As former FBI hostage negotiator and businessman, Chris Voss said, “Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much as possible.”
The same can be said for a sales conversation between your rep and a prospect. Your sales rep’s primary aim is to uncover a need that your product/service can fulfill. Asking the right questions is the only way to uncover these needs.
What is an open-ended question in sales?
Open-ended questions do not prompt a specific answer - yes or no. Instead, such questions are asked during sales calls to elicit a more detailed response from prospects about their pain points or needs by using the right words. Open-ended questions enable the free exchange of ideas and help reps build rapport.
Difference between close-ended and open-ended questions - An example
“What is your sales target for this year?” vs “How do you propose to achieve your sales target this year?”
Let’s see how open-ended questions can transform sales calls from sounding like interrogations to explorations that get more leads to do business with you.
Benefits of asking open-ended questions
Open-ended questions lead to open-minded conversations:
- As prospects talk more, you can get deeper insights into their businesses.
- They help you gain a deeper understanding of real customer pain points.
- You can get prospects to trust you by allowing them to express their needs.
- You can make great first impressions by engaging prospects in more productive conversations.
- Open-ended questions are effective across channels, be it calls or emails.
You could enrich your entire sales cycle by including open-ended queries at various stages.
- Need discovery
- Solution mapping
- Objection handling
- Closing the sale
Building rapport with prospects yields 80% more lead acquisition. And asking open-ended questions about topical or industry-related trends can get prospects to open up to you.
For instance, don’t just ask if the pandemic has affected their business. Replace that question with “The pandemic would have certainly affected your topline. How else has it affected your business?”
You can build a strong connect with potential customers by showing concern and getting prospects to talk about their business.
Just 13% of sales reps understand customer needs.
In GK Chesterton’s words, “It’s not that they can’t see the solution; it’s that they can’t see the problem.”
Ask open-ended questions to help prospects discover what exactly is holding them back from achieving their goals.
Need discovery can be passive or participative in nature. With a passive query, you can engage leads without being a party to it. For example, “Why do you think your team is unable to reach revenue thresholds?”
On the other hand, participative queries include your role in the situation. For example, “How do you think a marketing tool like ours can help you surpass your revenue thresholds?”
Good need discovery can empower you to design powerful needs statements, based on which you can present a full-stack sales pitch.
Here’s how Robert Pearlstein, President, Qanopy, helped a large media company migrate its revenues to digital assets by articulating an excellent needs statement by simply breaking it down.
Problem – Need a way to deliver a digital user experience
Population – New media properties
Outcome – Offer personalized content, enhance engagement, and drive subscription revenue
Do you want prospects to realize your products/services' value without making them feel like you are blowing your own horn? Then ask carefully crafted open-ended questions that can become the building blocks of self-discovery.
This way, you can get prospects to build a clear vision of how your solution solves their problems and where it can take their business in the future.
For example, ask, “How do you think integrating our platform with your IT architecture will improve your company’s bottom line?”
Did you know your sales team’s talk ratio can impact their close rates?
Whether it’s about pricing, performance promise, or customer care, you can allay customer apprehensions with open-ended questions.
Besides enriching your learning journey, probing open-ended questions can help you demonstrate your seriousness to solve customer problems.
For example, ask “What are some problems you wish [competitor product] could solve?” or “Why do you think it doesn’t make sense for you to pay a little more for a product that provides many more features than [economical alternative of your offering]?”
Closing the sale
It’s the moment of reckoning! Open-ended questions at this stage will not only give you a hint of what’s in your prospect’s mind but also allow you to demonstrate the sincerity of purpose. It will reflect your earnest desire to help them overcome any final concerns.
Don’t ask, “Can we close the deal today?” or “When can I call you again to know your decision?” Instead, ask, “Is there anything else I can do to help you reach a decision?” or “Is there anything else I can do to help you get approval from your CEO?”
How can Salesken help your reps ask more open-ended questions?
92% of all customer interactions still occur over the phone. Salesken can assist your reps at every step of the sales journey by analyzing calls in real-time. Basically, Salesken detects meaning as well as emotions from speech. It then uses these signals to instantly display relevant talking points (curated from your customer databases and the Internet) on the rep’s screen.
With all this information in front of them, reps can craft targeted and open-ended questions that elicit valuable information from your prospects. Moreover, having a better understanding of customer sentiments can help reps correctly identify customer intent.
What’s more, Salesken’s post-call analytics can help sales leaders improve their team’s overall performance. Salesken allows you to compare talk ratios, indicating how much your reps are engaging prospects by asking more open-ended questions.
You can build a team of star performers in no time with minimal effort. Book a demo to see how.