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?
“Do you spend more than $150,000 a year on your transportation costs?”
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org, is this correct?”