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Open or Closed ??... That is the question.....


Those of us that have been fortunate enough to be involved in world of sales have at some stage in our career been taught the open questioning technique. It seems that regardless of technical innovations, wars, medicine, politics and anything else, the open questioning within a sales technique, has never, and will never, die.

Mr Kipling does make great cakes but Mr Rudyard Kipling was the man that created our 5 opening questions...

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who


Opening questioning has been taught in many training sessions and classrooms around the globe and today the open question is still going strong. It works well, in fact it works extremely well!

Open questioning is not just used in sales scenarios but in every day life, when speaking to spouses, friends and colleagues. The power of asking a question which MUST require an answer other than a YES or a NO is a clever and valuable tool in many situations in life.

Attempting to get someone to respond to a question with an answer other than yes or no is achieved with the open question but when you actually are seeking the yes or no answer, then asking the closed question is totally acceptable and the technique just as powerful.

How good are you at using open and closed questions in your profession? It's used in Recruitment and all other forms of sales and some people are great at these techniques and some people are not so! One of my old time favourites of a closed question with the hope of receiving a resounding YES would be "If I could show you a way of ....... would you be interested?" Now you have to be pretty confident that what you are showing your prospect is damn good and he/she will be itching to say YES. Opening Questions such as "How often do you think you would use this service" are great or "What time is best for you to visit, either 3pm or 5pm?", now that last cracker was a combination of an open questioning technique with an alternative close thrown in for good measure!


Alternative closing is another tool in the sales persons box and when used correctly has a great use in various situations. Recruiter's as well as all sales people may tend to use alternative closing on time or day related questions such as "Mr Client I would like to visit you on Tuesday at 12 or would Wednesday at 9 , which one would be best for you?" now this prospect cannot say yes and neither can he say no to the question, he has to communicate with hopefully an agreement to one of your suggestions or at least a suggestion from him of an alternative day or time.

I have been involved in sales for nearly 25 years now and I never stop learning new techniques. A great sales person is someone that can listen and listen well, maybe that's why we were given 2 ears and just one mouth? The art of a good sales person is one that can utilise their listening and spoken skills at the right time. Listen out for buying signals, if you don't stop yapping, you may not hear them!

Twenty years ago I was fortunate enough to receive training from an American trainer at a course in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. The trainer taught me a skill which I still use to this day called 'needs based selling', it's nothing new to the sales world and its technique as with all sales techniques is quite easy to use, as long as you apply it correctly. Always sell to someone's needs is the key to this technique. Here's an example:


A man goes into a shop to purchase a radio. The shop sales person grabs the opportunity and asks if he can help the customer. The customer says "yes I am looking to purchase a radio". The sales person proceeds to say the following "Great, this radio I have here is the best on the market, it has Dolby digital stereo, multi channel broadcasting pre-sets, a large base speaker, sleep timer and a great carry case for transporting it". The customer looks at the sales person and says "Thanks very much, I will think about it" and walks out the shop. No sale there!

The customer proceeds to walk into the next shop and again says to the sales person "I am looking to purchase a radio", This sales person then says to the customer "Great, lets find out what features you need from the radio Sir, what is it that's important to you that this radio offers?" The customer then says "I would like a radio that has a an alarm clock built into it so I can use it when I travel, I would also like it to be able to run on both mains and battery power, I would like to plug my mp3 player into it so it needs to have an audio in socket and finally it must be able to transmit on all wave lengths such as MW, FM and LW". The salesman presents the customer with a radio that provides all those needs that the customer had. The customer purchased the radio and the sale was closed. Finding out the needs of your prospect is critical, needs based selling works. Try it.

I would be very interested to hear of other techniques that you use in everyday sales scenarios. What works for you and what doesn't? There are so many other techniques that I have not yet mentioned that I will cover such as "Negative Selling".

If you have any techniques that work well for you then please do share them with us all.

(For my American friends, an explanation of Mr Kipling and Cakes is that a brand of Cakes and Pastries in UK is branded with the name Mr Kipling and they are extremely good cakes!!)

Views: 120

Tags: cakes, closed, closing, kipling, open, questions, recruiting, sales, training

Comment by Rebecca B. Sargeant on July 29, 2010 at 10:09pm
You are so right! Engaging and listening to your clients is the only way to assist them. I am looking forward to your next post "negative selling"

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