21 Powerful Open-Ended Questions to Develop More Sales Opportunities
Asking great questions is an essential skill every successful sales professional must master. That’s because when you ask open-ended questions, you transform the sales call. Your focus moves away from your solution to the buyer’s problems, goals, and concerns. As a result, your customer feels listened to, while you learn key insights about what’s important to the buyer.
Asking open-ended or consultative sales questions also helps create buying urgency. Most of us resist change, as it makes our lives less certain and more complex. So, we need a significant motivation to even think about changing. Great sales questions prompt the buyer to understand better the full impact of solving or not solving a problem. As the magnitude of the problem increases, so does the urgency to solve it.
Below are 21 great open-ended questions you can use on your sales calls.
What’s Going on in Your Buyer’s World
Early in the sales conversation, you want to ask questions to better understand the buyer’s current situation, organization, and business direction. Examples include:
- What is the current situation?
- How are you currently doing it?
- What are your objectives or goals?
- What plans do you have in place?
These questions also help you set the groundwork for uncovering the buyer’s problems (see below). But be careful. Asking too many questions that focus on factual information may make your buyer feel like you’re interrogating them. A good rule of thumb is to avoid asking any question that you could have otherwise answered through good pre-call planning.
Other important questions to ask include qualification questions budgets, authority, timing and fit.
Uncover the Pain
Buyer problems are the ultimate drivers of any sales opportunity, so it’s essential that you identify your buyer’s pain points. The following questions ask for subjective information about perceptions, opinions, and feelings.
- What problems do you have with…?
- Why is that important?
- Which of these problems is having the biggest impact on your business?
- How does that affect you directly?
- What are barriers standing in the way of achieving these goals?
These questions also help the buyer identify gaps between their current and ideal situations.
Is this a Serious Problem?
Identifying a problem sometimes isn’t enough for a buyer to act. That’s because buyers often choose to live with problems, or maybe they have other more pressing priorities. These questions compel the buyer to consider how a problem impacts their business in ways they previously didn’t think about.
- What will happen if that continues?
- Why is it important to solve this problem?
- How does that impact…?
- What business challenge does this problem create?
It is also inherently more persuasive for the buyer to tell you about the seriousness of the problem rather than for you to tell the buyer about it.
The Ideal Solution
Once the buyer realizes they are going to have to solve the problem (it’s too big to ignore), you should then ask your buyer questions about how they want to address the problem.
- How do you (or your CTO/CFO/CRO/CMO/CEO) define success?
- What are your requirements?
- What other options are you considering?
- What’s important to you when partnering with a vendor?
These questions will help you gain valuable insights that you can use later in your sales presentation.
Benefits of Solving the Problem
Now that the buyer has thought about the ideal solution, you’ll want to help the buyer consider all the good things that will happen once the problem is solved.
- What would happen if you could [solve the problem]?
- What would it mean to your bottom line?
- What aspects of this solution will have the biggest payback?
- How would this solution help other areas of your business?
These questions help your buyer think through the arguments in favor of your solution, which is important as the buyer tries to persuade other stakeholders in his or her organization to move forward.
This is not an exhaustive list, nor should it be used as a checklist, but rather as a guide. Realistically, you’ll never have enough time during a normal sales conversation to ask all of these open-ended questions. It’s up to you to develop your own questions or custom tailor the above questions to fit your unique sales situation.
About David Jacoby
As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.