While rookie salespeople love to talk a lot, rock star salespeople mostly listen a lot and learn. 

But your clients and prospects must be willing to talk for you to listen.

This is where their mastery of asking open-ended questions and listening comes to play in full force.

Open-ended questions are those your prospects or clients cannot answer in one or two words.

Here are some examples of questions that are NOT open-ended:

  • Do you have a budget set aside for this project?
  • Who is the decision-maker for this project?
  • When are you going to make a decision?
  • Are there other vendors you are considering?
  • Is this a key initiative for the company in the next coupe of quarters?

Your prospect or client can easily answer the above (and any such) questions in a few words and then there is an awkward SILENCE that rookie salespeople often feel compelled to fill.

The counterpart of questioning that is poorly understood is the part listening plays in a dialogue.

I have no statistics on this, but I suspect that 95%+ of all buyer-seller communication is of a form that my friend Mark Goulston (author of the awesome book “Just Listen“) calls disconnected influence.

That is, the salesperson asks the questions from “their here” and the buyer answers them from “their there”.

The salesperson is engaged in one of several levels of listening, usually listening for keywords or pain. The problem with the standard Q&A sequence is that the salesperson never makes it across to the table to connect with “their there”

Here are 7 open-ended questions and the follow-up questions that you can ask to get started on building connected influence:

#1 I have a question out of curiosity. What attracted you to this organization in the first place?  How do you feel about it now?

#2 Just so that I understand, can you share with me the current process of handling <insert the process here> in your organization?  How does this affect you and your organization if it doesn’t work.

#3 Could you share with me how your <insert name of the process here> process is different from that used by other industry leaders such as <insert a couple of companies in their industry>? How is that working for you? 

#4 Can you tell me what the three biggest problems are that you are hoping to solve in a new solution? Why are these important to you and your organization?

#6 In your mind, what do we have to do to create a “Wow” experience?  What is important to you if we are to work together?

#7 Why is this initiative important to the organization now? What are the implications for you?


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Topics: connected listening, sales prospecting

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