t sound like an interrogation…it simply continues the discussion you are having with the prospect.

You may need to ask one or two clarification questions, but you end up with a position where the prospect has given you valuable information you may not have obtained if you hadn’t gone down that particular questioning avenue.

Use closed questions sparingly, and at the right time and occasion. When you do, you’ll find they uncover specific positions the prospect is in and will help you to clarify exact requirements with the follow-up assessment questions.

So don’t be put off with the type of question you’re asking. Instead, ask yourself what is the purpose of asking the question and what response you want from the prospect. You can then work out what type of question to ask.

Do you get me? (See! A closed question)

Happy Selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Sales Blog | Image courtesy of Dollarphotoclub

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Originally published: 19 February, 2015