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How to Use Open-Ended Questions to Propel Sales Conversations

By Bill Rice
How to Use Open-Ended Questions to Propel Sales Conversations Feature Image
7 minute read

One of my favorite sales tips is “Speak Less, Listen More.” But, on a sales call you typically have to get the ball rolling. You’ve got to get your prospect starting to talk and feeling comfortable chatting about themselves.

The best way to do that is to use open-ended questions.

What are Open-Ended Questions?

Open-ended questions are simple questions that have a variety of potential answers. Open-ended questions inherently have different answers based on each person’s experiences, life stages, challenges, hopes, and aspirations. Open-ended questions are a great way to get people talking about most peoples’ favorite topic – themselves.

A couple of examples of open-ended questions could be:

  • What do you do for a living?
  • What is your top financial worry?
  • Where do you want to be in five years?
  • What is your proudest accomplishment?
  • What do you do to relax?

Any of these questions can start your prospect talking and at the same time yield you lots of valuable insight into their insurance needs. In fact, these lines of conversations will probably reveal risks in their lifestyle or circumstances that they need insurance for and they didn’t even know it.

Start with Questions, Not Sales Pitches 

Too often we start sales calls with our objectives in mind. We quickly overwhelm our prospects with all the products and services we offer, the features they have, and how we know they will benefit them.

All this information, even though we have the best intentions, simply overwhelms and intimidates most people. I many cases, it might even make them think they are being hustled with all the fast talk and confusing terms. 

Instead, I suggest having the courage to give your prospect control of the opening conversation. 

Try, something like this:

“It looks like you requested a rate quote online a few days ago? What were you curious about? Just comparing rates or was there a specific type of insurance you were curious about?”

Or, maybe something like this:

“I just got your inquiry. Looks like you have some questions about life insurance. What questions can I answer?”

Opening questions like these often get me into 20-minute conversations and lots of closed deals.

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Open-ended Questions are Great for Cold Calls

Many of you reading this blog and following me, buy and work aged insurance leads.

This means you’re making a lot of cold calls.

Whether your buying aged leads or just working a cold database or old book of business, you know that these folks can be a tough crowd. Often times they have long since forgotten that they requested a rate quote online or even worked with your agency in the past. This is where open-ended questions help to build trust and re-establish a relationship on which to start a sales conversation.

Use simple trust-building reminders of how you got their information and questions that give them control.

Here are some I use:

  • “Hi, Susan! Back in November, you requested a rate quote online. We didn’t connect, but I wanted to check back in. Did you get what you needed?”
  • “Morning Jack! We haven’t talked in months. Last we talked, you renewed your term life insurance. How are things going? Kids must be in high school by now.”
  • Hi Joe! Glad we finally connected. How can I help?

Open-ended for Email and Text Messages

Those are a few opens for calls but don’t limit your creativity. Open-ended questions are great for emails and text messages too.

Emails, and even text messages, can often have a weird tone to them if you’re too direct. That’s why I always encourage open-ended questions, especially, in these communication channels. 

Too often our busy, distracted, multi-tasking workflows lend to us sending quick, direct, and curt email and text messages that land in the inbox like a bomb. Your customer opens it up and immediately hates you as a ‘sleazy salesperson.’ All the while you were just trying to be considerate of their time and to the point.

Open-ended questions to the rescue!

Here are a few that I like to use for email:

  • “Insurance can be confusing. What questions can I answer?”
  • “New house, new baby, new job, new toy (boat, motorcycle), just married, ready to retire? What questions should you have about insurance coverage?
  • “Just checking in. Any questions?”

Here are a few of my favorite open-ended text messages:

  • “I got your inquiry online, when is the best time to talk?”
  • “Sorry I missed your call. I was on with another client. When’s the best time to connect?”

Building relationships and trust is our business. That requires open and trusting conversations. Try to make all of your communications and natural and as familiar sounding as possible. Avoid overly direct and pointed questions.

Give your prospects and clients as much control as possible. 

Open-Ended Questions Do Work With Aged Leads

People love to talk about themselves — their successes and their challenges. And that is precisely the information you would love to have to guide your sales pitch. So, let it happen.

Questions to Work Into Cold Calling and Sales Scripts

Here are some of my favorite open-ended questions for insurance:

  • What do you like about that kind of car?
  • What’s made you curious about switching insurance?
  • What’s holding you back from switching so far?
  • A lot of people I talk to have had problems with x, y, or z? Is that true for you?
  • Is this your first mortgage?
  • What made you select this house?
  • What are you thinking about doing after you retire?
  • What do you look forward to most about the future?
  • What’s your biggest concern?

Be Smart With Your Sales Script Questions

You may have already noticed some trends with these questions, but let me spell out a few points even further.

Notice that these are simple questions, they just aren’t so simple they can be answered with yes or no. This is important. Multi-part questions rarely get answered as well as will a series of simpler questions.

Your first questions will be deliberately vague. Cast a wide net, put your lead at ease, and they will answer very freely, revealing what they value most.

Follow up. Listen for keywords and tie your next question to your prospect’s response. This shapes the direction of the conversation naturally, and in the end, saves you time.

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Next Steps for Your Sales Prospecting

Start with a list of open-ended questions that will work with your leads in your own line of sales. But don’t end there. Think about how you’ll progress logically through your questions, what you’ll need to ask to get enough data to help your client.

Don’t pester your lead to name the benefits they’re looking for. It’s your job to provide benefits that match their needs, problems, issues, and concerns. Lastly, use your sales script questions to help the prospect visualize a positive outcome. If you know what a lead is looking for, you’re better able to help them find it.

Ready to get started with aged leads? 

Fill your pipeline with a fresh supply of high-quality leads from The Aged Lead Store

You’ll find thousands of sortable aged leads, ready to boost your sales, whether your business is auto, life, final expense, health, Medicare supplement or homeowners insurance, annuities, auto warranty coverage, or mortgage refinance.

Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash

About Bill Rice

Bill Rice is the Founder & CEO of Kaleidico, a lead generation agency. Bill specializes in mortgage marketing, legal marketing, lead management, and sales automation.

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