- Telesales guy : Can I speak to the business owner?
- Me: Yes, that’s me.
- Telesales guy: Oh good. Do you have an epos machine?
- Me: No
- Telesales guy: Would you like to have an epos machine if the monthly charges were lower?
- Me: No
- Telesales guy: Oh. Wouldn’t it help your business to have an epos machine?
- Me: No
- Telesales guy: Oh. OK. Bye then.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that you won’t get very far by asking a series of closed questions, yet we all fall into the trap from time to time. I watched an experienced newsreader just last night trying to interview an eight year old boy using closed questions. It was painful. The boy, who was clearly dying to tell his story, was prevented from doing so by the interviewers ineptitude.
Closed questions do have their place of course, and they are great for:
- Gaining factual information, as in: Am I speaking to the business owner?
- Clarifying that you have understood a situation, as in: So am I right in thinking that you don’t currently have a marketing plan?
- Getting a desired positive answer, as in: Would you like to generate more business?
- Seeking to close a deal or teasing out an objection, as in: Would you sign today if I were able to deliver next Tuesday?
If ultimately you are trying to sell something, you will need to use a mix of open and closed questions to really develop the conversation. The good news is that most of us do this naturally in a social situation, which is perhaps why people who are genuinely interested in others often make good sales people. With a little self awareness and preparation you can hone the questioning techniques that you are probably already using and start to turn your conversations into natural sales opportunities.