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Discover the value of asking questions in sales and learn the different types of sales questions to help you figure out the needs of your customers in this post. Keep reading to find out more.

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In this article:

  1. Why Asking a Good Question in Sales Is Important
  2. Open Questions
  3. Closed Questions
  4. Follow-Up Questions
  5. Categories of Questions to Ask
  6. 5 Ways to Ask Better Sales Questions
  7. The Value of Asking Questions

Best Practices In Asking Questions In Sales

Why Asking a Good Question in Sales Is Important

Asking incisive sales questions is essential for success.

The questions you ask help you uncover buyer needs and desires, connect with them, and demonstrate your expertise.

By asking questions, you can discover the buyer’s buying process. It also allows you to qualify the sale and ensures that you and the buyer are on the same page at any given time.

A lot of sellers do too much talking and presenting, then when they do ask the buyer questions, it’s always the same old “What keeps you up at night?” clichés.

The questions you ask not only provide you with a treasure trove of important information, but they can also differentiate you from the sea of sellers vying for the buyer’s attention.

To help you make the most out of your buyer meetings, let me share with you the different types of questions you can ask. Here, you will also learn why they’re essential to use in your sales conversations.

Open Questions

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Using thought-provoking open questions for a great sales conversation

Open-Ended Question Definition: A type of question that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” These types of questions require further explanation to be answered.

Open-ended sales questions get buyers talking. These are the most commonly talked about types of sales questions, and they play an essential role in a conversation.

You need to understand what’s going on in the buyer’s company, their needs and desires, and their expectations so that you can propose the best solution.

There are no “correct answers” with open questions. If you need more information about a particular point, you can ask follow-up questions.

Asking open-ended questions is a great way to get vital information. The problem is, too many sellers rely on these questions alone while there are other kinds of questions that can be just as valuable.

Closed Questions

Closed-Ended Question Definition: A type of question that will elicit a “yes” or “no” response.

Closed-ended questions are rarely talked about in sales, and they are often shunned. After all, your goal as a seller is to get the buyer to open up, right?

Asking questions with yes or no answers surely won’t accomplish that — or can they?

Closed-ended questions are particularly helpful for diagnosis and ruling things out (or in). You can gather a great deal of information by asking a series of closed-ended questions.

For example, when talking to a sales leader, you can ask them the following:

  • Are you convinced that all your salespeople maximize the revenue and business you can capture from your existing accounts?
  • Have you ever thought your sellers might not be knowledgeable enough to be comfortable or credible talking about the other products or services your company offers?
  • Do you think your team leaves opportunities on the table by not uncovering needs that are actually there?
  • Are your salespeople able to recommend the right solutions?
  • Do your people waste their time and energy on leads that aren’t likely to pan out, or provide the revenue or profit that you need?
  • Do your sellers get beat up and cave during negotiations?

This is only a sample of great questions you can ask. As you can see, asking specific closed-ended questions can help you determine what’s going on relatively quickly.

It also gets the buyer thinking about the different areas that could affect their sales team’s overall performance. They might not have properly pondered these types of closed questions before.

By asking questions like these, you can quickly hone in on what’s essential and explore further. If you want to turn these into open questions, simply ask, “How so?” after they answer. That is one of the many follow-up questions you can use.

You don’t have to look for great questions to ask every time. You’ll be able to discover which ones are good once they answer questions. From there, you’ll be able to assess the client’s situation and offer them the product or service that best fits their needs later on.

RELATED: Five Myths Of Prospecting

Follow-Up Questions

Don’t take what your buyer says at face value. Ask them to dig deeper.

Question why they think a certain way. Ask them how they plan to accomplish what they intend.

Follow-up questions allow you to get to the underlying cause of a problem so you can address the root of the issue rather than just symptoms. It’s extremely important that you understand the full picture of what’s going on in order to craft the most comprehensive and impactful solution.

You can only do this by asking follow-up questions and gaining greater insight.

Follow-up questions can also push buyers to think in a different way. They may be basing the direction they want to take on a set of assumptions, and you know that one of their assumptions is false.

Only by digging into the topic can you understand why they’re thinking the way they are, then you can steer them in the right direction. They can be leading questions to help you understand the situation better.

Lastly, follow-up questions show that you’re listening and you’re engaged in the conversation. You can demonstrate your expertise and build your credibility by sharing insights on how you’ve seen other companies address a similar problem.

All these are important elements to win the sale.

Categories of Questions to Ask

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Asking useful questions for better sales conversations

Aside from the types of questions previously discussed, it’s also important to note the areas wherein you need to ask questions. The purpose of asking questions isn’t only to uncover needs, though that’s a major part of it.

Think about the questions you need to ask across the RAIN Selling methodology for leading masterful sales conversations:

  • Problem and Possibility — The “needs discovery” questions are always essential to find out the buyer’s aspirations and afflictions.
  • Process — If you don’t uncover the buying process, you will have trouble qualifying the sale, facilitating the purchase, and actually getting a win.
  • Page — These confirming types of questions ensure that you and the buyer are doing the right things at any time in the sale so that you’re “on the same page.”
  • Perception — At various times you should ask questions to check the buyer’s perception about how things are going. Sample questions include:
    • Is this discussion meeting your expectations?
    • Does this solution make sense to you?
    • How is the process progressing on your end?
    • Does anyone seem to be hedging, and do we need to get them on board?

It’s important to ask questions in each of these categories. If you want to know which specific questions to ask, check out 50 Powerful Sales Questions.

5 Ways to Ask Better Sales Questions

1. Ask Open and Closed Questions in the Right Order

Open-ended and closed questions can help you but, if you haphazardly incorporate them in your sales script, it may just be counter-productive. Thus, you should learn the right timing to ask each type of question.

When Do You Ask an Open-Ended Question?

Asking an open-ended question is best during the beginning and in the middle of the conversation. That way, you can keep the conversation with your potential customer going.

When Do You Ask a Closed Question?

Given the nature of a closed question, it can depict a sense of finality to the conversation. If you’re not careful, it can make the conversation seem cut and dry.

Therefore, if you plan on asking closed questions, you should probably only do it if:

  • You ask them in succession, like a diagnosis.
  • You’re nearing the end of the conversation.

That way, you don’t end up closing off the conversation sooner than you’ve planned.

2. Ask Questions One at a Time

Sometimes, sales reps end up asking probing questions all at the same time. Their usual justification is that the questions are somewhat related to one another.

However, this can be frustrating for your prospect because they wouldn’t know which question you want them to answer. Thus, it’s more ideal to ask questions one at a time.

Just make sure you ask related questions within a close range of one another. In that way, the conversation is cohesive and you don’t make things difficult for your prospect.

3. Adapt Your Questions to the Conversation, Not the Other Way Around

You know you’re asking great questions if the prospect doesn’t feel like you’re leading up to a sales pitch.

Don’t hyperfocus on making a sale, since this conversation is also an opportunity for you to find out whether your products or services fit them and whether they fit you.

Overall, you’re there to give your prospects a solution to their problems.

If you have a sales script, avoid getting caught up in it. After all, your interview questions should be something you use to supplement the conversation, not to dictate it.

At its very core, it’s still a conversation between two people, so be in that moment and respond to what’s happening.

4. Ask Questions, Even If They’re Not (Directly) Related to Your Sales Pitch

If you’re not used to talking to your prospects without a sales script, then you may tend to only ask questions related to your product or service. This isn’t the most effective way to ask questions in your conversations.

To make the conversation more engaging, you need to have a genuine curiosity about your client. Be curious about anything they’re involved in.

Ask questions about their opinion on something that’s unrelated to your sales pitch. That way, you can get a better understanding of who you’re talking to.

Learning more about who you’re talking to will help you ask better questions. At the same time, you’ll be able to create more insightful questions, even without a script.

5. Avoid Following-Up Your Sales Question with Your Own Answer

Of course, you’d want to brand your product or service as a solution to their problems. However, that doesn’t mean you have to solve their problems with your answers on-the-spot.

When asking questions, don’t be impatient and let them think about their answers. Even if you think what you’re offering can help them figure out a response, it’s best to let the question hang in the air.

It is a conversation, after all, so let it flow. Let the pauses be part of it instead of it being something you want to fill.

The Value of Asking Questions

Sometimes, all you need to do is ask one question, and the buyer will share all the information you need.

More often than not, you’ll need to lead several lines of inquiry to get the full picture. Don’t limit yourself to one type of question. Conducting an interview with a potential client should help you understand the whole story.

Leverage the three types to cover each of the key categories. This will allow you to lead the best conversations and ultimately win more sales.

Asking questions is a vital part of a salesperson’s job. This will help you, and the buyer, figure out if you’re a good fit for each other.

Knowing what kinds of questions you need to ask will help you better understand your buyer and their needs. Armed with this knowledge, you will be able to serve your clients in the best way.

Among the types of questions discussed, which one do you use most often and why? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Up Next:

Why Asking Questions in Sales is Important https://blog.insidesales.com/inside-sales-best-practices/asking-questions-in-sales/

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 6, 2019, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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