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21 Powerful, Open-Ended Sales Questions

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Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

Broad, open-ended sales questions are great for helping you find out what’s going on in your prospects’ and clients’ worlds. They help you connect with buyers personally, understand their needs, understand what’s important to them, and help them create better futures for themselves.

Following are 21 open-ended sales questions you can use that will help you round out the picture of your clients' needs. These questions are broken down into four groupings within the RAIN SellingSM Framework:

  • Rapport
  • Aspirations and Afflictions
  • Impact
  • New Reality

One thing to note about open-ended sales questions: they don’t need to be complex. Often the basics are all you need.

Download: RAIN Selling: How to Lead Masterful Sales Conversations

21 Powerful, Open-Ended Sales Questions
Rapport-focused, open-ended sales questions
1. What's going on in your business these days? How have things changed?
2. What are you up to this weekend?
3. It was good to hear the short version of your background at the meeting, but since we’re out for lunch, I’d love to get the long version. What’s your story?
4. I have to say, I really like the way you don’t just have your values up on the wall like every company, but you have all the comments from your team about what the values mean to them. How did you all come up with that? I’m guessing you learned a lot about your company and team. Anything stand out?
5. You mentioned you want to retire in a few years. What are you thinking of doing then?
Aspiration- and Afflictions-focused, open-ended sales questions
6. Why isn’t this particular technology/service/product/situation/issue working for you right now?
7. Many of our clients are reporting problems with areas A, B, and C. How are these areas affecting you? What do you think about them?
8. What's holding you back from reaching your revenue (or profit, or other) goals?
9. What goals and objectives do you have in general? For this area?
10. (Assuming they set the meeting) Why did you ask me to talk with you today?
11. (Assuming you set the meeting) As I mentioned earlier, I’d like to share with you a few ideas that have helped our clients succeed in the X,Y, and Z areas. Before we get going, by the time we’re done with this meeting, what else might you like to cover? What will make the meeting successful for you?
Impact-focused, open-ended sales questions
12. If you could overcome these challenges, what would happen to your company's financial situation?
13. If you were to make this happen, what would it mean for you personally?
14. How would implementing these changes affect your competitiveness in the market?
15. How do you think the board of directors would evaluate the success of this initiative?
16. If you don't solve (insert the particular challenge here), what kind of difficulties will you face going forward? What won’t happen that you want to happen?
New-Reality-focused, open-ended sales questions
17. If you were to wave your magic wand and it’s 3 years from now, how will this all look different?
18. (In early sales discussions) You mentioned you’re not having a good experience with your current provider. If you work with us, what are you hoping will be different?
19. (In later sales discussions) Given all we’ve talked about, what do you see as being different if we were to move forward together?
20. What does success look like for you… your business…this project…our work together?
21. If there were no restrictions on you – money, effort, political issues and so on do not exist – what would you change? Can you tell me why you say that?

As you ask any open-ended sales questions, bear in mind that the most difficult task is not sounding too contrived. While we've suggested wording here in this article, feel free to use the concepts, but make the wording your own when you ask the questions.

Also, sometimes all you need is to ask one question and your prospect will share with you all the information you need to help them. Other times you may need to ask a few, but make sure you don't overdo it. You don't want to make your prospect feel as if he is on the witness stand. While this article is about asking questions, don’t forget that the most powerful sales conversations tend to balance inquiry (asking questions) with advocacy (talking, educating, giving advice).

Additional tip: if the buyer answers a question and you want them to expand further, ask them, “how so?” Or, “can you tell me a little more about that?” You'll be surprised at just how much you can learn, and the difference it will make in your ability to help them succeed.

What's next? Read: 11 Insight Selling Questions

RECOMMENDED READING >> Bringing Insight to B2B Sales: Sell Like the Winners Do

Topics: RAIN Selling Sales Conversations