Open Ended Questions for Sales

What are Open Ended Questions for Sales?

Open-ended questions for sales cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." They are designed to encourage a detailed and thoughtful response from the person being asked. These questions typically begin with words like "What," "How," and "Why," 

Open-ended sales questions aim to engage prospects in a conversation to understand their true needs and issues. providing a better understanding of their unique situation. They help salespeople establish rapport, uncover valuable insights, and guide the sales process effectively.

By using open-ended questions throughout the sales process, from the initial conversation to closing the deal, sales reps can uncover valuable information that helps tailor their approach and offer appropriate solutions.

Some key characteristics of open-ended sales questions are:

  • They are conversational: Open-ended questions are meant to initiate dialogue rather than simply extract information. They encourage a back-and-forth exchange between the salesperson and the prospect.
  • They encompass the Five W's and How: Open-ended questions often incorporate the "Who," "What," "When," "Where," "Why," and "How" aspects, which allow for a comprehensive exploration of the prospect's situation, needs, and motivations.
  • They lack a set pattern: Unlike closed-ended questions that may have a specific formula or structure, open-ended questions don't adhere to a rigid format. This flexibility allows salespeople to adapt their questions to different situations and tailor them to individual prospects.
  • They require thoughtful responses: Open-ended questions demand more than a simple one-word answer. They prompt prospects to reflect on their experiences, opinions, and preferences, leading to more meaningful and informative discussions.
  • They are subjective: Open-ended questions often revolve around personal feelings, perspectives, and experiences rather than relying solely on objective facts and figures. This subjective nature encourages prospects to share their thoughts and emotions, facilitating a deeper understanding of their needs.

Why Should You Ask Open Ended Questions for Sales

When it comes to sales qualification, asking open-ended questions for sales is a vital part of the sales process.. If you don't ask the right questions, you won't uncover what your customer desires or understand the problems they need solving. And not having that information can cost you a sale right from the beginning.

Benefits of Asking Open Ended Question Include:

  1. Building trust:
    Asking open-ended sales questions shows that you genuinely care about what they have to say.
    I’ve said it before but curiosity may have “killed the cat” but it makes a salesperson creating an atmosphere where people can freely share information.
  2. Demonstrating real interest:
    Showing sincere interest and concern for your clients, helps establish rapport and makes it easier for them to share information that will help you close the sale.
    Focusing on what matters to your prospect, rather than your product’s features, shows you as a modern sales professional.
  3. Gaining insights and qualitative data:
    Open-ended sales questions elicit thoughtful and detailed answers that closed-ended questions cannot provide. Additionally, you may uncover unexpected details that could impact the project's timeline, or the prospect's qualification and fit for your products or services. 

Open-Ended Vs. Closed Sales Questions

In sales, open-ended questions and closed questions serve different purposes.

  • Open-ended questions: These are questions that cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." . These questions promote conversation, allow for exploration of needs and challenges, and help build a deeper understanding of the prospect's situation.
  • Closed questions: These are questions that can be answered with a brief response, typically a "yes" or "no" or a specific piece of information. Closed questions often start with words like "Do," "Is," or "Are." They are useful for obtaining specific details or confirming information, but they limit the amount of information the person provides.

In sales conversations, using a combination of open-ended and closed questions can help gather both broad insights and specific details, leading to a more comprehensive understanding of the prospect's needs and enabling a tailored sales approach.

Closed Questions and the “yes set”

Closed questions can be used to set up a "yes set" strategy.

The "yes set" technique aims to get prospects into a habit of saying "yes" early on in the conversation. This can increase the likelihood of the prospect continuing to say "yes" throughout the sales process.

To implement the "yes set" strategy using closed questions, salespeople strategically ask a series of questions that are designed to elicit “yes” responses.  The idea is to create a pattern of agreement and build momentum towards a positive outcome.

Robert Cialdini has done lots of research in the field of influence and persuasion; he found that the yes set works because of our built-in need to be consistent. “The consistency principle.” (mentioned as the second major point on this page)

The yes set is still effective even if the person you are communicated with isn’t talking. The non-verbal yet set is just as effective. 

However, the "yes set" strategy can be recognised by the prospect leading them to think they are being manipulated

Building a "yes set" through non-sales related questions can be an effective approach to prevent prospects from recognizing the technique. 

Engaging in genuine conversation unrelated to the sales pitch helps  create rapport and establish a comfortable environment. It allows prospects to let their guard down and feel comfortable, leading to a higher likelihood of positive responses.


Some people have trouble thinking of question’s to ask that will get a positive response. Here are a few more that won’t fail you:

  • Repeat back what they said to you
  • Make a statement everyone agrees is true ( The weathers beautiful today, isn’t it? Or this rain just keeps on coming, doesn’t it? )
  • you Barack for X team don’t you (assumes you know their team)
  • you play golf at X course, don’t you
  • Make a statement like, “better safe than sorry, right?”
  • Give them a compliment they’ll agree with
  • You’ve been working here a long time haven’t you?
  • Reference a past experience everyone has had ( You remember what high school was like right? )

Open ended questions can do different things for you in sales

Rapport Building Open Ended Questions

When working to build a relationship with the potential customer and establish a personal connection, use Rapport Building Questions.

The prospect needs to be open with you in order for you to find out their wants and needs.

Example Questions

  • What needs to happen today to make this appointment worth your time?
  • What did you think you’d gain by taking this call with me?
  • How do you evaluate potential suppliers ?
  • What concerns do you have about making changes in this area?
  • What have I not covered that you would like to know more about?
  • How’s business? Have there been any changes since we last spoke?"
  • What goals are you hoping to achieve by working with our company?

By using these rapport building questions, you can foster a deeper connection, gain insights into your prospects' needs, and establish yourself as a trusted advisor. Remember to actively listen to their responses and continue the conversation based on their interests and concerns.

Qualifying Questions Can Be Open Ended

When dealing with new leads, it's important to assess their interest and figure out where they stand in the buying process. Qualifying questions help you understand how interested the prospect is and what steps you should take next to close the deal.

Sample Qualifying questions 

  • What’s our next step?
  • What is your timeline for implementing solutions for this project?
  • How should we move forward after today?
  • What kind of budget do you have for this project? 
  • How does your decision making process work?
  • Who else should we involve in this conversation?
  • What’s changed since the last time we spoke about this?

 Needs-Based Or Pain-Based Questions

Questions to Understand Needs or Problems, also known as Discovery questions:

When you want to find out more about the difficulties your prospects are facing, use questions that focus on their needs or problems. These are sometimes called pain-based questions. And don’t forget it’s not just about pains but also about what they want to gain. Just make sure to ask about the areas where your product or service can actually help.

Sample Questions

  • What’s preventing you from hitting your goals?
  • What are some challenges you’re looking to solve?
  • What improvements are you looking to make in your department?
  • What would make any changes you make worthwhile ?
  • Have you tried to resolve this problem before? What happened?
  • What measures have you taken to address these challenges?
  • What has been working well with your current processes? What has not?
  • If time and money were not factors, and you had full authority, what would you change about your current system?

Impact Or Benefit-Driven Questions

Questions about the Positive Effects or Benefits

If you're wondering how to convince a potential customer, ask them questions about the positive effects or benefits they're looking for. This will help you understand which features of your product or service they find most interesting. 

Once you have their answers, you can use them to guide your approach.

To get ready, familiarize yourself with the features and benefits of your product or service. This way, you can ask potential customers thoughtful questions that encourage them to share their thoughts.

Sample Questions

  • How important would you say [Feature] is to your [Industry/Process/Business]?
  • How much time do you spend [Performing a Specific Task]?
  • How would you spend the extra 30-60 minutes a day if you didn’t have to [Task]?
  • If this problem remains unsolved, how will it affect your business in the future?
  • How do you think you could avoid issues like A, B, and C?
  • What are the downstream effects of this problem we are solving?
  • What other parts of you operation will benefit with this issue optimized?

New Future Or New Reality Questions

Questions about a Better Future or Change:

These questions help prospects imagine how it would feel to achieve their goals by using your company's products or services. They are very effective in helping them envision a positive outcome.


  • How do you think changing this area would improve your day-to-day process?
  • What would you like to achieve in the next year by making this change?
  • If time and money were no object and you had full authority to do whatever you wanted, what would you change about your current system?
  • If you were to describe your situation in three years, what would you want to be different from what you have today?
  • If you could go back in time, what would you change about your business?

Questions About Objections

Objection-based questions are used to identify any concerns or objections that could potentially disrupt your sales process. They help you gather the necessary information to either address those objections or determine if the leads are not a good fit, allowing you to focus on other prospects.


  • The common objection is, “I need to discuss this with my supervisor,” so the question would be: “Who else is involved in making these types of decisions?”
  • The common objection is, “I can’t afford this right now,” so the question would be: “What budget do you have allocated for something like this?”
  • The common objection is, “I’m not interested in your product or service right now,” so the question would be: “When are you interested in learning how I can save you X% with this product/service?”
  • What concerns, if any, do you have so far?
  • What else would you like to talk about?
  • What would stop you from making a change today?. 
  • What other areas would you like to discuss moving forward?

Clarifying Questions

What if a prospect doesn't provide enough details about a particular topic? You can ask open-ended questions to help them clarify their thoughts and opinions. These questions are useful for guiding sales discussions while still allowing prospects to feel in control.

Sample Questions:

  • Can you tell me more about that?
  • What do you mean when you say [X]?
  • Would you be able to give me an example of that?
  • Can you give me more information on [X]
  • How does that work? Can you help me understand that a little better? 
  • How did that affect you – personally, as a team and as a business?

Closing Questions

Questions to Close the Sale:

To turn potential leads into paying customers, it's crucial to ask the right open-ended sales questions at the right moments. Here are a few questions that will help you finalize the deal and earn the commission bonus you've been aiming for:


  • What’s your timeline for making a purchase?
  • Who else are you comparing us against?
  • What would it look like if our products helped you overcome your challenges?
  • If we make a deal, what would it mean for you personally?
  • What else can I do to help you finalize your decision?
  • What do you see as the major factors influencing our timeline to start?
  • If you would overcome these challenges, what would it mean for your company’s bottom line?

Open-Ended Questions To Ask After Closing

You know the saying, every ending is a new beginning.

When you successfully close a deal, it's just the start of your company's relationship with a new customer. That's why it's important to ask interesting sales questions after closing to make sure customers are happy with their experience and eager to continue doing business with you.


  • What caused you to reach out to us?
  • How can we help you get started with [Product/service]?
  • Now that you’re a customer, what can we do to make sure your experience is perfect?
  • What questions do you have about the onboarding process?

Tips To Ask Better Open-Ended Questions for Sales

Once you’ve prepared your sales discovery questions for each stage of your prospect meeting, you should think about how to ask open-ended questions for sales.

Everything from the order in which you ask your questions to the various ways you transition from one to the next should be considered so that your flow seems natural and your prospects never feel like your conversations are overly structured.

Sales professionals who have trained use a series of needs-based questions to uncover the prospect’s pain. (SPIN Selling)

When asking open-ended questions for sales, start by asking board queries first, then working your way down to more specific ones.

 Begin with general questions like, "What are some things you'd like to change about your current situation?" Then, gradually ask more specific questions to dive deeper.

For example, ask a simple, non-threatening question to start such as, “What should I know about your business? Then look for areas to explore in greater detail based on the response you receive, using pointed questions to reveal important details.

Be Curious. It’s important to show sincere interest during the open-ended questioning process. Think about how you can help your prospects rather than the sales commission they represent. Nobody wants to interact with sleazy sales reps.

If you can make your sales calls about your prospects instead of about you, your company, or even the products and services you sell, you’ll have more success.

Shut your mouth. One of the best things you can do on a sales call is listen.

Let your prospects speak about the things on their minds. Ask questions that give you a deeper understanding of their circumstances. Listen actively and ask questions that provide a deeper understanding of their situation.Then adjust your approach to address their wants, needs, and concerns. Doing so will form a bond between you and potential customers.

As leadership guru Michael Hyatt says, “you will often find that people volunteer amazing amounts of information that you would have never obtained any other way.”

Keep it personal. While preparation is important, avoid sounding overly rehearsed or robotic. Strive to make the conversation feel personal and build rapport with potential customers rather than coming across as robotic.. Focus on getting to know them and how your products or services can improve their lives. 

This isn’t an invitation to not prepare for your sales calls. Instead, it’s a warning to not let your preparation distract you from your goal: to get to know your prospects so that you can sell them products and/or services that will make their lives better.

5 Mistakes Reps Make When Asking Open-Ended Sales Questions

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Asking Open-Ended Questions for Sales:

  1. Giving your own answers: Avoid suggesting answers to your questions. Let prospects share their thoughts without your influence.
  2. Not listening: Remember to actively listen to your clients. It defeats the purpose of asking open-ended questions if you don't pay attention to their responses.
  3. Interrogating: Avoid bombarding prospects with rapid-fire questions. Find a balance between asking follow-up questions and maintaining a conversational tone.
  4. Using too many "why" questions: "Why" questions can sound accusatory. Instead, use other W-questions like "What" to explore their actions or decisions.
  5. Rushing to offer solutions: Focus on building relationships, not immediately pitching your product or service. Wait for the right time to discuss how your offering can help.
  6. Overusing their name. Maybe that still works in car sales, but definitely not in B2B. It’s a red flag that someone is being salesy and feels disingenuous. Use their name in the beginning of the call and maybe once more when you are wrapping up the call. More than that is overkill.

Remember, successful sales require patience and building rapport with your prospects.

Further Reading