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Are You Asking Clients and Prospects the Right Open-Ended Questions?

Are You Asking Clients and Prospects the Right Open-Ended Questions? - Janice Mars, SalesLatitude

Are You Asking Clients and Prospects the Right Open-Ended Questions? - Janice Mars, SalesLatitudeBut I am asking open-ended questions! Many of us have heard this a million times from sales teams when they talk about client or prospect discovery meetings. I am not immune to it either; I tend to ask closed-ended questions if, and only if, I do not plan well for the call or meeting. 

Planning Is the Key

Planning for your client or prospect meeting is key, but it needs to go beyond deciding on which questions you will ask and how you will ask them. The problem with closed-ended questions is that you learn so little from them. Someone answers yes or no, and then you have to ask another question.

But if you plan on asking questions to fill in the gaps of your knowledge, they will be open-ended questions. Not only will you learn more about your customer or prospect, but you may also learn things you never even thought to ask.

Maximizing Your Time

Open-ended questions, if asked correctly, can provide a plethora of information. And, based on these new learnings, they will most likely cause you to have to ask more questions, even those you may not have thought of.

If you anticipate some of the information the customer or prospect may provide, you can come up with a few additional questions to ensure you maximize your time with that key stakeholder. After all, it may be awhile until you can talk to them again.

The Right Open-Ended Questions

To ask the right open-ended questions, you need to determine what you know and what you don’t know, and then be very specific as to not only what you will ask, but how. For example, you may ask your client or prospect the following. Note the follow-up questions:

Will you be able to get this through procurement by Oct 15? OR Can you please explain your procurement process to best understand how we meet your Oct 15 deadline?

Is David Smith involved in this purchase decision? OR Who else beside David Smith may be involved in this decision?

It’s a slight nuance and seems simple when you see it as I have illustrated above. But too many times we revert back to asking those easy closed-ended questions. Think about how much more you can learn by the second question versus the first.

So, what questions will you ask differently the next time you prepare for a crucial client or prospect meeting? Will you turn yes or no questions into open-ended questions, and ask the right ones?


Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter


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