Open ended questions are probably the most useful tool in your sales bag. So what is an open ended question? It is a question that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no, or a an A, B or C. Open ended question can get a prospect talking, and help a sales person gather valuable information needed to keep the sales process moving forward.
The opposite of an open ended question is a closed question. The most overused closed question in sales is one you hear all the time in retail stores,”Can I help you?” I conducted a very unscientific survey, and I am pretty confident in saying, that most of the time the answer to this question is, “No thank you, just looking.” Of course, the unspoken part of this response is, “and I don’t want to be bothered by a pushy salesperson.” In one fell swoop, that generous and helpful question, “Can I help you?” effectively kills the sales process.
Not all closed questions are necessarily bad. We may need to ask a few closed questions to gather needed information. Just don’t ask closed questions that may shut the sales process down cold.
Let’s role play. For the role play, let’s say we are a retail sales person in a camera store. Let’s be observant, and notice that our customer is looking at some mid-priced cameras. We can get things rolling with a closed question like, “Good morning, are you shopping for yourself today, or are you looking for a gift?”. He’s shopping for himself today. Let’s use one more closed question, “Do you already own a digital camera, or is this your first purchase?” He has a camera.
Now into the open ended questions, “So you are looking to upgrade. What is it about your existing camera that is no longer meeting your needs?”. Now you are really into the consultative sales process. With a few more open questions you should learn a bit about how your customer uses his camera, and what features he needs. Keep quiet and listen carefully to his answers. I hope you know your product line well, so that you can help him select the features to meet his needs!
At the end of this consultative sell, your customer will walk away with the right camera. You will have demonstrated that you care about his business, and have the technical competence he needs. And I’ll bet that the next time he needs something, he will be back!
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