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When You Should Avoid Asking Yes/No Questions

My biggest pet peeve is callers who ask questions where the only logical response is either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – also known as close-ended questions.  Decision makers are more intelligent than many companies realize, and they can see through qualifying questions, and manipulate their responses to avoid sales calls.  Asking close-ended questions can be a powerful part of a sales call, but only if used at the proper times and in the correct way.

Discovery is no place for a close-ended question.  When you are speaking with a prospect, hoping for a chance to earn their business, you should never ask a yes/no question simply because it adds zero value to your call.  Which question would you prefer your salesperson to ask as part of their qualification process?

  1. “Do you spend more than $150,000 a year on your transportation costs?”

  2. “How much do you spend each year on your transportation costs?”

When I work with my team on discovery questions, I preach a tactic that I call “negative time of possession”.  What this means is that if timed, I would like my agent to talk less than the prospect – using active listening, and responding with additional open-ended questions to continue through the qualification and discovery process.  As the prospect speaks, they are giving us extremely valuable information, pain-points, and insight into the inner workings of their organization.  Using a consultative approach then takes this understanding to create a compelling reason why an appointment is the next logical step.

The only place in any sales call for a close-ended question is the close itself.  When we want the decision maker to agree to a beneficial scenario, or acknowledge that information gathered is accurate.

  • “OK Bill, I understand that you’re busy, but let me ask you a question.  If I could show you a way to save 25-30% on your transportation costs all while maintaining the current relationships you have with your carriers – wouldn’t you feel that it would be worth 15 minutes of your time to learn more about?”

  • “We’re all set, now the email I have for your is, is this correct?”

Dave Capezza

Dave Capezza is the VP of Business Development for SalesRoads, a nationally renowned inside sales authority, marketing expert, leader, and consultant. He is also one of the SLMA's 50 Most Influential People in Sales & Lead Management. His passion has always been focused on business development. As a 4-time Inc 500||5000 Award winner (2005, 2006, 2007, 2014), he successfully helped grow two small businesses into thriving industry leaders by instilling intelligent and proven business development processes, and management strategies. Dave’s mantra is to lead by example, and never ask an employee to complete a task that he isn't willing to do himself. Those principles help him to understand the fundamentals of the organizations he works for, to advance the company as a whole.