Posts Tagged ‘open ended questions’

How to Increase Sales with this Question Framework

Most sales people want to increase sales.  This is why open ended questions are so popular.  Yet there is a  question framework that when executed flawlessly can accomplish this professional and organizational goal.

Homework Required

However before asking this specific question, the salesperson must do his or her homework.  Knowledge about the sales lead and the organization is essential.  Possibly this is why more than three contacts are necessary to convert the sales lead into a customer.

Homework begins with gleaming information from sales conversations with the prospect.  This basic information could be annual sales, number of employees to the demographics of organization.

Then further time must be devoted to learning and understanding the psychographics behind the buying decision.  This information focuses on the motivation to buy such as a personal promotion to even more personal information such as overall temperament and attitudes.

The Framing of This Sales Question

So when the salesperson is ready to give her or his sales presentation, she or he now can insert this question between statements from past due diligence.

“From what you have shared with me, 50% of your current sales team has failed to achieve sales quotas. You have also shared your sales cycle time is six months and the average sales is (insert figure).  If you could convert 10% of that 50% to achieve sales quotes, then that impact would be (insert calculation of dollar impact).  By increasing your sales by 20%, our solution can quickly demonstrate a (insert percentage) return on investment within six months.”

By using this sales question framework, the salesperson can begin with the end in mind to increase his or her own sales results.

  • What does the sales lead want?
  • What is the impact of that want?
  • What is an acceptable time frame?
  • How can the solution generate a positive return on investment?

The If, Then Sales Question can increase sales provided it is embedded between these two statements.

Want to schedule a time to speak with Leanne, then CLICK HERE.

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Closed Ended Questions Are Not to Be Ignored

In sales, the emphasis on asking open ended questions continues.  Salespeople are discouraged from asking closed ended questions as this type of questioning fails to provide additional fact finding information. But is that really true?

closed-ended-questionsLast week I spoke at a conference for consultants and executive coaches,  My presentation focused on several marketing skills taken from the book To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink.  All of these skills centered around sales prospecting from the one word equity to the question sales pitch to the Pixar Story.

One of my sales pitch questions is “Are you where you want to be?” Immediately I heard from several attendees “that is a close ended question.”  I agreed with them. They in turn said “you are supposed to ask open ended questions.”

For me, a close ended question establishes a simple benchmark from which to begin asking open ended questions.  It is an indirect assessment question.

As the sales conversation continues through ongoing meetings, this type of questioning also provides the opportunity for what some call “mini-closes.”  For example, I ask “Can we have agreement, this is what I just heard?” I then repeat what I just heard. Usually the sales lead will say yes and sometimes I may have misheard what was said or the sales lead realized he or she was unclear in his or her communication. This creates additional opportunity to establish your credibility and ensure you are not walking down the wrong fact finding path.

Without closed ended questions, the salesperson could be wasting time and losing opportunities. He or she may lose a sales because of the continued focus on open ended questions.

The focus on open ended questions reminds me of the person digging in a hole.  The first action to take is to stop digging.  My sense is sometimes salespeople through open ended questions dig themselves into very deep holes.

If you want some guidance in improving your sales conversations, then reach out to me, Leanne Hoagland-Smith, at 219.508.2859 TEXT or mobile (Chicago USA time) or click HERE to schedule a quick call.

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The Unasked Question to Convert More Sales

With the goal to convert more sales, open ended questions to closed ended questions have become the arrows in the professional salesperson’s quiver. There are many good open ended questions as well as some not so good ones.  By the way, did you know more and more decision makers can tell by the questions being asked the type of sales training the salesperson has encountered?

convert-more-salesFor me, the best question to convert more sales than any other question is one I learned from Tammy Kohl before she became president of Resource Associates Corporation.  The simplicity of this open ended question is incredible.

Where do we go from here?

This question is the last question that I ask after our fact finding, sales meeting.  In many instances, this question happens on the first sales call because through my marketing efforts, the sales lead has indeed made 40 to 60% of the buying decision.

Of course, before you can ask this question, you must earn the right to ask this question.  What that means is you have:

  • Demonstrated your knowledge of the business
  • Shared your knowledge about industry trends
  • Developed a relationship (this may take more than one meeting)
  • Answered all objections forthrightly without hesitation
  • Decided you wanted this business or professional as a client

In working with my executive coaching clients who want to convert more sales, I have found this question to be often unasked.

conver-more-salesThe other disconnect I have found when looking to convert more sales is silence.  Salespeople in their eagerness to earn the sale still have not learned when to shut up and let the silence do the selling.

  • Silence is powerful.
  • Silence allow the sales lead to have the time to process what has been shared.
  • Silence demonstrates your own self confidence because silence is awkward for many people.
  • Silence works to your advantage as a top performing salesperson.

For me after I ask my final question of “Where do we go from here?,” I remain silent. This silence may extend up to 5 minutes and sometimes even 10 minutes.  The longer the silence, the greater likelihood of another opportunity to convert more sales.

The next time you have finished the steps in the selling phase of your sales process, then employ this question. Remain silent and learn that silence is not only golden, but green.

* * * * * * * * * *

Leanne Hoagland-Smith supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between today’s results and tomorrow’s goals in the key areas of strategic growth, people development and process improvement. She speaks and writes specifically to high performance sales people who require a tailored executive coaching solution and to small businesses under 50 employees whose challenges are more unique and resources more limited. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.


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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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Closed Ended Questions Have Value

Sales experts to gurus advocate the use of open ended questions to increase sales. This type of questioning allows for salesperson to further discover the pains being experienced by the potential qualified customer (prospect). Yet, sometimes, a close ended question can move the fact finding conversation to that next level.

Courtesy of Bing Images

Over at LinkedIn, I posted a discussion to a group of sales professionals to share their most favorite closed ended questions.  What was interesting to note is some of these experts did not know the difference between a close ended question and an open ended one.

Definition of Terms

  • Close ended questions generate one of these three responses:  Yes or No or I don’t know.
  • Open ended questions allow the potential customer to continue to talk and reveal more information.

Value of Close Ended Questions in Action

Many times during a conversation, I will ask this question:  May I ask you a question? Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Asking permission to ask a question is a great sales skill and demonstrates emotional intelligence.

I then wait for a positive response.  After receiving the response, I synthesize to clarify what I have heard and repeat that to the individual with this concluding question:  “Have I heard correctly?” Again I wait for a response. By taking this action, I have reaffirmed not only displaying emotional intelligence, but the 3 sales buying rules as well as placing a lid on one or more of the 5 sales objections buckets.

Close ended questions have value because the move the selling phase within the sales process forward and when executed properly display strong emotional intelligence.  So if you are reading that latest greatest sales training coaching book or attending a sales training program and hear all about open ended questions, you may wish to consider adding some close ended questions to your sales tool box to help you increase sales and Be the Red Jacket.

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