Monday, May 26, 2008

Open vs. Closed questions

During some recent coaching sessions the use of open questions has been a big topic.

Several individuals (after weaving more open questions into their sales dialog) mentioned how much more info they are getting from prospects and customers.

The message is: Don't sell yourself short by asking closed questions.
Listed below are a few examples of how probing questions are typically asked. Below those examples are suggested ways to turn those closed questions into open questions.

This stuff really works.
If you currently ask more closed than open questions, put a post-it on you monitor frame with "Open Questions" or "How, What, Why Questions" as a reminder.

Closed Questions; 50/50 shot of getting a "No" - hate those odds
"Is there anything you are looking to buy today?"
"Can I help?"
"Do you have any new projects/requirements coming up?"
"Do you have any needs?"

Open Questions; forces more than Yes/NO responses - love those odds
"How can I help?"
"What new projects/requirements coming up?"
"What are your current needs for XYZ?"

Examples of Open questions by subject:

Information gathering:

  • What prompted you/ your company to look into this?
  • What are your expectations/ requirements for this product/ service?
  • What process did you go through to determine your needs?
  • How do you see this happening?
  • What is it that you'd like to see accomplished?
  • With whom have you had success in the past?
  • With whom have you had difficulties in the past?
  • Can you help me understand that a little better?
  • What does that mean? How does that process work now?
  • What challenges does that process create?
  • What challenges has that created in the past?
  • What are the best things about that process?
  • What other items should we discuss?


  • What do you see as the next action steps?
  • What is your timeline for implementing/ purchasing
    this type of service/ product?
  • What other data points should we know before
    moving forward?
  • What budget has been established for this?
  • What are your thoughts?
  • Who else is involved in this decision?
  • What could make this no longer a priority?
  • What's changed since we last talked?

Rapport, trust & credibility:

  • How did you get involved in?
  • What kind of challenges are you facing?
  • What's the most important priority to you with this? Why?
  • What other issues are important to you?
  • What would you like to see improved? How do you measure that?

Let's dial for dollars!

1 comment:

Jakob Thusgaard said...

Great article! I especially like all the examples of how to use open questions.

I wanted to add something more about descriptive questions, and it ended up as a fairly long response. Instead of posting it here, you'll find the full posting on

In short, descriptive questions are used to force your client to think through their options with you. This is critical in the business environment of today!