Engage in productive sales conversations with
this list of 50+ open-ended questions

One-sided conversations rarely result in sales. Therapists, behavioral specialists, and sales managers all agree that open-ended questions are the most effective way to build rapport and to acquire information.

The Content Preferences Survey, conducted by DemandGen Report, states that buyers have a preference about what they want to hear from salespeople and that they are looking for “trustworthy” content. How do you know if you are communicating the right value if you haven’t drawn out from your customer what their needs are?

Since we published seven basic questions for prospects a while back, we decided to expand upon that list with open-ended questions used when selling, to identify needs and opportunity for sales.

Open-ended questions are a salesperson’s secret weapon. With over fifty suggestions, this list of open-ended questions is your ammunition against a yes or no response, or even worse, a head nod.

Here’s an ultimate list, for ultimate results.

Lead with icebreakers (personal questions to build rapport)

Questions about weather, family, weekend plans, or vacations are a good place to start. Tailor your questions to the recipient; ensure they are age and experience appropriate. This is a business call or visit, so it’s valuable to segue into business topics by taking an interest in the other person’s career and work life.

• How long have you been in the company?
• What is it like working for _______?
• Where did you work before this?
• Can you tell me about your background?
• What made you get interested in ________?
• What is it about (company name) that made you want to work here?

Move into state-of-the-business open-ended questions

• How is business going?
• What are the obstacles in your way right now?
• If there’s one big challenge you need to solve, what would you say it is?
• What are your company’s advantages over the competition?
• What’s going on in the industry (or in current events) that’s affecting your business?
• What’s going on in the organization right now, that’s affecting your job specifically?
• How are customers responding to your new products?
• How are customers responding to your breadth of products (services)?
• What tools do you have in place that are helping you do your job well?
• What tools would make your job easier?
• What’s your most important priority right now?
• What would you like to see improved?
• What’s holding you back from reaching your goals?
• What don’t you like about your current service provider/product?
• Why didn’t it work out with the last (product or service) you used before ours?
• What would you change or improve if you could?
• What are some of your concerns?

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Cover points specific to your sales pitch

• What’s your budget?
• What’s your timeline?
• Who are the decision-makers?
• How do you see our products/services helping you?
• What are your concerns about our product/services?
• What would our (product or service) mean to you personally?

Show you are listening to your customer by responding to their comments and answers with this list of open-ended questions

• Can you help me understand that better?
• Why do you say that?
• How does that help?
• How do you see that happening?
• Why is that important?
• What are your thoughts about that?
• How do you feel about that?
• What more can you tell me about __________?
• How can I help you with that?
• Can you tell me why you say that?
• What are some examples of that?
• How does that affect you?
• How does that affect your business?
• What can we do to improve that?

In closing, don’t resort to the most common closed inquiry, “Do you have any questions?” Nine times out of ten the answer will be “no” and you’ve finished the conversation.

Close your sales pitch choosing from this list of open-ended questions to keep the discussion going and wrap up more productively.

• What’s next then?
• What other things we should discuss today?
• What questions do you have for me?
• How else can I help you?
• What more can I do for you today?
• How can I better clarify the benefit of __________?
• What else is on your mind that we haven’t yet covered?

Practice active and reflective listening in conjunction with using this list of open-ended questions. Reiterate key points so your customer knows you have heard them. File away important information for later. Take notes if you can and in your thank you note, include a snippet of information that confirms you were listening, and they were heard. Use your customer’s responses to improve your relationship and your understanding of their needs.

Set the pace for the conversation

Obviously, you don’t want to ask all these open-ended questions. Understand the value of avoiding closed questions that result in communication blockage. Once you become fluent using open-ended questions as tools in productive conversations, you’re sure to succeed in building stronger relationships, meeting sales quotas, and improving your listening skills as well.

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Do you use open-ended questions that we have not included here? Please leave them in comments so we can grow our list!