Anyone who’s been involved in negotiations or sales knows the power of a well-phrased question. But a simple focus on asking more questions won’t improve your results unless you work to ask the right kind of questions.
You’ve likely heard of “open” and “closed” questions. But do you understand what those labels mean on a deeper, practical level? Keep reading if you want to put the power of open ended questions to work in your sales presentations or your next negotiation.
Closed questions: What are they?
Most people ask closed questions, most of the time. Why? Because they are easy to come up with and temporarily fill the silence we find so uncomfortable when interacting with others.
Closed questions can be answered quickly, with a “yes” or a “no.” They don’t require much thought on those who answer them and don’t provide much information. If you desire to keep a conversation going, a closed question is sure to kill it.
It should be obvious that closed questions are not helpful for sales or negotiations.
Open ended questions: The key to greater insight and collaboration
When the question you ask requires the person answering to stop, think, and explain or expound, you have opened the door to greater understanding. You’ve just asked an open question.
Open questions are powerful because they get the other person talking and reveal their opinions and emotions, which can be helpful in any negotiation. Open ended questions also help you see things from the other person’s perspective because you get feedback from them in their own words. When you better understand where they are coming from, you can craft an agreement that satisfies their desires and gets what you want from the negotiation.
But perhaps most importantly, when you ask open questions, you build trust. This is because, in a way, you hand the control of the conversation to the other person when you ask an open question. This gives them a greater sense of control and opens the door to further openness and transparency in the conversation.
Mark Raffan recently had a conversation with negotiation trainer and sales coach Julia Ewert, and they discussed the power and application of open questions to win negotiations and increase sales. Take the time to listen.