By Tibor Shanto – firstname.lastname@example.org
Back in the 80’s or maybe even earlier, the purveyors of Consultative Selling, put a lot of emphasis on Open Ended Questions, for all the right reasons. It took some effort and focus to get sales people to adopt this style of interaction, especially after years of pitching and doing things the traditional (old) way.
Many sales people had difficulty being comfortable and effective in the vast openness provided by this style of questions. It was difficult to fight the urge to regress to their previous comfort zones, many sellers had to be continuously managed to adopt the new more effective question based selling.
One practice was to paint closed ended questions as being inferior, substandard, in those days, even communist in nature; may sound extreme, but in reality, closed ended question were uniformly vilified. In fact the pendulum swung so far that closed ended question were just plain bad. Today, in many workshops, you still hear people demonizing closed ended questions.
Well I am here to tell you that there are no such things as bad questions. There are very few if any absolutes in sales. It’s more accurate to look at how appropriate a question is for a given circumstance. If you look at questions as tools of the trade, there is no such thing as one tool fits all; there may be tools that are appropriate to various tasks, others may be useful less often
Which is why I am here to say that the much maligned closed ended question does have a place in B2B selling in 2013; hell I’ll go further to say it has a place in Sales 2.0 and/or Social Selling. It is about the situation, what is the desired outcome, and what the next step needs to be from both parties perspectives.
Given the above there are regular occurrences in sales where closed ended question makes perfect sense. So I am on a mission to reintroduce this tool to your sales tool kit. A few years ago Timberlake made it his goal to being Sexy Back, so I am advocating the same for closed ended questions (although I am certain they will never be sexy, but the positive results delivered may be).
I am calling the updated version Impact Questions, a marketing friend told me that one needs to rebrand for re-launch; change the name and you change focus from potential negative connotations.
Let’s face it, there are times when you do want to focus things, narrow down the possibilities. Often you want close things off so you can move the process forward, or to realize that there is no forward to move to with a prospect and it may be time to move to the next opportunity.
During a cold call, oops, prospecting call, (need to be politically correct), open ended questions can take you off track; a question that works well in a sales call can be negative during a prospecting call. There are other times when you do want a clear one or the other, a yes or a no. It comes down to how the response serves the purpose. What is the impact of the answer, and how that answer impacts the outcome. For example, when I ask someone I called the first time if they “have ever worked with a third party trainer like Renbor?”, either answer serves to move the process forward, and could prove to be a benefit for both. Rather than using a series of open ended questions to arrive at the same point, a simple impact question focuses bith the prospect and I on the same critical turning point.
So know where you are trying to go, know how you can help a prospect or a customer, then ask the Impact Question, and deal with the impact, not whether it is open ended, closed ended, or some other ended, work to achieve positive impact for the buyer and yourself.
What’s in Your Pipeline?