To convince a customer, you need to know how you can solve their problems.
But how can you discover that?
By asking open-ended questions!
Let’s dive into the best open-ended question examples across sales, retail, real estate, lending, insurance, and healthcare.
Types of Open-ended questions
» Rapport building questions
» Qualifying questions
» Probing requirements
» Questions to uncover pain points
» Goal-based questions
» Benefit-driven questions
» New future questions
What are open-ended questions?
Open-ended questions are those that do not have a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Instead, they ask the respondent to expand on their views. They allow you to see things from the customer’s point of view. Since you get answers on their terms, you can find out their candid thoughts.
For example, experts advise healthcare providers to elicit patients’ concerns by using open-ended questions. For instance, they recommend the phrase “What questions do you have?” in contrast to a closed-ended sentence such as “Do you have any questions?”
The phrase “What questions do you have?” encourages the listener to think of any concerns they might have. In comparison, “Do you have any questions?” prompts a yes or no answer.
An excellent open-ended question can ensure that your client responds with several details. These details may help you construct a follow-up that will allow you to learn more about your client’s needs.
Best sales questions examples
Open-ended questions are critical to excellence in sales.
Because open-ended sales questions help you with the following:
- It sets you on the route to establishing rapport,
- Negotiate customer wants, goals, and preferences,
- And finally, it brings you closer to the sale.
However, the key is to ask the right set of questions basis your lead’s stage in the sales funnel. Let’s look at the examples of best sales questions you can ask at different stages of the buyer’s journey.
Open-ended rapport-building questions
Before anything else, you have to build a rapport with your prospect. The aim of these questions is to open up your prospect and get them talking. Rapport-building questions set the stage for the rest of the conversation.
Open-ended sales questions example to build rapport:
- How is your business going?
- What are your plans for the coming year?
- Can you tell me more about your background or career?
- Would you tell me something special about your company?
Open-ended qualifying questions
All leads are not equal. You need to qualify leads to determine whether they’ll buy your product/service or not. Qualifying questions help you gauge the potential of your leads, and where they are in the buying process.
Examples of open-ended qualifying questions:
- Do you have a budget in mind?
- When do you want your problem to be resolved?
- How are you dealing with this issue now?
- How do you make a purchase decision?
Open-ended probing questions
44% of buyers say that they would not want to proceed if the sales reps don’t understand their requirements.
Ironically, how would anyone know that?
That’s why probing questions are important.
Open-ended questions examples to probe client’s requirements:
- What do you believe is the source of the problem?
- What are your goals and intentions for the future?
- Could you provide an example?
- Do you have a specific budget in mind?
- Do you use any other product that is similar to ours?
- If it isn’t working for you, can you give me a reason as to why?
- Please can you elaborate?
- How has this issue affected you?
- Do you have any features you would not like in your product?
- By when would you like for us to deploy our product? Do you have any specific time frame in mind?
- Are you facing any other challenges you haven’t spoken of so far?
Open-ended questions to uncover the client’s pain points
You can ask need-based or pain-based questions to discover the needs and pain points of your prospects. Prepare these questions carefully, so they don’t go into areas your product doesn’t address.
Examples of open-ended questions to discover pain points:
- How is the issue affecting your operations?
- Does it have any financial impact?
- When did you start having these problems?
- Do you want to change anything about your existing solution?
Open-ended goal-based questions
Don’t stop with just discovering your prospect’s pain points—find out what they want to achieve!
You can ask the following questions to determine both the buyer’s goals and needs. You can successfully make a sale only when you know what’s holding your customers back.
- Do you know why your solution isn’t working?
- What objectives do you want to meet using our solution?
- How are the issues affecting your revenue?
- How can I make this meeting more successful for you?
You can find out what’s important to your prospect by asking benefit-driven questions.
Then you can guide your prospect to show how those features can help them. These questions are ideal when you’re exploring how to close a sale.
Examples of open-ended benefit-driven questions:
- How significant is solving this issue to you?
- What will happen if the problem isn’t addressed?
- How would incorporating the changes affect your revenue?
- How would the top brass assess the success of this solution?
New future questions
Ask these questions to show working with you will help the customer address his issues. These questions can be the final stage of convincing before closing a sale.
Examples of new future questions:
- Would you want any changes before we move forward with the deal?
- If you work with us, what differences do you expect to experience?
- How do you define success for this project?
- If you could do whatever you want, would you change anything about your existing system?
So, these are the industry-agnostic questions you can ask your customers. Let’s move on to the vertical-specific open-ended questions.
Open-ended questions for retail sales
If you’re in a retail business, the following open-ended questions can help you.
- What are some characteristics or features you’re looking for in a product/service?
- Who are you shopping for today?
You can also follow up on the previous question. When you see someone looking out of their element or confused, they are likely to be buying for someone else. This is a great opportunity to use the consensus technique.
When making a buying decision, people frequently look to their peers. The herd mentality is a tremendous influence across humanity. If “everyone else” thinks this product is fantastic, it must be great.
Examples of open-ended questions for retail sales:
- What features of your current product do you enjoy the most?
- What is your primary focus when using this product?
- By when will you need this item?
- What would be the best solution to this situation for you?
- How would you describe your experience with this product?
- How did you become aware of the product/store?
- What is your preferred payment method?
Open-ended questions for banking customers
One of the most critical areas where banks and FIs fail is new account onboarding. According to a study, in 2020, 63% of customers will have forsaken digital bank apps. This is an increase over the previous year’s figure of 38% of consumers.
The way we conduct our finances has changed for good. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic drove digitization massively. This also means the preferred channels for banking have changed for some customers.
Some may lean towards a digitized solution. Whereas others may want face-to-face interaction and to be present at your bank. Do not implement a single channel across your entire customer base. Instead, find out what your customers want and try to meet their needs if possible.
Open-ended questions while onboarding new customers:
- What channels do you prefer (digital/physical) for financial transactions?
- What criteria are most important to you when selecting a bank/financial institution?
- How did you find out about us?
- What financial changes do you anticipate in the future and want to plan for?
- Do you have a partnership with an accountant, a solicitor, an insurer, or anyone else?
- What is the most crucial goal we must achieve?
- Do you believe you’re on track to reach your financial objectives?
- What is most important to you when it comes to money?
- Are you a business owner or are you planning on building your business?
- How likely are you to refer our bank to a relative or co-worker?
The final question is one we should ask across industries. But it is especially relevant to sales reps within financial institutions. You may wonder why and it’s because many customers choose banks through recommendations.
Open-ended questions for insurance customers
Insurance requires the ability to communicate effectively more than anything else. You need to know interactive questions that elicit facts and emotions.
Some of the top insurance open-ended questions are:
- What do you want to accomplish when you purchase a life insurance policy?
- How long can your family sustain their lifestyle if you get injured or are unable to work?
- What efforts have you undertaken to put a retirement plan in place?
- Do you have any additional life insurance policies in place to cover X?
- What funds do you have in order to cover the cost of your X?
- What are your thoughts on life insurance for your spouse or children?
- Have you had any life insurance?
- Is your vehicle covered by car insurance?
- What plans do you have for when your insurance expires?
- What happens to your company if a key employee has an injury or a disability later in life?
These are excellent questions since it allows your customer to define what they truly desire. When you have those answers, you will be able to construct a customized insurance policy. According to research, 48% of customers value the ease of personalization.
Whatever their response is to this question, it’s the ammunition you’ll need to sell them a policy. Allow your customer to respond uninterrupted and completely.
Open-ended questions for automotive sales
When your prospect tells you, they’re looking to buy a new car or vehicle, your first question should be “Why“. People buy cars, bikes, or bicycles for a variety of reasons. For example, your prospect might need a car for their daily drives to and from work.
Conversely, some prospects may need the car for trips and long drives to a destination. Only when you understand the nature of their purchase can you sell successfully. Otherwise, you might end up showing options they have little to no interest.
So, some examples of open-ended questions you can ask vehicle buyers are:
- May I ask as to why you are contemplating purchasing a new vehicle?
- Who all would be driving in this vehicle?
- What would you like to look at in used cars?
- What aspects of your test drive did you appreciate the most?
- Why do you want to trade in your present vehicle?
- What modifications would you make to this vehicle?
- What are the specific brands or models you have in mind?
The final question is a crucial question to ask all your prospects. Some prospects may look for specific brands and designs that they like. Whereas others might opt for an environmentally friendly option. In 2020, global fuel emissions lowered by 7% because of the pandemic.
However, SUV emissions have climbed by 0.5 percent. In fact, SUV oil consumption has risen to 5.5 million barrels each day. This might have environmentally-conscious prospects staying away from buying SUVs. So, remember to ask about their preferences before you pitch.
Another point to note is security mechanisms for drivers with children. Buyers with young children are generally worried about their child’s safety while driving. So, if you can find options that can quell these fears, you’re sure to make a sale.
Open-ended questions for lenders
- Please can you tell me about your credit history in depth?
This is the ideal introductory question. All your clients need to answer this question as proof of their ability to pay the loan. The best part about this question is that it helps you get your foot in the door to ask more questions. So, once you’ve asked this question, you can follow up for specifics.
Some great open-ended follow-up questions for lenders are:
- Have you ever co-signed a loan?
- Have you ever fallen behind on your payments?
- How do you pay your credit?
- Do you prefer to pay the minimum payment or the entire balance?
- Could you tell me a little about your income?
- Can you list out all your sources of income?
- If you own a business, how is your business structured?
- How long have you been in your present and past positions?
- How steady and reliable is your income?
Your client should ideally fill out a form answering these details in depth. But it’s also critical for them to offer answers to these questions on the spot. These questions are a great help when it comes to finding creditworthy borrowers. But once you do find your ideal borrower, this is the perfect question to ask.
Open-ended questions for realtors
I’ll divide this into two sections. The first is for real estate agents to ask interested home buyers. The second section will delve into those who show interest in selling.
A great question to ask home buyers who are familiar with the region is about the neighborhood they want. They most likely have some areas in mind that are close by to their workplace or children’s schools.
It is also an excellent chance to make use of social proof. Most buyers want to live in an area with neighbors of equal or higher social standing. You can recommend areas that are popular according to the homeowner type.
For example, imagine they are a family of four with a pet dog. You can then recommend neighborhoods that are kid and pet friendly. That way they can feel safe and accepted easily. So, the open-ended questions you should ask are:
- What are your favorite neighborhoods?
- What are some amenities you need close to your home?
- If you had an example of the ideal home, what would it be?
- What is the deal breaker for you?
- What is your favorite room in a home?
The questions change completely when you’re trying to help a homeowner to sell their property. You need to be a bit more sensitive when dealing with clients who are part of this category. They may be experiencing a rough patch or need to sell quickly. Try to keep their needs at the highest priority and ask these questions to help them make their sale.
- If your home is currently on the market, how long has it been on the market? Why don’t you think it’s sold?
- What are your expectations for the price of the property?
- What do you believe your customer will appreciate the most about your residence?
- Who else will be assisting you in making your decision?
- What do you want to accomplish until you can be 100 percent dedicated to the sale if you aren’t already?
Open-ended questions for health care professionals
A strong bond between patients and providers may result in healthier interactions. A comprehensive relationship-centered inquiry is one aspect of establishing and sustaining a genuine bond. Meaningful questions laced with inquiry and compassion are a good place to begin. Here are the open-ended questions that may help to deepen communication with patients:
- How are you doing today?
- Have you been facing any issues with your X health concern?
- Have your muscles or joints been aching off late?
- What medication has worked out for you in the past?
- Does your family have any ailments that are genetic?
- How has your health been in the past?
- What effect has the pandemic had on your health?
- How can I be of help?
- Please can you elaborate or give a specific description of how you feel?
Empathy is essential in this sector, and healthcare providers must build meaningful relationships with their patients.
With this, we come to the end of the article.
I hope you found these open-ended questions examples helpful.
Before we wrap up, here are some tips to effectively communicate with your clients.
5 Tips for effectively asking open-ended sales questions
- Start slow.
Don’t rush in with your questions right after you open the dialogue. Ask broad, non-threatening questions at first. Example: Can you tell me more about your business? Then try to find the areas you need to explore in detail.
- Show curiosity.
Always maintain a sense of curiosity while asking open-ended questions. You shouldn’t sound like you are just reading from a script. Being a good listener is also important and helps you discover more about your prospects.
- Make it personal.
By saying make it personal, I don’t mean you should probe about your prospect’s personal lives! But you can ask about their career or business, things that are important to them.
- Don’t provide suggestions.
Don’t provide hints or suggest something after asking a question. This will change how the client thinks and can stop them from sharing what they are meant to.
- Be conversational.
Don’t go into rapid-fire or start interrogating clients. It should always be conversational.
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Open-ended questions don’t expect definitive answers like “Yes” or “No.” They let the respondents expand on their views. These help build rapport or probe into the client’s requirements. “What questions do you have?” is an example of an open-ended question.
In contrast, close-ended questions expect definitive answers. The respondents can choose from a predefined set of responses. These are great for surveys or to get specific information from the respondent. “Do you have any questions?” is an example of a close-ended question.
The following types of responses can be called as open-ended answers:
>> The response that doesn’t provide a definitive answer or can have more than one meaning
>> The response that triggers further conversation in the direction of responder’s thoughts
>> Answers the questioner with a question
Asking open-ended questions help you know more about the person. Such conversations are important to build strong relationship as it shows that you’re interested in the person or doing business with them.
Open-ended questions generally begin with what, why, how, describe, etc.
However, it is recommended to give context before asking questions.
For example, instead of simply asking, “What amenities do you need near your home,” you can add some context and say, “This neighborhood has schools, hospitals, shopping centers, gas stations, and many more amenities. What facilities do you need near your home?”