In the sales world, close-ended questions get a bad rap – and we’re here to call bull.
There’s no doubt that when misused (especially during the wrong parts of a sales conversation), close-ended questions can flatline your ability to close a prospect.
Still, don’t get it twisted: Sales expert Mike Schultz writes, “By asking closed-ended questions, you can uncover needs the prospect may not yet perceive as a problem, but when you ask so specifically, they sometimes reconsider.”
Here’s an example: “Do all of your sales development reps use the technology to its full capability?”
If you know how to wield the power of these questions and when to ask them, consider your sales game unstoppable.
The key is to use close-ended questions alongside open-ended questions to yield as much information about your prospect as you work to get them across the finish line.
Close-ended vs. open-ended (and when to use the former!)
Here’s some wisdom for all sales reps: “Questions are the simplest tool you have available as a sales professional, but it all comes down to how you frame them,” explains VanillaSoft’s CRO Darryl Praill.
Whereas probing open-ended sales questions often start with words like “why,” and “how,” you’ll notice that close-ended questions start with verbs like “are,” “is,” “did,” “which” – you get the idea.
Any question you can answer with a yes or no is close-ended. And while you use open ones during sales calls to understand your prospect’s business better and to get them to open up more, close-ended questions work best to:
- Get quantitative data from a lead.
- Learn basic biographical information.
- Get exact and direct answers.
- Decide if it makes sense to continue pursuing a lead based on budgets and timelines.
- Set goals and KPIs you aim to achieve and exceed.
- Push the sales process forward.
Another great way to use closed-ended questions? When you need to assess how cold or warm a lead is.
These questions are designed to help you get short, specific answers, so we are warning you: Don’t prepare a long list of these when you want to initiate long discussions with prospects or build an emotional connection.
4 types of close-ended questions every sales pro needs to know
Close-ended questions have plenty of advantages: they’re easy to answer, statistical analysis is simpler, and they often provide better insight.
But you can’t just ask any question and expect it to help seal the deal. For maximum results, stick to these four types of close-ended questions for sales.
1. Ranking in order
What does your prospect value the most? When you ask this type of close-ended question, you set out to learn more about their needs.
Here’s what it looks like: “Please rank the following in order of importance from one to four, where one is most important to you in a product, and four is least important: reliability, multi-functionality, user friendly, speed of service.”
2. One or the other
The dichotomous close-ended question might be the easiest type for prospects to interpret and answer. If framed the right way, there are only two possible answers: yes or no, or true or false – the only exception is if you ask a question that seeks a direct answer.
Check it out: “Are you pleased with your current vendor?” Or, “What’s your favorite CRM?”
3. Classic checklist or multiple choice
This was everyone’s favorite in school, and it still might be the preferred type during a sales call. Who doesn’t love the options?
Multiple choice close-ended questions usually include several parts: The question itself is the stem, then you have the correct answer, distractor questions to throw people off the scent of the right one, and some alternative answers.
Plus, when you ask this type of question, you get to limit the possible responses, which makes data collection that much easier. Win-win!
4. The 0-5 rating scale
Do you agree or disagree? Do you agree strongly, or are you neutral? You know this type of close-ended question.
Sales reps should use rating scale close-ended questions to score information about a specific service, product, or feature, especially if qualitative measures are part of the process.
If you don’t know what these questions look like, here are two examples:
1️⃣ “On a scale of 1 to 5, how disinterested or interested are you in purchasing a sales engagement tool? 1 = not at all interested, and 5 = extremely interested.”
2️⃣ “Rate your agreement with this statement: ‘I understand who this product is for.’ 1 means you strongly disagree, and 5 means you strongly agree.”
35 best close-ended questions for sales pros to ask prospects
On your next sales call, use close-ended questions to get pointed answers from your prospects about their business needs – and you can pick from this list:
1. What’s your #1 goal?
2. Which vendor(s) do you use currently?
3. Where and how did you hear about us?
4. Do you have any must-haves, should-haves, and could-haves for this solution?
5. Are you in charge of the decision-making process?
6. Who are the stakeholders we need to contact to close this deal?
7. Are you satisfied with your current sales numbers?
8. Do you feel like you got all the information you needed?
9. What’s your timeline for making a purchase decision?
10. How likely are you to make a purchase from us again?
11. Do you know what your KPIs are?
12. Are you comparing us against other vendors?
13. Did you like your competitor’s latest campaign?
14. Where can I go to learn more about what you do?
15. Are there other products or solutions you use that our product has to integrate with?
16. Do you like this feature our product provides?
17. Do you think you’re doing all you can with your [insert area] efforts?
18. Does this make sense to you so far?
19. How satisfied are you with our level of communication?
20. Do you want us to improve your experience?
21. Do you have any comments or suggestions?
22. Have you ever executed this kind of project before?
23. Have you faced any challenges with this kind of product or service?
24. How can I help you grow your business?
25. Do you think this solution can help you perform better?
26. Did you like or dislike the product demo?
27. Will you be deciding within the next two months?
28. Is this the sort of solution you’re looking for?
29. Would you recommend our product/service?
30. When would you like to set a follow-up?
31. Are you considering changing your suppliers for this product?
32. Do you think [insert area] is a problem for you?
33. Are you happy with your existing supplier?
34. Does this fall into your budget range?
🔑 Finally, go big or go home.
35. Are you ready to move forward with this? (OR: When can we begin?)
⭐️ Bonus: On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate our team’s service up to this point?
Sales guru Tony Morris says the top salespeople aren’t afraid of asking for a prospect’s business, “of asking for the appointment, asking for the referral, asking the questions that uncover their biggest challenges.”
Even if you tank, go for it – growth is on the other side of a few yes or no questions.
Psst! While you re-strategize which close-ended questions you include in your sales pitch, watch this webinar ASAP to learn how to turbo-charge your appointment setting.