10 Powerful Open-Ended Sales Questions To Get Prospects Talking


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Do you remember your first sales presentation or call? I do! It was a call selling subscriptions to the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I remember the DOS system, the dialer, and my utter fear. I remember praying that no one would answer the phone. My first call, actually calls, were terrible. My idea of selling was trying to jam as much information into the call as I could, like a cattle auctioneer at the stock show. I mean they couldn’t tell me no if I did all the talking and explained everything I thought they wanted to know (sarcasm is fun). I don’t know if you can relate. That approached allowed me very little success in my first sales job. I decided that I wasn’t meant for sales. It was too damn painful.

By the time I reached my mid 20’s I thought I would make another run at it. My buddy Jason Miller had been running health clubs in Dallas for a few years and offered me a job selling fitness memberships at this fast growing little business called 24 Hour Fitness. As I sat down in my first training class and watched my first Tommy Hopkins video I realized there was a lot more to this sales thing than I thought. “This is an art, a sport, and a business wrapped all in one!” I was hooked. One of the things that really stuck out to me was Tommy’s qualification process. It wasn’t about me doing all the talking. It was really centered around asking great questions and finding out what the customer needed and wanted.

I practiced and practiced our sales process and using this qualification tactic until I was really good. The other thing I found was sales became for more enjoyable when I made the conversation about them, the customer. Closing got easier when I got better at opening.

Over the years I have continued to learn and grow. Sales has evolved, but the fundamentals have remained the same. I know that the key to a successful discovery call is centering the conversation around the prospect, their pain points, and how your solution will help them – this is done by asking questions.

The question isn’t, are you asking questions.

The question is….

Are you asking your prospects the right questions?

First, you want to avoid all questions that can be answered with a “yes” or a “no.” Your goal is to ask open-ended sales questions that involve in-depth explanations so you can grasp as much information as possible to tailor your sales presentation around them.

Let’s discuss 10 open-ended question examples, what makes them effective, and what to actively listen for to help 10X your sales process.

1. Mr/Mrs Customer, what will make this a successful meeting for you?

You can begin your call with a question that causes you can immediately stand out by asking your prospect for their opinion and thoughts first. You can then notate their answers, and make sure all points are covered throughout the discussion.

If they have a topic they want to discuss that aligns with a topic you were looking to discuss, make it about their topic. That way, you’re focusing the call and conversation around what they want to talk about.

2. What are your typical day-to-day activities in your role?

Traditionally you want to avoid asking directly what their pain points are. Asking them to walk you through their day-to-day activities allows you to key in on certain aspects of their day where your solution can come into play.

They spend a ton of time doing risk assessment audits and your solution helps with that? Mention it.

Later in the conversation, use their description to intertwine your product into their day-to-day and how your solution can help them with certain tasks. Or use this question to lead into more tailored questions like – how much time do you and your team spend managing those audits meetings per day/month?

3. Tell me Mr/Mrs Customer, what you’re looking to accomplish?

They’re talking to you for a reason. Leaders in business don’t jump on calls for no reason. Their time has a value and they’ve deemed this conversation worth the investment. Find out why! – what are they trying to accomplish? Let them express their visions and where they’re aiming to succeed.

While your prospect is talking, listen for elements that your solution will bring value to. This immediately draws light on the fact that you want to help them accomplish their goals.

4. How have you tried to accomplish this in the past?

Have they tried other solutions before yours? What went wrong? This is another way of asking them what solutions they’ve tried in the past without directly asking for names.

If they mention a competitor – you know why your solution is better, holster that bullet for when you discuss it.

Offer to share a case study or testimonial of a company similar to theirs that switched from the same competitor to you, what improvements did this bring? If they open the case study you emailed them unearth their interest level.

5. What’s prompting you to do something about this now?

It’s important to gather insight into the business’ timeline and why they’re initiating this change now. There may be may reasons but there is something that light the fire. Discover it.
Did something specific happen that prompted them to act now? Did they get finally budget approval? Is their business growing? Have they shifted focus? This is an important aspect to identify. Fear of pain and the excitement of growth are both important motivators to grab ahold of.

6. Companies like yours have discussed issues like A, B, and/or C. Are these currently impacting your business?

If you’re stuck with your prospect and haven’t been able to get them to fully engage and discuss areas of concern for their business, this question is very helpful.
By discussing similar companies, you deescalate any fear of looking bad and ensure them that they’re not alone. The fact that other organizations experience the same problems can help make it easier for them to come to terms with their own struggles. No one likes to feel uniquely broken. Your goal is to get your prospect as comfortable and talking about certain aspects of their business.

7. What are your team’s current goals?

Team goals are different than overall business goals. How can your solution/service help the team be more successful? It’s important to create awareness around what their goals are so you can demonstrate how your service/solution will assist their team in succeeding. You may be able to explain how they can deliver faster, bring a better ROI, or just simply execute as a high level. The important part is gaining the insight to later pull the trigger. It’s all ammunition!

This question also leads to the next question which will identify blockers the team is currently facing that are getting in the way of these goals.

8. What’s holding your team back from achieving your goals?

This is where you can identify any roadblocks. What is getting in the way of the team achieving their goals – can your solution help overcome these obstacles? You are selling a solution to their pain. Even if they are doing great they could be doing better. What’s stopping them from going from forming to storming, storming to norming and norming to performing? What can you do to take them from good to great?

From this point forward, tailor your questions around these goals and how different components of your solution will help the team reach their goals faster.

9. What steps need to take place in order to make a decision and purchase your chosen solution?

This question is an alternative way of asking how does their decision-making process work.

To avoid a multitude of objections from arising later in your sales process, this is an imperative question to ask. The buying process differs from company to company. Understanding their decision-making process early on is essential for your future conversations. This will also help you identify all key stakeholders involved so you can ask to include them in the following calls. That way you’re not wasting time and you are talking to all decision-makers.

10. When would you ideally like to implement a solution for the team?

This is a great discovery and set up question to determine a potential close date and leverage for urgency. What does their timeline look like? Are we talking days, weeks, months, years? It’s important to know their timeline so you can act accordingly and forecast opportunities accurately.
There a numerous more questions to ask when you get further down the sales cycle and you need to ensure they are always opening the door to the big YES. Get Your Prospects Talking!

Use these 10 open-ended sales questions to get prospects talking and bringing the conversation to more of a discussion than a Q&A. People love being involved in a great discussion. They hate presentations. People love to buy, but they don’t like being sold. Hone your craft! The key differentiator in sales is you. Don’t be a robot, bring that value add that only you can bring. Actively listen, ask genuine questions about what they’re saying, feedback/rephrase what they say, and make it crystal clear that you hear them.

Never forget, getting your prospects to talk is a win-win situation. It not only helps you better understand your prospect but will increase the likelihood that the prospect looks back on the conversation in a positive light. Everyone’s favorite name is their own and their favorite subject is themselves. Be the ball.

Eric Sims
Eric is a Contact Center Outsourcing expert who specializes in helping businesses help their customers. He is the Cofounder & CEO of Leading Edge Connections, LLC, America's #1 fully remote outsourced contact center. He is also the host of Preventing Brand$laughter. A weekly podcast that helps business gain the insights and information to protect their brand from self-inflicted sabotage.


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