We often preach how important it is to “ask open ended questions”. I recently realized, however, that many don’t really know what is meant by this sage sales advice – so we’re going to set the record straight right now.
Open ended questions simply refer to questions that can’t be answered with a single word such as yes or no.
An example open ended question would be “How does your purchasing process work here?”
An example closed question would be “Do we have everyone at this meeting that we should have?”
Why do we preach this so hard? Well, it ties in with another important sales lesson to listen ten times more than you talk. You may say ten words in a closed question that your prospect answers in a single word – you now have a deep deficit in your talking to listening ratio.
After asking your open ended question, just sit there and listen, no matter how hard it is. Let them fully answer the question and then either just sit there in awkward silence until they talk more or simply probe deeper “I think I get what you’re saying, can you give me an example?” “Where does the process typically bog down?” and so forth.
A final bit of advice, don’t sit there and think about your next question while your prospect is answering you. Listen and live in the moment and just make sure that you fully understand everything you need to in order to put your self in your customer’s shoes – just make sure you take off yours first!