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Open-Ended Sales Questions: How to Get Your Prospect Talking

open ended sales questions

Sales isn’t about convincing someone to buy something—it’s about offering a logical solution to a problem your potential client is challenged with. Ultimately, you hope that your prospect will end up purchasing your product. Before that happens, however, you must find out everything there is to know about their problem and determine exactly what it is they need in order to solve it.

How do you go about doing that?

It All Starts with Listening

If you’ve ever spent any time around a group of kindergarteners, you’re aware that talking is easier than listening. This human quality sticks with us even as we grow into adulthood, and being a good active listener proves more difficult than it sounds. When you are attempting to position yourself as an expert solution-provider, being attentive to not only the words spoken by a prospect—but also deciphering his or her tones and gestures—is vital to your success.

To find the answers hidden within your prospect, make sure you’re asking these three types of open-ended sales questions:

1. Needs-Based Questions

You might think that you know exactly why your potential client needs your product, but never assume that getting their insight won’t be helpful! Focus on asking questions that pinpoint the dominant buying motivations—which include needs—but also have to do with desires, feelings, tastes, etc.

To develop needs-based questions, you should first determine what needs your product actually fills for your customers. Once you have listed these needs, work backwards, and figure out what you would have to ask your prospect to find out if each need mattered to them.

2. Benefit-Driven Questions

Surely you’re selling a product that you really stand behind, and going on about the features that your product can offer is likely an exciting topic for you. But before you jump right into the bells and whistles, make sure that your buyers’s unique situation calls for the features that drive the benefits. When you focus on selling benefits, rather than features, you spotlight your customer and his or her unique needs.

Ideally, your pre-call research should tell you what kind of challenges your prospect is facing, and what benefits they are seeking. If that’s the case, prepare questions in advance and have follow up questions ready as well. To develop a good set of benefit-driven questions, list every feature of your product, then list the corresponding benefit next to it. To do that just ask, “What does that do for my customer?”

3. Objection-Based Questions

Gone are the days of memorizing a series of canned ways to handle your objections. Your goal is not to outmaneuver your prospect, but to learn how to ask questions that relate to the most common objections you’ll get. Across every industry there are a few common objections that salespeople will hear:

  • “I want to think about it.” 
  • “Your price is too high.”
  • “I need to talk to my boss.”

To counter these familiar hesitations, ask questions that relate to these objections, such as:

  • “What type of processes do you use for purchases like this?"
  • "What type of budget do you have in mind for a project like this?”

Getting to the root of these common objections off the bat will help you better execute your sales strategy, and avoid the more difficult roadblocks farther down the path. To take this one step further, list the most common objections you hear about your product, and then develop a question or two that addresses the objection while creating a positive spin. For example: Objection: “Your competitor has better delivery.” Question: “How familiar are you with our new delivery policy?”

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