When working in retail, in any industry, there are close and open-ended questions that can (and should) be asked of your customers to enhance your ability to provide a solution to your customers. I’ve attended many trainings that teach that close-ended questions are bad because it closes off your ability to get the customer talking and it impedes the ability to create a viable solution for the customer. However, close-ended questions can be quite helpful and should be in conjunction with open-ended questions to guide the sales in the desired direction.
An open-ended question is a question asked of the customer that will generally result in the customer giving you some information and is more than a one- or two-word answer. A close-ended question is one that should be used to gain approval or information about a customer’s likes or dislikes.
Examples of great open-ended questions:
- How did you hear about [name of product or service]?
- Where have you looked already?
- What will you use [name of product or service] for?
- What brings you in today?
- What would you like to know about [product/service]?
Examples of great close-ended questions:
- Do you like [product A] or [product B] best?
- What color are you looking for?
- Will this [product name] be for you, or given as a gift?
- Based on what you’ve told me about what you’re looking for, may I recommend a product/service for you?
- Shall we go to the counter and get this setup for you?
As you can see, there are certain close-ended questions that can and should be used during the sales process to help the sales representative better determine what the customer is looking for by gaining pertinent information quickly.
Customers want to be treated and spoken to as a friend or family member. They want to know what you would recommend to your friends without the technical and sales-y talk and hype. They don’t want to be looked at as a number or just another sale. They want to know that they are getting what they need at the best price, and that what they are getting is the same as what you would recommend to your friends.
The sales cycle should be one that is more of a conversation with the customer, not just a Q&A. Personally, as a customer, I am turned off when I’m thrown a bunch of repetitive questions that I have to answer in succession. When a rep asks a bunch of questions in succession they sound rehearsed and dry. But, when a rep talks to a customer like a friend, then it’s a conversation about what the customer wants and needs, and what the best products and services are for the customer.