Closed ended questions are much maligned and it just isn’t fair!
How many times have you heard sales trainers and managers harp on the inadequacies of closed ended questions? They tell you that they don’t invite 2-way dialog, that the client feels interrogated, that it can lead to too many no’s.
Sure, if used incorrectly, a closed ended question can be detrimental to a sales conversation. But used incorrectly, an open ended question can be equally have a negative impact on a call. They can annoy the client, make them impatient, make them wonder about the relevance and tarnish the professionalism of the tele-sales rep.
So it’s not the question, it’s the questioner.
Having said that, let’s look at fundamentals of closed ended questions.
The 2 Types of Closed Ended Questions
For the sake of clarity, closed ended questions are short answer questions, not just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. If you ask a prospect how many printers they have, you are asking for a definitive answer not for makes and models. Having said that, there are two fundamental types of close ended questions
The Fact Confirmation Questions
Fact confirmation questions are designed to gather specific data or facts. They help clarify, confirm or verify information. For instance,
How many printers do you have?
Are they color or black and white?
Do you use electro medical devices in your practice?
How many patients do you have?
Do you have an assistant?
Who is your current supplier?
Have you completed your continuing education credits for this year?
How much time do you spend preparing?
Will you ask your IT people about that?
Would you care to attend our webinar?
Are you finding that challenging?
Depending on your industry or your situation, these are dang good questions to ask! They give perspective and help you evaluate the situation. So go ahead and ask them.
But what you don’t want to do is ask more than three of them in a row. When you ask three consecutive questions, people get uncomfortable because they are not fully participating. When you ask five consecutive closed ended questions they ARE uncomfortable. Beyond that they are disengaged and will typically terminate the conversations.
So here’s the thing: be conscious of this fact. Think before you ask.
The Directed Questions
The second type of closed ended question is that which directs the client’s thinking. For the most part, they are designed to elicit a ‘yes’ response. For example,
That’s reasonable, isn’t it?
That’s a fair assessment, correct?
That’s easy, right?
Doesn’t it make sense to give it a try?
Isn’t it time consuming to …?
Wouldn’t you like the system to run faster?
More passive income makes sense, doesn’t it?
These can be highly effective questions because, if used correctly, they illicit a positive response. They are almost rhetorical in nature but they get the client to see the obvious or reasonable nature of a comment. It gets the client to acknowledge the logic of your statement.
But there is an added bonus; they act as a trial close. It tells the questioner if they are on track. Listen carefully to the reply. If there is a trace of doubt or scepticism, deal with it right then and there. Say something like, “John, I hear a little uncertainty in your voice. Can I clarify something for you?” (Nice closed ended question, eh?)
Of course, directed questions can be abused as well. For instance, “you want to save money don’t you?” Everyone wants to save money. If delivered carelessly, this question can sound patronizing. So watch your tone. And too many directed questions can trivialize your point by simplifying things…
Closed ended questions used smartly can garner information. Closed ended questions can direct a sales call to a positive conclusion. So don’t avoid them. Make friends with closed ended questions today.