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Open-ended questions are one of the best tools you have at your disposal to help you close deals. They are exceptionally efficient at enabling you to gather information about your prospect and establish an emotional connection with them. Therefore, one of the best practices you need to adopt as a salesperson is to draw up a strong repertoire of open-ended questions for sales.

This form of sales questions must be crafted in such a way that they allow the prospect to steer your conversation. You can’t lead the prospect or prompt them to say something, and they must be asked in such a way that you don’t have an opportunity to interrupt at any point. As such, they can be trickier to draft and use than some other forms of sales-specific questions.

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Twenty-eight open-ended question examples applicable to any sales business

The following examples are proven to be effective open-ended sales questions. Most open-ended questions fall into six categories. These categories help you to achieve different results, so it’s important to have plenty of options on hand.

Empathy questions

Empathy questions are designed to allow you to build an emotional connection with your prospect. These open-ended questions for sales are usually personal in nature and often go beyond the workplace.

You can ask about a prospect’s hobbies, interests, family, or anything else that you believe may interest them. The trick to making empathy-building questions work for you is to have a full understanding of your prospect’s corporate culture. Personal questions are more likely to be welcome in the United States than they are in Japan, for example.

  • What did you do before you were a (role)?
  • How long have you been working at (company)?
  • How did you end up at (company)?
  • Did you see the news about X? How do you feel about it?

Budget questions

Understanding your interlocutor’s financial capability is crucially important. This is about more than just the potential final price of your product, you also don’t want to waste your time by proceeding with negotiations if your prospect can’t afford your product.

The key here is not to push too hard with your open-ended sales questions, you need to approach the prospect politely and with respect. Budget information can be sensitive so if you want to be successful it will help if you’ve already established an emotional connection.

  • What kind of budget are you able to work with?
  • Can you tell me what your plans are if your budget is insufficient?
  • What sources of funding do you have available to you?
  • How much flexibility is built into your budget?

Problem-identification questions

After establishing a rapport with your prospect the next step is to discover what their exact pain or problem is. Sometimes the pain is immediately apparent but more often than not you will need to use your ingenuity to fully appreciate why the prospect is looking for a new product.

This is because the prospect’s stated pain might actually be different from what the real problem is, and they may not even realise the specific pain themselves. Therefore using problem identification questions will help you gather information you can use to your benefit, and they’ll also help you push the prospect down the sales pipeline.

  • What originally spurred you on to find a new product for your company?
  • In your own words how would you describe the problems you’re currently experiencing?
  • If you’re currently using a different product may I ask why you’re looking for a replacement?
  • If you’ve been experiencing problems for X amount of time why are you reaching out now?

Objection questions

As a salesperson you will frequently encounter objections during your pitches and meetings. While they can be frustrating, objections are not the same as outright rejection, you can turn them around and use them to your advantage.

You should always prepare responses to potential objections and memorise them so that they can be deployed immediately after the prospect brings them up. In tandem with your responses, you should memorise open-ended sales questions for the same purpose, and have them ready to limit or cancel the impact of any given objection.

  • How many people will be involved in making a purchasing decision?
  • What can I do to help remove X objection as an obstacle to a deal?
  • What further information do you require to make a decision?
  • Is X objection more important to your department or is it a company-wide issue?

Jolt questions

Jolt questions are also known as impact questions and their purpose is to inject urgency into your discussions, thus making the prospect take stock of their situation and reconsider their position. They’re most effective when your discussions have ground down to a stalemate and the chance of a deal is beginning to slip away.

This form of open-ended sales question can be quite aggressive, which in and of itself isn’t a negative, but that also means they need to be used with care. Make sure you’re polite and empathetic with your prospect, jolt questions could easily come across as rude if your manner is harsh or too forward.

  • What will the costs be for your company if you don’t buy our product?
  • What will happen if, by not agreeing to this deal, you end up missing your target?
  • How much could our solution save your company year-on-year?
  • Why do you think one of our competitors would do a better job?

Follow-up questions

Follow-up style open-ended sales questions are designed to get the prospect to offer more information or consider an issue more deeply. As such, they can be used in conjunction with questions from any of the preceding topics.

These questions are perhaps the most important to memorize as they have the broadest application, meaning you can use them in almost any scenario. Therefore make sure you pay particular attention to these examples.

  • Could you please go into more detail about that issue?
  • How has this issue impacted you personally?
  • What thoughts or opinions do you have about this issue?
  • Why do you believe that to be the case?
  • Have you experienced a similar situation before?
  • What was the outcome of that situation?
  • How important is this issue to you?
  • How would you measure success in this area?

By now the advantages of open-ended questions for sales should be apparent to you and we hope that you will implement the examples that we provided. It’s also important to remember that the more you know about your prospects, the more relevant the questions you can ask.

With software like Revenue Inbox and Revenue Guide, saving data about leads, prospects, and clients and then finding important connections couldn’t be easier. Tap into knowledge like who your prospect knows in your organization and who from you organization knows people that work with your prospect. Small leverage points like this can really empower your sales engagement.

How you engage your prospects during meetings and demos is only one part of engagement, though. First, you have to get those meetings and demos. Why not check out one of our webinars from industry experts on some of the best sales engagement practices?