What Is an Open Ended Question in Sales?

Open-ended questions encourage a thoughtful response that can’t be answered with just one word. These types of questions usually start with “What,” “How” or “Why.”

Open ended probing questions examples:

  • How are you feeling today?
  • What did you have for breakfast this morning?
  • What do I need to bring with me?

Closed-ended questions are good for yes or no answers, but open ended ones will help you get a better idea of what your customer is looking for.

  • Do you want pizza for lunch?
  • I see you have a big bag. Do you think it’s going to rain this weekend?
  • Can I help you with that?

When it comes to motivation, there are a few key differences.

Open-ended vs. closed-ended questions

I might be tempted to ask something like: “What questions do you have for me?”

Do you have any questions?

One of the most common interview questions is “Do you have any question for me?” This usually means that they are looking to see if you will ask them something personal.

If the answer is no, then you need to stop right there. You’ll be left awkwardly searching for something else to talk about, or your competitor might find an opportunity that they can take advantage of. If it’s a client who says “no,” this could also mean he needs more information before making his decision.

Instead, if you ask: 

How can I help you?

Open-ended questions for sales are a great way to keep the conversation going and find out more about them. They might answer with a dozen follow up questions, which will give you opportunities for even more open ended questions that could yield some valuable insights.

I?ve found that even if people don’t have any questions initially, I can often ask them what they are wondering about and it might lead to more thoughts on their minds.

When you are out there on the sales floor, it is important to ask open-ended questions. The article gives some great examples of how this can be done.

Why Should You Inquire About Open-Ended Sales Questions? (3 Benefits)

When we start with closed-ended questions, the potential customer will often answer in a monotone and uninterested manner. They may not even want to hear about our product or service at all. This is why open-ended sales questions are important.

open ended questions for sales

Benefit 1: Asking open-ended sales questions establishes trust

When you ask your potential clients about their thoughts and opinions, they will be more likely to think that you care what they have to say.

By asking your employees what they need, you are giving them the opportunity to tell you about their needs and concerns.

The more you ask the best open ended sales questions, the easier it is to close a sale.

The bottom line

When you start a conversation with an open-ended question, this will build trust and rapport with your prospects.

Benefit 2: Demonstrate real interest that helps them feel more engaged

When you use this technique, the old and outdated product-centric language is replaced with a more humanized approach that focuses on what matters most to your buyers.

To become a modern sales professional, one must maintain an insatiable curiosity and ask hyper-open ended questions to create meaningful dialogue. This is key in the field of today’s marketplace.

It’s not enough to just give someone a one-sided sales pitch. You need to have an open dialogue with potential buyers and ask them what they want instead of telling them what you’re selling.

When asking sales questions, it is important to use open-ended questions that are geared towards getting the customer to talk. This will usually lead them into a conversation where they end up buying your product.

Benefit 3: Provides you with additional insights and qualitative data

When asking sales questions, make sure to ask open-ended ones that start with “What,” “How,” andor “Why.” This will give you more detailed answers than if you had asked closed-ended questions.

Talking to the customer is a good way of figuring out what they want and how you can convince them that your product or service fits their needs.

On the other hand, you might learn some details that change your plans. For example, a prospect may not be qualified or have time for certain products and services.

I’ve found that conversations with prospects are more likely to be successful when they go on for a while. It seems like the prospect is engaged and willing to trust you if he or she wants an in-depth conversation.

30 Examples of Open-Ended Questions for Sales

The following are a collection of open-ended questions for sales that you can use in your next call. They’re not all necessary, but these seem the most natural to me and the conversation.

open ended questions for sales

Developing rapport through open-ended questions for sales

1. What will make this appointment worthwhile for you today?

One of the most important things to do when talking with a prospect is get them excited about your product. To accomplish this, ask open-ended questions for sales that put their needs first and allow you to get an idea of what they are looking for in terms of sales support.

2. What motivated you to take this call with me?

When asking about the prospect’s pain points, you can get an idea of what they’re facing and where their top priority lies. This also gives them a chance to mention any other concerns that might not have been brought up.

3. How did you get involved in this project?

It is important to know when the prospect got involved in this project. This information helps you understand how deeply they are invested and what level of expertise they have with it.

4. What’s the most important priority to you in this? And why is that?

A more pointed variation on high-value sales questions 1 and 2 helps you get to the heart of the matter. The prospect’s answer will tell you which is their most pressing priority so that they can be sold a product or service in line with what matters most to them.

5. What is the biggest challenge you face with your business today?

This is a variation on question 4, but it allows for a more in-depth conversation about the prospect’s priorities and challenges. For example, if they say that their priority is to make sales without spending too much time or money, then ask them what the biggest challenge would be with doing this.

When someone has an issue with the way they are currently handling a task, you can show them better or more cost-effective ways to complete it.

6. What would you like to see improved?

This is your chance to get a clear picture of the client’s expectations. Once you know what they want, will it be easy for them to see if you can deliver or not? As long as your team has the skills and resources needed.

7. I noticed that you just downloaded our ebook entitled Trends Driving Next Generation Contract Management.? Tell me, what was your purpose in downloading that digital asset?

When it comes to marketing, you need a strategy that will make your prospects feel like they are the most important customer. This is not always easy because there can be many high-value sales questions and concerns.

Your new prospect should give you a clue as to what was on their mind when they downloaded your ebook. It’s not just about whether or not they say yes, but also how and why.

Mailshake offers a list of icebreaker questions that you can use to get conversations started.

Discovery questions

8. What is preventing you from reaching your objectives?

Once you have a rapport with your prospect, it is important to find out what barriers are stopping them from reaching their goals. It could be budget constraints or lack of resources that they don’t know how to use effectively. You should ask the question so you can figure out ways around these obstacles.

9. What has been working well with your current processes? What has not?

Most processes have parts that can always be improved, but the prospect might want to keep certain implementations in place because those are working well for them.

As a salesperson, it’s important to know that you can’t just suggest solutions if the prospect is already doing well. Sometimes they might not be aware of potential improvements, and your solution could really help them out.

10. What measures have you taken to address these challenges?

If a prospect comes to you after trying unsuccessfully for some time, ask them what approaches they have already tried. You do not want to be the one who suggests solutions that are ineffective or redundant.

11. If time and money were not factors, and you had full authority, what would you change about your current system?

One way to get a better idea of what the customer wants is by asking open-ended questions. By removing time and money constraints, you can learn about their goals for the future. This will give you an opportunity to find out how they want this goal achieved.

12. What have I not covered that you would like to know more about?

It is important to let your prospect ask you questions after spending some time talking about what you do and how it can help them. For example, they might have been curious about a certain aspect of the product or service that wasn’t covered in detail.

13. I have the calendar open right now, and we have availability on X or Y. What works for you?

Rather than asking a closed-ended question such as “would you like to schedule a product demo?”, start by saying that it seems the next logical step is for them to meet with one of our contract management specialists.

14. What questions can I answer for you now?

Asking the listener if they have any questions is not enough. You should ask open-ended questions to see how well you are explaining your product.

15. I’m going to pause now and allow you to comment

It’s a great idea to replace the typical question of do you have any questions? with something more open-ended. This way, your prospect will feel as though they are being asked what is on their mind and might ask follow-up questions or comment about an issue that has been bothering them.

By ending the conversation when they were in agreement, I was able to provide a more engaging experience for my prospects.

16. I know I just shared a lot of information with you in this past sequence. I’m going to pause now and allow you to react. What is your reaction to what I just shared?

Rather than assuming that you have communicated enough, ask the prospect if they need more time to process what has been said before moving on.

17. Tell me, what sort of outcome can you envision if every sales professional, every month, every quarter, had that sort of power at their hands? How would this impact your business at scale?

This question is a twist on #11, which asked the prospect to think about how they would get their business off the ground. It encourages creativity and imagination by getting into specifics of what it will take for them to grow their company.

Qualifying questions

18. What do you see as the next action steps?

Sales reps who are masters at what they do let the prospect feel that they’re in control of the process and give them a sense of ownership over it. They also ask questions about how to get through their company’s internal processes for future deals.

19. What is your timeline for implementing solutions for this project?

You want to make sure that you are on the same page with your prospects about what they expect from their solution. You don’t want them to be disappointed or have any other problems because of misaligned expectations.

20. What kind of budget do you have for this project?

If you want to preempt objections related to budget, try asking the prospect what their pricing range is. Getting a number or a ballpark figure from them will give you an idea of whether they can afford your product and if it’s worth continuing with negotiations.

21. How does your decision-making process work?

When you are negotiating with a company, it is important to know who the decision-makers are. To find out more about them, ask an open-ended question like what does your typical process look like? instead of just asking for their title or responsibilities.

22. Who else should we involve in this conversation?

This question is a variation of #21. The idea behind this one is to help you understand the thought process that goes into their decision-making, but it also preemptively handles objections, such as I need to check with my manager on this first? Just when you are about close the deal.

We’ve listed 10 more sales qualification questions that will help you determine if your prospect is the right fit for your product.

Open-ended sales questions to address concerns or roadblocks

23. What do you think about this so far?

After you’ve finished talking for a few minutes, always ask your prospect how they are feeling and what their thoughts on the conversation were. This is important because it shows that you care about them.

24. What concerns do you have about making a change?

Prospects may have fears about the process of integrating your product or solution. Asking them what they are worried about will help you to build trust and show that you care.

25. What other areas would you like to discuss moving forward?

Even if you think that all of your prospect’s concerns have been addressed, it is always a good idea to ask them how they feel about the points discussed. They might not mention anything else unless prompted.

26. How would you describe the level of service with your current provider? How are you evaluating different options/vendors?

Prospects will often look for a new vendor if they are not happy with their current one. It is important to ask them why the previous vendor didn’t work out so that you can avoid making those same mistakes.

Questions that help close the deal.

27. What questions do you have that I haven’t answered yet?

One last strategy that I’ve found to be really effective is the open-ended question,Do you have any questions for me?. This one has a lot of power because it assumes that there are still unanswered questions on their end and gets them thinking about what they want to know more about.

28. If you were to make this happen, what would it mean for you personally?

I’ve found that the best way to connect with people is by asking them about their personal goals and aspirations. This type of question can be difficult because it forces you to empathize, but I find it’s worth the time.

If you can find a way to show your prospect how they will benefit from what you are offering, then the deal is more likely to go through.

29. If you would overcome these challenges, what would it mean for your company’s bottom line?

If you are trying to figure out how your solution would affect their bottom-line revenue, ask them what they think the ROI of it is. This question will be useful if your prospects (and bosses) are interested in investing more money into a project with potentially high returns.

30. What else can I do to help you finalize this decision?

When you are close to a deal, and it is time for negotiations, ask your prospect what they need from you in order to finalize the sale. It may take gentle persuasion or two before this happens, but once both parties understand each other’s needs, there will be no problem sealing the deal.

Bonus: Clarifying questions

When you are talking to your colleagues, try using these questions because they will help with the conversation and make sure that nothing is being missed.

31. What does that mean?

32. How does that work? Can you help me understand that a little better?

33. Can you tell me more about that?

34. Can you give me an example of this?

35. How did that affect you ? personally, as a team and as a business?

What Not To Do: Five Mistakes to Avoid When Inquiring About Sales

1. Avoid responding to your questions.

When I first started selling, the thing that was most important to me was my sales pitch. In retrospect, it is much more beneficial for a customer to speak as freely as possible and not be interrupted by your own questions.

Do this instead: Let them respond fully.

When you ask a question, always give them enough time to respond. Don’t interrupt or prompt for an answer.

2. Don?t forget to listen to the prospect

It is true that a lot of salespeople are too eager to sell their product from the start. However, what they should be doing instead is listening and gathering information about prospects needs before trying to offer solutions.

Do this instead: Talk less.

When the prospect is answering your question, make sure to listen carefully and take notes. Ask clarifying questions just like those above.

3. Don’t make it seem like an interrogation

We know that this list of questions can seem like a lot, but don?t worry. You should never go into an interview with these all at once, or you will end up alienating the candidate, and they won’t be able to get comfortable enough for the conversation to continue.

Do this instead: Keep the conversation natural.

When you are pitching a product, make sure to listen and respond naturally. Ask them about their needs desires for the item that they want or need before going into any kind of sales pitch.

4. Don’t jump straight into the solution

The temptation to offer a solution as soon as you hear about the problem is understandable, but it will almost always turn off your prospect and eliminate any opportunity for more information.

Do this instead: Be curious.

If you want to be a good salesperson, think like a journalist. Find out what your prospect’s problem is and explore it from all angles before telling them how they can solve their problems.

5. Don’t fake enthusiasm

Do this instead: Focus on listening to the prospect.

Be yourself, and avoid being too overbearing. Offer genuine responses to their answers that are only a sentence or two long.

Bonus tip: Be cautious with the Why? questions

One last thing, we want to remind you that when people are trying to solve a problem or figure out what is wrong with something, they need their input. Avoid asking questions like why? and instead offer feedback on how the person can fix it.

“Why” questions are sometimes seen as too accusatory. They should be used sparingly, or else it will start to sound like an interrogation.

Do this instead: Use How come? Instead of Why?.

It is easier to present your opinion when you are not attacking the other person.

Bottom Line: Allow Your Buyer to Speak for Himself

So in order to keep track of what we call “target talk time,” which is the percentage of a sales meeting during which the target buyer speaks, my consulting firm has begun keeping metrics on this.

We?ve found that when the target talks for at least 30% of the meeting time, sales conversion rates improve dramatically.

When I am meeting with a potential client, it is important to make sure that they are talking at least 30% of the time. This will help ensure more conversions and better results.

In order to get your target to open up, you should show that you have a deep curiosity about their work. One way of doing this is by asking them an endless stream of questions.

When you do this, it will show that you’re able to address the needs and desires of your customer. You’ll also be giving them a natural way to evaluate if they should buy from you.

The buyer’s logic is found in the meeting with their expressions of pain, uncertainty, and doubt. This allows you to create a rational purchase rationale for them.

The more open ended questions for sales you incorporate into your sales process, the more deals you will win!

It’s often difficult to tell what a prospect is thinking when they react in an ambiguous way. I would rather you not be surprised and ask me questions if there are any that need answering before you start giving your pitch.

When a salesperson is talking to you, rather than with you, about your needs and what they can do for them, that’s when I start to hear phrases like “any questions?” or “does this make sense?”. Those are the times when it feels as if we’re just going through the motions.

Need Help Automating Your Sales Prospecting Process?

LeadFuze gives you all the data you need to find ideal leads, including full contact information.

Go through a variety of filters to zero in on the leads you want to reach. This is crazy specific, but you could find all the people that match the following: 

  • A company in the Financial Services or Banking industry
  • Who have more than 10 employees
  • That spend money on Adwords
  • Who use Hubspot
  • Who currently have job openings for marketing help
  • With the role of HR Manager
  • That has only been in this role for less than 1 year
Just to give you an idea. 😀
Editors Note:

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Justin McGill
About Author: Justin McGill
This post was generated for LeadFuze and attributed to Justin McGill, the Founder of LeadFuze.