When I call a prospect, I’m preparing to listen. Are you? If so, then you’ve learned the art of the open-ended question in selling. Listen more than you speak, and when you do speak, ask a question that further qualifies your sales lead.
As part of a consultative sales system, listening can get you very far:
- You’ll build trust, rapport, and credibility.
- You’ll learn more about their problem and desired solution features.
- You’ll quickly discover the end results your customer is looking for in a product.
The challenge with this sales system is not just what questions to ask, but when in the conversation to ask and how to phrase and frame your questions for maximum impact. Here’s how to get more out of the open-ended question in selling.
Your mindset for this sales conversation should be zen-like. You’re not in a hurry to get to your next appointment or your next call. Both your demeanor and your questions should convey that you are relaxed. No leading questions, no prompting your lead for an answer, and no interrupting.
The relationship between sales professional and potential customer understandably requires some information gathering on your part. Nearly everyone understands this intuitively. Still, it helps start the ball rolling to ask their permission. “May I ask you some questions about your insurance needs?”
Keep It Simple
Ask simple questions to get simple — and useful — answers. Multi-part questions rarely get answered as well as a series of simpler queries. Remember, you’re not in a hurry.
Cast a wide net with your initial questions. This puts your prospect more at ease, as they can answer very freely. “Can you tell me about your insurance needs?” will get you an answer that reveals what your prospect values most. It can shape the direction the conversation naturally, and in the end, save you time.
However, make sure you ask follow-up questions to those general responses. Listen for keywords and tie your next question to your prospect’s response. This gives a natural flow to the sales conversation. Ideally, each answer should link to your next question in this way.
Be mindful that your conversation moves in a logical direction. You don’t want to break off to a new topic too soon, or jump back and forth between sweating minute details and broad-based questions. That can leave a prospect with an ill-at-ease feeling about doing business with you.
Keep It Light
Especially in the beginning, your questions should be light and friendly. To be sure, financial ability, problem specifics, and so on, are important areas to ask about — but not at the beginning. Accumulate some goodwill between yourself and the prospect, then move on to more sensitive topics.
In nearly all sales conversations, you will need to gather information on touchy subjects. Money, health, budgets, personal details, etc. Some prospects could find such questions invasive, so it helps to explain why you’re asking when you broach the topic.
Don’t ask your prospect to name all the benefits they’re looking for. That can be a tall order in some situations. Instead, ask what problems, issues, and concerns they face. Sell the benefits of your solution that addresses these areas.
Further along in the conversation, ask your prospect to visualize their future. Ask open-ended questions about how they see their problem being handled better by you and your products than their current offering and what things look like in the future. The answers can tell you a lot about you need to say to win the sale and keep their business. So listen carefully!
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