Open-ended questions are important factors for sales success. With the help of these questions, representatives can have a better understanding of their pain points. Good open-ended questions make sure that reps are creating rapport, learning pain points, establishing needs, and clearly disseminating the value of their offer.
Below are some of the open ended sales questions that can help you make an impact on your potential buyer.
What are Open-Ended Sales Questions?
Open-ended sales questions are also called sales discovery questions designed to know the prospect better. These questions start the conversation between you and the prospect and are both used in the initial and final stages with the prospect. They are usually not answerable by yes or no. They tend to prompt prospects to start talking about their situation, motivation, or goals.
Characteristics of Open-Ended Sales Questions:
- They are usually about Five W’s: Who, What, When, Where and Why, and How.
- They are conversational.
- There is no pattern, which means there is no formula or structure.
- Someone has to think it over before giving an answer.
- They are subjective instead of objective in nature. It means they are about personal feelings and not facts or figures.
The Purpose of Open-Ended Sales Questions:
This type of sales question is intended to build a conversation between the sales reps and the target customers. The probe questions to get the prospect’s attention and to talk more about their business.
As a sales rep, you can use these opened ended questions for sales to call and learn more about your prospect’s pain points and needs. An open nature means that there is no specific answer and is designed to facilitate an exchange of ideas. It can also be used in building engagement and help to create rapport between the rep and the prospect.
Examples Of Open-Ended Sales Questions (By Category)
When you’ve found a lead, know where they are in the buying process. With open-ended sales questions, you will be able to determine the level of interest of your potential customers, and at the same time, you will have an idea of what they think of the process. This way, you will be able to manage your sales funnel and learn what you need to do next or if you should move forward. With these questions, you will be able to know the following:
- Budget. Do they have the ability to spend?
- Authority. Do we know who the decision-maker is?
- Need. Does the prospect have an urgent business problem and pain to address?
- Do we know a timeframe in which they will need a solution?
- When can you assess your solutions in outside training vendors?
- What do you think about our offer so far?
- Which part of our product do you have questions about?
- What will be our next step after this?
For sales reps who have mastered what they do tend to let the prospect feel that they are in control of the process and the solution and closing of the deal is their idea. Also, asking the next steps will give you the chance to see their company’s internal processes and how to transform them into a deal.
What is your budget?
This question deals with the roadblocks to budget matters. Through these questions, you can prevent the idea of affordability objection before the topic arises. Getting a number of ranges from your target customers gives you the opportunity to qualify them before moving with the remaining areas of the sales process.
What will be your timeline for using this solution for this project?
It is important that you know when your prospect will implement the solutions, their hard deadlines, and whether their expectations are realistic. You have to make sure that your timelines are aligned with each other to prevent disappointment or any other possible issues.
Needs-Based Or Pain-Based Questions
Needs-based questions or pain-based questions can help when you are trying to learn what the prospect wants or their challenges in the current situation. Be cognizant in preparing these questions, consider what needs your product or service serves.
This means, don’t ask about areas that your product or service does not cater to. The following questions aim to discover more about what works or not with the current system of the prospect.
- Why is it not your needed solution, or why is the process not working for you?
- What’s preventing you from reaching your goals?
After asking the rapport-building questions, you can start asking deeper questions through these roadblocks questions, which prevent them from reaching their goals. It can be a shortage of resources, time limitations, or something else. Whatever it is, sales reps have to be aware of their prospect’s roadblocks.
What do you think about this so far?
After going through a sales call, you have to check in with your prospect to see how they feel and think. It is best to ask after you do the talking for at least a minute or two.
What are your concerns about making a change?
It is common for target consumers to have concerns that are not addressed about making personal changes to employ your product or integrate solutions. Asking them about these concerns can help them share information at the same time build trust, deepen rapport, and give you insights on possible roadblocks to address before and during the implementation process.
What are other areas that you would like to discuss moving forward?
If you think you have taken care of everything, it is vital to check with your customers to see if they feel the same way. With all the questions and answers before this point, they could not have a chance to share about other areas as they are also important.
How did you get involved in this project?
Getting an answer to this question can help you learn some background context as to when your prospect got involved with this project and how. It is either your prospect only joined the organization, or got promoted to a level as a decision-maker. It depends on how deep they have gotten into the problem, you will have an idea of how aware your prospect is of the project.
What is the top of your priorities, and why?
This enables you to get the heart of the matter. Your prospect’s answer and reasons for choosing such an answer can be your shortcut to closing the deal by focusing on the most pressing priority.
What is the biggest challenge you face with your business today?
Although this can be similar to the previous question, this open-ended sales question directs more to the main challenge or pain point that your prospect is experiencing. It can be worthwhile to ask about their priorities at the same time their challenges to see if they are consistent with each other. For those whose priorities do not align with their challenges, you have the chance to educate them on better or most cost-effective approaches to their challenges.
What do you want to see improved?
This is the chance you get the expected results from the horse’s mouth. Once you found the right sense of the before and after picture, closing a deal is a matter of connecting the dots in between and with your team being able to deliver the results.
Impact Or Benefit-Driven Questions
For your goal of closing a customer, you can try Impact or Benefit-Driven questions. These questions can help you determine the vital features for your prospects. Through this, you can find the best things about your product or service that interest them the most.
For your preparation, review the features and benefits of your product or service. This way, you can ask appropriate questions to your potential customers.
- How important is the patient’s privacy compliance for your practice management software?
- How much time do you spend on lead follow-ups?
- What would you do with your extra 30-60 minutes a day to manage your office if you could outsource your social media management?
- If a certain problem remains unsolved, how can it affect your business in the future?
New Future or New Reality Questions
These questions are designed to help you show the prospects how to arrive at their goal and how your product or service helped them get to that point.
- How do you think altering this area could enhance your day-to-day work?
- What do you want to achieve in the next year with this change?
- Without considering money and time, if you had the full authority of doing whatever you want, what change would you make to your current system?
- What would you want to be different from your situation today to your situation in three years?
These questions are helpful when you are facing objections to your product or service. They are meant to uncork potential objections before they emerge in the sales process.
The common objection is “I need to discuss this with my supervisor”. So then, you can ask this question: Who else is involved in these types of decisions?
“I can’t afford this right now.” The question could be: What budget do you have allocated for something like this?
“I am not interested in your product or service right now.” The question could be: When are you interested in learning, and how can I save you X% with this product or service?
- Any concerns so far?
- What else would you like to discuss?
Buyer History Questions
Use buyer-history questions to be able to understand your prospect’s past experiences or purchasing habits. These questions aim to determine their past experiences and find how your prospect or organization will be able to come up with these decisions. You can also discover the status of their relationship with their current provider, which can be a good help with your sales process.
- What was your past purchase experience with a product or service?
- How would you describe the level of service of the current provider?
- What steps are you taking to fix such problems with your current solution?
- When was the last time you have evaluated something like this?
- Why or why not would you say you were satisfied with your past experiences with this vendor?
This is a buying history question. Some prospects are not happy with their current vendor, and your goal is to know what they are looking for in the new one. This way, you will know what went wrong with the previous vendor, so that your company will not repeat the same mistakes.
What has been working well with your current processes? What has not?
Mostly, these parts of the process can be always enhanced. But the prospect might have to keep certain implementations in place, especially those that are working well for them. It is important for a sales rep that you don’t suggest solutions that can replace the parts that are already working well. Some prospects might not be aware of potential improvements, and you can handle the conversation to show how this solution can improve some parts of the process.
What are the steps that you’ve taken to address these challenges?
Most of the time, prospects come to you because they have tried solving their problems internally and didn’t succeed. You have to know what are the challenges they have taken so that you will not make mistakes by suggesting the same approaches when presenting your solution.
If time and money were not factors, having the full authority, what would you change about your current system?
This open-ended sales question is a great addition to getting your imagination going. Removing time and money constraints, you can have a picture of the results that would give them happiness. Given this, you can create a roadmap on how to get there. If you play your cards right, they will beg you to take their money.
Rapport Building Questions
When you are trying to build a personal connection and relationship with your potential customer, these questions would help you. These questions require you to get under the surface of the interaction and get to know the prospect. Having this relationship and with this information, you can consult the account. Being able to know what they want and need, you can create a solution with your product or service.
What do you want to happen to make this appointment worth your time?
This open-ended question is a great thing to start a conversation that sets focus on their needs first. It establishes the mood throughout the call, it is non-threatening and breaks the ice. Another benefit is that it can immediately set you apart from the rest of the sales rep that throw out pitches from here and there.
What motivated you to take this call with me?
This question can help you know what your prospects are facing and their priorities or pain point lies. Also, it gives prospects a chance to include additional information which might not have been brought up.
- How do you evaluate vendors for this area?
- What concerns do you have in making changes in this area?
- What have I not talked about that you would like to discuss more?
- How’s business? Have there been any changes since we last spoke?
Questions that help close the deal
What questions do you have that I haven’t answered yet?
This open-ended question of “do you have questions for me?” works well to closing a deal. The real deal behind this one is that it assumes that the prospect has questions that you have not dealt with or answered yet. It is effective in getting your customer to dig deeper in their head for more questions.
If you were to make this happen, what does it mean for you personally?
This is more of a visualization question. It is powerful because it connects their own feelings and aspirations to the final outcome. If your company showed your prospect a roadmap on how exactly your solution can help them, they would be all over it because of what would mean for them personally.
If you could overcome these challenges, what does it mean for your company’s bottom line?
This question opens some insights as to how finding solutions to their challenges can affect their bottom line revenue instead of the customer’s personal feelings. You can use this question if your prospects are the bosses and they are interested in the ROI of your solution.
What else can I do to help you finalize this decision?
When you are close to closing a deal, it is time to negotiate. Ask your prospect what they need to help them decide. This time, you may need to take a gentle strong nudge or two. It is important that you know what your customer needs to settle the deal by using your sales team and resources to make it work.
5 Tips To Perfect Your Open-Ended Sales Questions Procedure
Although you are prepared with your sales discovery questions for the different areas of the sales call, you must not forget how to deliver these questions. This includes the order of the questions, the transitioning from one area to another, and a natural flow of your techniques, which will allow you to have an unstructured conversation with your potential customer.
The best open-ended sales question techniques aim to uncover the underlying reasons how your prospect is experiencing pain in their business. Here are a few tips to perfect your open-ended sales techniques.
Invert the pyramid
The shape of the pyramid starts with a broad bottom and builds up to a point. With open-ended sales questions, it is a good idea to invert the pyramid, so it starts with a broad part and then you work your way down to a point. Hubspot suggests that you start with a broad and non-threatening question, like what should I know about your business? After that, you can look for the areas that you need to explore in greater detail from their response, going down to specific questions that will show you areas of opportunity.
The open-ended questioning process should involve sincere interest. As experts say, “Good salespeople tend to be good listeners, and good listeners tend to be curious all time.” Since you are asking about something that is near and important to your prospect, showing interest in it can help create a relationship and form a bond.
Keep it personal
Preparation is important for a sales call. However, sometimes being too prepared can be dangerous. It is important to keep the exchanges of information and build a rapport to earn the trust of your prospect. A script sometimes does not elicit emotional engagement that open-ended sales questions aim to facilitate. So try to get comfortable with “dead air” or learn more from listening than talking. In the first stage of the sales cycle, being silent can help you get the information that you need. You will be amazed that you will find that people are giving out amounts of information that you would have never gotten any other way. Remember your friend “what”. If you have trouble in throwing the question, remember the word “what”. Most questions start with what encourages detailed or elaborated answers.
5 Crucial Mistakes that Sales Reps Make
1. Answering your own questions. Sometimes you get the feel of nudging your prospect by suggesting some answers that you heard from a similar prospect in the past. However, potential customers may change what they are going to share after hearing your suggestion.
2. Forgetting to listen to the client. Don’t forget to listen to your prospect because similar to answering your own questions, it may defeat your purpose of asking open-ended questions.
3. Interrogating clients. If you are rapidly firing questions to the point that they are hitting deeper than a person wants, it may turn out more like a cross-examination or an investigation than a discussion, which will not help you build a rapport. Make sure that you follow up enough and you have a better understanding of what your prospect was sharing. Without so much follow up people will wonder whether they should have a lawyer present.
4. Asking too many “why” questions. “Why” is one of the five W’s and sometimes it sounds accusatory. An expert says that “why did you do that” can sometimes mean “what do you use as the basis for your actions?” Hence, it is important to be mindful of how many times you ask a why question and the tone of your query.
5. Jumping straight to a solution. Take note that this part of the sales process is learning about the prospect and not pitching your product or service. So, when you hear a problem that your product or service can help with, resist the temptation to share that information at the moment. Good sales come to those who know how to wait.
Ready. Set. Question.
Open-ended questions for sales are the tools that can help you to harvest qualified opportunities. They are different from other queries. These sales questions can give you an opportunity to listen to your potential customer and make a consultative approach to your relationship with them.
The best open-ended sales questions can help you identify areas of opportunity in potential customers. Sales discovery questions can help reveal pain points and needs that are not met by the prospect’s current provider. These questions allow you to prioritize your prospects to maximize your sales funnel for efficiency and success.
Benefits of Asking Open-Ended Sales Questions
There are benefits in asking open-ended sales questions during sales calls instead of committing common mistakes of asking a series of closed-ended yes or no questions.
Asking open-ended sales questions develops trust. You have to exhibit an insatiable curiosity in the sales process as this will allow you to ask your potential buyers with strong open-ended questions. When you are asking questions, you have to show your potential clients that you care about what they are saying. You are opening your doors to them to tell you their exact professional mandates, their concerns, and what they are looking for. Thus, insatiable curiosity and asking open-ended sales questions trigger target buyers to share with you everything you need to know and to put you in the best possible position to close the sale excellently.
It shows your real interest that can help prospects feel more engaged. The whole call should demonstrate your real interest and concern for your clients, which also builds rapport allowing your target customers to feel easy in sharing with you some important information that can help you close the sale.
The Bottom Line
Employing this method removes yourself from outdated, product-centric cost scheme language that drives away prospects due to offensive sales stench by talking more instead of discussing what matters most to your target buyers.
Asking open-ended questions starting with What, How, and Why will give you more detailed and thoughtful answers, which will not be possible if you are asking closed-ended questions. It gives the sales reps more insights and qualitative data. Besides, you might also gain some useful insights that would help you close the sale. You can also learn some unexpected details that will affect the area and time of your project. These details can help you decide whether or not the target buyer is qualified and a good fit for your products or services. The longer the conversation lasts, the better it will be. Compared to questions answerable by yes or no that cut short the conversation, it is a great sign when the discussion gets longer and engaging, as it shows that the prospects are willing to trust you.