One of the best ways to help more people while increasing your sales and closing rate isn’t just to ask questions, but ask more open-ended questions. Conversely, the quickest way to end a conversation and just receive a request for a brochure is to just ask questions that can be answered with just a couple words. Or worse yet, ask questions that can simply be answered with a yes or no.
The great thing about open-ended questions is the insight you gain from your prospects. It is this insight that you will use to develop your sales plan to help your prospect with your product or service. Open-ended questions help your prospects paint a picture of their needs, dilemmas, expectations and motivations.
Look at two ways you can ask the same question. The first is a closed question and looks like this, “Are you happy with your widgets?” The second is the open-ended version of this question that is asked much differently, “Describe how using widgets helps you increase profits.” It may not be in the form of a question, yet it elicits a response 1000 times more useful than Yes or No.
There is a very cool thing about using open-ended questions. They break down the barriers of the dreaded customer vs. sales rep relationship where you are trying to “sell” them something and they react with resistance. Instead, asking good, open-ended questions builds a relationship where you are their trusted advisor and you are there to help them out with a problem by providing them with a solution. Get your prospect into that frame of mind and it will open the flood gates (aka: checkbook) for orders and long-term, trusted relationships.
Your questions may be different, if only slightly, from the ones listed below, but you should have a quiver overflowing with open-ended questions in three strategic areas: gathering information, qualifying your prospect, and earning their trust in you.
• What happened that caused you to need this widget?
• How did [what happened above] affect your business/household/life?
• How do you currently obtain widgets?
• Who has helped you with widgets in the past?
• Describe how using widgets help you be more efficient and profitable.
• What are the challenges you face with your current widgets?
• Describe the perfect widget.
• What is the process you use to determine what widgets to use and how to obtain them?
• What concerns do you have with changing widgets?
• What concerns do you have with choosing/switching widget suppliers?
Qualifying Your Prospect
• What is your timeline for buying the widget?
• What could pop up that would put this purchase on the back burner?
• What do you see being the next step for you?
• Who else is involved in making this decision?
• How did you get your start where needing widgets became a necessity?
• Describe two or three things that you would love to see improved with the widget.
• Describe two or three things that you would love to see improved with how you obtain the widget.
• If I’m out providing widgets to someone else, how would I know if they would be a good referral for you?
Having and using an abundant supply of open-ended questions is only half the battle. They will provide you with a wealth of information that will help you seal the deal. However, unless you listen intently to their answers and pay attention to their emotion when describing their answers, you may well have just simply asked “Are you happy with your widgets?”
Here’s a little homework assignment for you. If you haven’t used it in a while, go get your quiver and dust it off. Next, list 10 questions – yes, write them down – for each of the three areas discussed above. Read them aloud and commit them to memory before every appointment until they become second nature. Keep this list handy and add to them as more and more come to mind.
Now…Go get ‘em!