The Art of Asking Open-Ended Questions

Why Are Open-Ended Questions So Important?

What kinds of questions are you asking your clients? How do you know which questions to ask and when to ask them? Some of the most successful salespeople are those who have learned the art of asking open-ended sales questions. Selling is game of questions. Successful sales professionals have developed a knack for tuning into nuances and details of their client’s responses. They listen with intensity and make adjustments to their questioning based on what the client is saying.


The majority of salespeople will listen to a story politely and then go into their sales pitch, but are they really listening to what the client is saying? Some people don’t listen and are really just waiting for their turn to deliver the sales pitch. The art of asking open-ended sales questions involves tuning into keywords, themes, and patterns within the customer’s story and developing a sense of curiosity around these factors of communication.

Related Reading: Successful Telephone Selling Techniques

Open-ended sales questions are questions that allow more information to come forward. Since open-ended questions don’t limit the scope of the client’s answers to “yes” or “no”, they are effective in that they allow clients to convey more detail with their specific needs and objectives.

Being Curious and Listen

Open-ended sales questions reveal additional information and insights regarding the product or service. Asking the right questions and probing client responses will allow you to address the specific needs of the customer. Understanding the potential buyers’ interests will help you to offer a product or service that is the most suitable for them.

For example, if a customer is concerned about being able to track production through a plant with better software than currently in use, some great open-ended questions to get more information would include:

  • What areas of tracking do you feel your current software is missing?
  • How would you see the ideal tracking software working in your facility?
  • What specific requirements do you have for tracking software?

Be Patient

Give your customer enough time to convey information and listen carefully to what they have to say. You will have a more complete picture of the problem, which allows you then to provide a more specific description of how your software or product can solve those gaps and issues. Patience is your friend. Take time to mentally think about the right questions.

Related Reading: How The Qualification Process and Asking The Right Questions Will Help You To Make More Sales


Invest some of your time in crafting your own open-ended sales questions. It is an indispensable sales tool that allows sales professionals to effectively qualify sales opportunities, establish trust, build rapport, and gain credibility with customers. Mastering the art of asking open-ended sales questions will allow you to build more meaningful relationships with clients. They allow you to connect with your clients on a more personal level so that you can better understand their problems and develop real solutions.



The Sales Pipeline Checklist

Sales Pipeline Checklist

The sales pipeline or funnel is a systematic approach to selling a product or service. It is also a good way to keep track of progress. It can show a “snapshot” of your sales operation at any point in time.

Each step in the pipeline or funnel has clearly defined criteria that need to be addressed before the opportunity can move further along. In other words, leads become more and more qualified as they work their way through the funnel. The funnel also provides a great way to track and forecast sales as well as gauge marketing activities.

By reviewing a Sales Funnel Report, the sales rep can easily see how many leads are at each step, if there are any “bottlenecks”, or if there are an insufficient number of leads at any stage. Armed with that knowledge, the sales rep may then decide to shift his focus. He can then also work closely with the sales and marketing managers to determine whether they are generating enough leads to hit sales goals, whether the leads are of high enough quality, or what further actions need to be taken to help him reach his territory objectives.

Use a sales pipeline checklist to help organize your sales process and close more business.

New Opportunity
Initial Communication ¨ Initial contact made

¨ Opportunity reviewed with sales manager

¨ Business problem and need to take action is identified

¨ It appears that my company can satisfy the need

Fact Finding and Qualification ¨ Qualifying checklist completed

¨ Decision-making process is identified

¨ Business problem and need to take action is confirmed with prospect

¨ Problem owner agrees to be advocate for my company

¨ Ultimate decision maker (UDM) identified

Develop Solution ¨ UDM commits to obtain funding for solution

¨ Competition is identified

¨ UDM confirms decision within 90 days

¨ My company’s solution and implementation is identified

¨ Prospect’s funding is approved and committed

Propose Solution ¨ My company agrees on solution and implementation strategy

¨ Proposal submitted to prospect

Solution Evaluation ¨ Decision making process is reconfirmed with UDM

¨ Prospect commits to make a decision within 30 days

Negotiation ¨ Negotiations completed

¨ Terms and conditions are agreed upon

¨ Agreement is signed

Purchase Order ¨ Purchase order is issued

¨ Implementation plan is finalized

Account Maintenance ¨ Implementation begins

¨ Revenue is booked

¨ Customer satisfaction process begins


Related Article:

Sales Qualifying Checklist


Happy Selling!

The Sales Coaching Institute