Open and Closed Ended Sales Questions

Asking open ended questions is the ideal way to get know your sales prospect and assess their needs, and it’s an essential sales skill that’s worth practicing and developing. But closed ended questions also play an important role in sales, particularly when you need to get precise answers from your prospect. It’s good to distinguish between the two because they serve different purposes. Here are some examples of open ended and closed questions and why each is important.

Open Ended Questions: the Where, What, and How

It’s easy to think you’ve asked an open ended question when, in reality, you haven’t. And you don’t fully realize it until you get a flat “no” response back. For example, this may feel like an open ended question: “Is there more I can do to answer your questions?” You may be expecting your prospect to generously respond with a list, when instead they can just as easily respond with, “No, thank you.” Generally, open ended questions are the “where,” “what,” “why,” and “how” questions. For example, in the previous example, the open ended version of the question would be, “What more can I do to answer your questions?”

Here Are Some Examples of Open Ended Sales Questions

How are things going for your business these days?

How have things been going this quarter?

What kind of changes are you seeing in 2010 vs. 2009?

How do you think the next six months will be?

Where would you like to see your sales, operations, marketing, etc. results be in the next two months?

What do you think your leadership team is looking for in a product/service?

Where is your current provider failing to meet you needs?

What do you perceive will be the biggest challenge for your business this year?

What are you sales goals for this month, quarter, year?

In your ideal scenario, what would you like to see happen?

What sorts of obstacles are you facing?

How do you measure success?
Tell me about what you liked/disliked about the previous service.

Closed Ended Questions: Start with the Verb

Asking closed ended questions – those that elicit a “yes,” “no,” or short answer response - is a great way to get a precise answer from your prospect. An example is, “Are you still in the market?” or “May I send you a proposal today?” In general, closed ended questions begin with a verb, such as “are,” “did,” “will,” or “won’t,” “didn’t,” “aren’t,” etc.

Here Are Some Examples of Closed Ended Sales Questions

Is this the kind of product you’re looking for?

Are you considering purchasing in the next two months?

Are you evaluating different vendors right now?

Does this make sense?

Is this a good time to talk?

Are you aware of the promotion we have going right now?

Who else needs to be involved with making this decision?

Would you like to give this a try?

Which option would you like to proceed with?

It’s important to use common sense when talking to your sales prospects and learning about their needs, just as it’s equally important to be natural in your conversation. However, spending some time to practice asking both open ended and closed questions, even through role-play with colleagues, is a great way to ensure you have a productive conversation and can build a successful relationship with your prospect.