For maximum success, salespeople need to identify prospects who want what they’re selling. Once they convert, these prospects usually make the best customers, since people who buy things they want are typically the most satisfied. Salespeople can use two forms of questioning two identify these prospects: open- and closed-ended. Both are necessary for evaluating and encouraging buy-in from prospects, but for different reasons.
Read on to learn when to use each form for maximum effectiveness.
Open-ended questions can’t be answered with “yes” or “no” and encourage prospects to share details about their situations. This is useful for both parties to see whether there is a potential match. These questions are useful early in the sales process because they’re discovery-focused.
These questions may also reveal prospects’ interest in having conversations. This may not always be the case, however. Sometimes, prospects like to be polite, but aren’t interested in talking further. Alternatively, they can be naturally chatty about subjects that have nothing to do with your offer. Both scenarios can waste your time, unfortunately.
Keep in mind that while prospects may talk with you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll become clients. Every salesperson knows prospects who spoke little, but converted. Conversely, every salesperson knows prospects who shared in detail and then disappeared.
Closed-ended questions require “yes” or “no” answers, giving you a concrete basis for planning your next steps. You can use them to confirm your relevance to prospects’ desires and clarify answers to open-ended questions.
Probably the most useful function of closed-ended questioning is to make prospect express want (or lack thereof). Prospects’ answers to these questions reflect whether they want to continue interacting with you. While a “no” response can indicate that more work needs to be done or it’s a bad fit, the affirmative can show the prospect is ready for advancement.
While it’s typically beneficial to assume that prospects tell the truth, this is not always the case. To get around a suspected lie, incorporate multiple versions of the same question. As long as you treat prospects with respect, you should end up with real answers quickly.
How do you qualify prospects? Do you use other tools to get the information you need? Let us know in the comments below.