How Can Open Questions Prevent Your Prospects Closing You Down?

How Can Open Questions Prevent Your Prospects Closing You Down?

Fact: People say no and very rarely say yes when they’re faced with a closed question, particularly in a sales scenario. It’s human nature. It comes almost as naturally as scratching an itch.

Imagine a browser in a shoe shop. An Assistant approaches and asks, “Do you need any help there?” The answer “No” is swiftly fired back, almost before the Assistant has got the question out.

Or, an exhibition visitor. He pauses at a stand, starts leafing through a brochure, picks up, reads and pockets the salesperson’s business card. The salesperson flicks on a kilowatt smile and asks, “Hi there, can I help you?”. An echo of “No, thank you, just looking” can be heard as the visitor disappears up the aisle.

The Shop Assistant and the Exhibitor were both closed because they made it too easy for their prospects to brush them off with a simple, definitive, “No”.

Yet, a different question – an open question – elicits a different, more productive answer, and even a conversation.

This reflects the importance of open questions to salespeople, especially salespeople who are finding themselves closed down too regularly and unable to progress to meaningful conversation with prospects.

What are the Six Types of Open Questions?

Paula Bates, Managing Director of Toucan Telemarketing , advises the six types of open questions that all salespeople should know and use –.

  1. “Who?”
  2. “What?”
  3. “Where?”
  4. “When?”
  5. “Why?”
  6. “How?”

“Open questions make it more difficult for prospects to shut you down at the get-go like they can with closed questions”, Paula explains.

She should know. Her team make thousands of prospecting calls daily for a broad variety of corporate clients that use Toucan as their outsourced telemarketing partner.  

“They require prospects to think about what you’re asking. And, they demand a fuller answer, not just a yes or no, usually a no initially.”

“But open questions should always be asked with an element of empathy. There’s more of a chance of getting people to say more to you in response to open questions. Over-use them though, or don’t use them with empathy – like mirroring, to eke a little bit more out of your prospects – and you’ll come across as glib and annoying.”

Openness Extends to Attitude, Too

To this end, Paula is keen to add that the art of using open questions goes beyond the questions themselves.

“Having an open attitude is part and parcel of using open questions, besides the nature of the questions themselves”, she discloses.

“It all comes back to demonstrating genuine, human interest in your prospect. If you engage with them openly, curiously, like you’re bothered about them and their issues, they’ll have a much better feeling about you and be more inclined to engage with you again.”

How good is your business at getting the conversations with prospects and keeping their attention once you’ve got it? Contact Paula Bates on 01260 294444 or email paula@toucantelemarketing.co.uk for a chat about expert outsourced help with your prospecting. 



A friendly and accomplished copywriter and content creator based in Manchester, Judith Rafferty initially mastered her craft during a longstanding successful sales and marketing career with several market leading high street restaurant and bar brands. She now specialises in digital marketing and conversion copy for a vast range of SME and larger corporate businesses.