The Sales Professional’s Tool Box: Different Types of Questions and How to Use Them

When we think of professionals, we often think of people that perform well in their their jobs because they have mastered the use of certain tools and personal skillsets. For example, a carpenter has mastered the use of a saw, a hammer, and other woodworking tools. A surgeon has mastered his/her scalpel and retractor clamps, just to name a few.

So…what about sales? What tools must a salesforce have to drive results??

As a sales manager, I interviewed many potential sales consultants that would say something like, “Everybody tells me I’m a good talker, so I should be in sales.” I’d smile and nod and ask a few more questions to be polite, but I understood this simple truth – good “talkers” are not good sales consultants… and it’s nothing personal, but telling is not selling. Now, in all fairness, you’ve got to be a good communicator and a confident professional with the ability to persuade and influence customers’ buying decisions. And if you’re doing all the talking, you’re probably not reaching your true potential as a sales professional.

So back to that question…what about the salesforce? What are our tools? They are the same tools as those great detectives – they are the questions we master and use to lead the conversations we have with our customers.

Let’s take a look at three types of questions and the specific situations when they should be utilized:

OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS – questions that allow a broader response

Why do you feel that the ____ is the vehicle for you?

What type of work will you be doing with your new truck?

What’s your favorite destination to drive to on the weekends?

These questions may be answered in any number of ways and we typically don’t know the answer before the question is asked. These questions should be used primarily for building rapport with the customer.

Occasionally, they may be used to investigate wants and needs. Examples may be:

What do you like best about your [current vehicle]?

What do you wish you could change about your [current vehicle]?

Is there any feature that you would consider a “must have” on your [next vehicle]?

Responses to open-ended questions are longer, not just “yes” or “no,” so they should be used early on when trying to discover hot topics and potential objections.

CLOSED-ENDED QUESTIONS – questions that can only be answered with “yes” or “no”

Closed-ended questions have a bad reputation, but there are times when they should be used in the sales process. For instance, the best example of when to use a closed-ended question is when you’re attempting to get your customer to buy something. Mostly though, these questions should be avoided during the sales process. We know many customers experience stress during the buying process, so questions that may be answered with “no” should be avoided.

COMMITMENT QUESTIONS (Trial Closes) – questions that are framed to allow the customer to say “yes”

Isn’t that a beautiful color?

When you went through that sharp turn, didn’t this really handle it nicely?

The Bluetooth option will come in handy on your morning commute, won’t it?

When we add a contraction to the beginning, middle, or end of a closed-ended question, we lead the customer to answer “yes.” Disclaimer: it is extremely important that we already know how the customer will answer. Don’t ask questions like, “that’s a beautiful color, isn’t it?” unless you are already certain that the customer likes it.

Use as many of these types of questions as possible throughout the buying process and you’ll find that it will make it much easier for the customer to say “yes” when you’re ready to close the deal.

Conclusion- The types of questions you use and when you use them will partly determine your selling success rate. Just like any other skill though, practicing these different types of questions is the key to improvement, especially if you want to sell more. Be sure to always practice these valuable professional skills!

Future articles will cover additional types of questions and the 5 steps to listening effectively.

Author: Robert Simmons has been in the auto Industry for over 20 years; he has held many different positions within a dealership from Marketing Director, Training Director and Sales Manager. The bulk of his career he worked with Sewell Ford in Odessa TX.

Marcom was the first to pioneer recording-based sales training in the late 80’s and over the past 30 years developed proprietary methodologies that increase dealership performance. Marcom takes a blend of technology and human interaction to drive behavior change that increases sales and service revenues.

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