The Reluctance to Use Close Ended Questions in Sales

Open ended questions are the key so I once heard a sales trainer tell the audience. He continued with close ended questions in sales are old school.  Sales people who ask close ended questions do not understand the sales process.

close-ended-questions-in-salesWhen I heard these statements, my little brain said “Really?” For me close ended questions in sales where I received a yes, a no or even “I don’t know” allowed for agreement, permission to move forward and sometimes hidden pain points within the fact finding step of the sales process.

For me the sales process is very much a yin/yang proposition.

There is give and take.

There is a balance between open ended questions and close ended questions in sales.

Top sales performers understand and leverage this delicate balance.

Close ended questions provide a point to move forward to that next step within the sales process with assurance and confidence. More importantly close ended questions in sales provide absolute crystal clarity as to the exchanged words within the conversation.

After hearing a specific pain point, the salesperson may ask “Would you please tell me more?” (Open ended question)  Then upon that sharing from the qualified potential customer, he or she may ask “Is there anything else you would like to add?” (Close ended question)

Sometimes in our desire to be different be it sales training coaching consultants to other sales professionals, there is a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Both open ended questions and close ended questions in sales are required. If you want to be a top sales performer, then learn the when and where of  balancing these two different types of sales fact finding questions.

Leanne Hoagland-Smith is a heurist who disrupts the status quo by discovering new ways to guide and support rapidly growing small businesses; those who wish to grow beyond their current employees and executives in career chaos.  She is recognized as one of the Top 25 Sales Influencers in 2013 by Open View Sales Labs and can be reached at 219.759.5601 CST.

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4 Responses to “The Reluctance to Use Close Ended Questions in Sales”

  • You may also wish to consider the impact of open and closed questions on the “Low Reactor”. This was the original work done by Rackham et al leading to the conclusion: There was no link between open or closed questions and Sales Success.

    As usual, there is no ‘right’ way, ‘it depends!’
    Brian MacIver recently posted..Sales Managers and Poor Performers

  • Thanks for sharing that resource, Brian.

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith

  • To be honest I hate the idea of having to think about closed ended or open ended questions. If you have to think too hard about the questions you need to ask either you haven’t done your homework, or you’re not fully present during these meeting. In my opinion, you need to enter every conversation with genuine curiosity and limited to no assumptions. If you can do that then the right questions will just flow…when you engage with someone interesting at a party or social event and you’re genuinely interested in who they are and what they have to say do you sit around thinking about whether or not to ask them closed or open endend questions? Of course not…you hopefully genuinely curious about them and what they do and your natural curiosity brings out the best questions. So my advice is relax…understand that not all prospects are a fit…be curious have no expectations or assumptions and the right and most appropriate questions will show up.

  • Andrew – Authentic engagement is indeed the key. I too dislike the thought of relegating sales to a cognitive process, ask this, don’t ask that. With that said, the more strategic we can be when we ask those open or close ended questions, I believe we will generate greater results. Also, you raise another very valid point about if you are indeed in front of the right qualified potential customer.
    Thanks for taking the time to share your well articulated thoughts and experience,

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith

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