Asking Open Questions – Six Honest Men To Help You Sell and Close Deals

I was over at Small Business Ideas Forum where I moderate, and someone brought up cold calling on the telephone. Now cold calling is something I loved, as I did a LOT of it way back in my sales and advertising early days. I have also helped clients with their cold calling setup, so this was right up my street 🙂 

One thing that sales people and sales trainers often fail to get across is exactly what the job of the sales person is. They say it is to sell products, (which is true), but they do not sum it up properly.

You see your job as a sales person, be it teleselling, face to face selling, or selling online is the same, selling is selling no matter what medium you sell in. Your job is to ensure the person you are talking to has the information they need to make a decision. Note I said a decision not a purchase? No matter how good your product or sales methods, some people will either not be able to, or not want to buy your product.

To sell you must listen more than you speak, but you need to get the information to the client, to get that information to the client you need to know what THEY need to know. You do this in the time honoured way that any parent will know. You ask questions! Kids by the way are the best salespeople you will ever meet, they master the skill of open and closed questions with ease. How many of us have gone through this

Please can I have an xxx?
Why not?

note the use of open and closed questions there! 

I will explain the difference between an open and closed question, and explain how as a top salesman I used it shamefully to speak to pretty women without fear of rejection. (when like me you have a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp, you need all the help you can get in order to not be rejected).

Many people will open the talk with a young lady with an offer of a drink so look at this:~

‘do you mind if I buy you a drink’ This is a closed question, as there are only 2 possible answers, YES 🙂 or NO 🙁 (as old bullwasp slopes off dejected) 😉

‘Hey what’s that your drinking?’ This is an open question YES or Sloping Bulldog wasp is now not an option 😉
Now you are gonna look pretty dumb if she is sucking on a bottle of Bud so I suggest you try it with poured drinks 😉 So where can the second question lead? let’s take a look

‘Hey what’s that your drinking?’
Its Bud why?
Call the bartender and order a Bud for the beautiful lady here!
Rejection is still a possibility, but you rarely get rejected when you are complimenting a girl, especially if you look into her eyes and smile when you pay the compliment of her being a beautiful lady’

The other option is that she says, ‘no thanks I don’t want a drink’
Reply Oh I Am sorry, I mislead, you I wasn’t offering to buy you a drink, I just noticed how your drink caught the light and how lovely it looked. Just like you 😀
but I am sure you get the drift 😉

Here is a poem that explains all about Open Questions and learning from them.

I keep six honest serving-men
  (They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
  And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
  I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
  I give them all a rest.

The poem was written by Kipling, and is in fact a child poem but it illustrates perfectly what an open question is and how to use them.

I indicated earlier that your job as a sales person is to educate the client until they know everything they need to make a decision, be it yes or no.

An example of a bad salesman.

Hi there I would like to buy a bucket
no problem they are over there 3 types, $2 , $5, $10

An example of a Good salesman.

Hi there I would like to buy a bucket
No problem sir, They are over here if you follow me. May I ask what you will be using the bucket for?
Yes! I have to carry some water.
What sort of terrain will you be carrying this water over sir?
Oh I have to fill the bucket, then walk half a mile or so with it.
Ah then would I be right in thinking that avoiding spillage is crucial?
Oh Yes, absolutely.
OK Sir, here we are. As you can see we have 3 versions, priced at $2, $5, and $10  

The $2 is our budget bucket, it is more for temporary use and is a throwaway general bucket, is made from a light duty Plastic, and to be honest would need replacing often. The $5 bucket is meant to be kept, it is more robust it is made from heavy duty plastic and will carry your water for a long time to come with ease.

The $10 bucket is our premium bucket sir, and I believe is perfect for the task you will be using it for. It is stainless steel which means it will never rust, no matter how much water you put in it. It has a moulded handle which means that you will not get those ugly painful red lines in your skin that you get when you carry heavy stuff like water. And, best of all sir, It has a built in anti spill system. To fill the bucket you lift this here then when it is full you flip it down and it clips here The result of this sir is that if you trip and fall on your journey, you can be certain no water will spill. Which is exactly what you need  isn’t it?

So is it just one for yourself or does anyone else work with you carrying water?

It really is that simple, ask the open questions when you need to ask the closed questions when you need that. But ONLY ask closed questions when you know the answer you are going to get! Do this and your sales will soar. But also appreciate this. In the above the premium product was sold. The salesman earned top commission, the client paid top dollar. BUT and this is the BIG thing here. ALL parties involved were happy as they got what they wanted. If the reply to the first question was ” I have to empty a small well, I only really need it for the on time, so will be throwing it away. so I really do not want to spend much. You should sell the $2 bucket to this person as being perfect for the job. If you try to up-sell this person, then you are a snake oil salesperson and there is no place for you here. By all means when you reach the buckets, offer the $5 bucket to the person with the question. ” you said you would likely be throwing this away when your done, so this $2 model will do the job. If on the other hand you might be keeping it I would recommend the $5 one. So will you be keeping it or throwing it away sir? (closed question) If he replies throwing it means you pick up and give him the $2 model, keeping means you give him the $5 model. This is a simple alternative close where you use an either or question to close the deal. But that is a whole different article.

If anyone has any sales or selling questions, feel free to ask away.

4 Responses to “Asking Open Questions – Six Honest Men To Help You Sell and Close Deals”

  1. I will explain the difference between an open and closed question, and explain how as a top salesman

    You were a cheese salesman right?

  2. Old Welsh Guy

    Either I don’t get your humour, or you don’t get mine 😉

    Nope never sold cheese in my life 😀

  3. Hi!

    Love the advise!

    I like to think I’m a pretty kind of girl that you might ask what I’m drinking!
    I would probably let you buy me a drink with that kind of approach. It sure beats the “did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” chat up line!
    My partner is into NLP, which I think is part of your sales technique. Which is also probably why I fell for him! A genuine complement goes a long way with me.

    I agree that by giving the right amount of information at the right time, will increase the sales rate. This does mean that the customer is willing to listen. ie contacted you about the buckets. Would this work the same way if you were to approach them first, not knowing if they were interested in your product? Would You use the same technique?


  4. Well, I knew most of that stuff. But, knowing is not practicing 🙂

    Wish I had moved the pitch into the bar many years ago. It would have saved so much wear and tear on the ego.