How many of you know that effective selling is about asking questions? Many people believe that selling is about "explaining" to the prospect, why he or she needs their product or service. Show and tell, features and benefits: these are phrases which come to mind. Well, it's really neither -- it's all about the questions. Not the exact questions you ask but more in how you ask them. Obviously the questions must be relevant. However, there are no perfect questions. More importantly, if you ask the right questions the wrong way, chances are you will walk away from your appointment frustrated and disappointed.

One way to avoid frustration and disappointment is to word your questions correctly. Closed ended questions are those which can be answered yes or no. You know, “Would you like fries with that?” Basically, your prospect can provide you with a one word answer and this one word answer won’t really help you learn more about what your prospect needs at all and it will stop the sales process in its tracks. On the other hand, an open ended question is one which gets the prospect talking. When a prospect talks, the sales rep, practitioner, or business owner is the beneficiary of valuable information. How is this information used? It enables you to assess the needs of the prospect and begin to position oneself as the solution.

Let's look at an example of each type of question, applied to the same situation. Your prospect is buying from one of your competitors and you want to find out if there are any holes in their relationship.

Closed ended questions:

Sales Rep: Are you happy with the service?

Prospect: Yes.

Sales rep: Does the product perform according to your expectations?

Prospect: Yes

Sales Rep: Would you consider doing business with me?

Prospect: No

As you can see, there's no discussion when you ask these questions -- each question leads to a dead end. Let's take a look at the same questions worded just a bit differently.

Sales Rep: How do you feel about the service you're receiving?

Prospect: Now that you mention it, I haven't heard from our contact in awhile.

Sales Rep: How's the product performing?

Prospect: Overall it's not bad, but I would like to see it (last longer, run faster, etc.)

Sales Rep: How open are you to doing business with another vendor?

Prospect: We currently have a contract which expires next year. Or we may consider doing business with other vendors in the near future.

These are just a few examples of how tweaking the wording can change the whole composition of a sales interview. Get them talking and you'll get better information. This will result in more sales and better relationships with your clients and customers.

Author's Bio: 

Don Talbert, founder of Centurion Business Coach, has a passion for networking and consultative selling.
Don leverages his passion and experience to help others excel in business. As the author of The Networking
Success Kit, Don applies his experiences and packages it into a practical, real world guide to networking success.