My dad loves this classic advice and quotes it often:

“We have two ears on one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

~Epictetus (Greek philosopher)

Sales folks always struggle with listening more than we talk. But, it’s not really our fault. When was the last time that you had a sales prospect that started out in a chatty mood?

Listen dont talk

There is a way though. It just takes right open-ended questions, in the right order and you can get your foot in the door and your prospect talking there way into a sale.

In my experience, the key to getting a new prospect to open up is as simple as asking them about themselves. Long live narcissism! We’ve all got a touch of it…use it.

Questions that Qualify Prospects

I hate to say this (it sounds so shallow), but the worst sales conversation to find yourself in is one with a talker that is definitely not a qualified prospect. Admit it. We’ve all been trapped here.

That’s why I always try to start with an open-ended question that gives me some immediate qualifying signals. Here are a few I like to use.

  1. In an ideal world what would this [insert product or project] do for you?
  2. What parts of getting [insert product or project] concern/worry you the most?
  3. We’re all trying to get fast results. When do you think you will be ready to get [insert product or project]?
  4. What are your initial thoughts on [insert product or project]?

Questions that Establish Rapport, Trust, and Credibility

After you’re pretty sure this is a live one, it’s time to put on the charm…or more importantly let them love the attention you’re giving them.

  1. What put you in the position to lead this important initiative?
  2. How do we really make this a shining success on your resume?
  3. How will this project be measured and prioritized versus others?
  4. What frustrates you the most about the current state?

Questions that Gather Information

Okay, you have a qualified prospect and they know your listening and care; it’s time to get the information you need to close the deal.

  1. What prompted you to put this at the top of your priority list?
  2. What are the top three must haves to make this a success?
  3. What’s the internal process to make your project a high-profile focus?
  4. What have been the biggest stumbling blocks to new initiatives in the past?

You have the questions to open up a great conversation. Now silence your urge to lead, prompt, or otherwise interrupt your prospects from giving you the keys and permission to close the deal.

One more great quote we in sales need to remember:

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

~George Bernard Shaw

What are some of the open-ended questions you use? Join the discussion in the comments.

About Bill Rice
Bill Rice is the Founder & CEO of Kaleidico. Bill is an expert in designing online lead generation strategies and programs. Kaleidico blends web design, development, SEO, PPC, content marketing, and email marketing to generate leads for mortgage lenders, law firms, fintech, and other businesses looking to grow a consumer-direct online strategy.

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