Most advice surrounding sales questioning focuses on asking open-ended questions. Open-ended sales questions are great because they entreat the buyer to open and start talking.

But, open-ended questions shouldn’t be used at the exclusion of closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions are great for diagnosis. Whether you get a “yes” or a “no” answer, it’s easy to follow-up and get the buyer to elaborate.

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 are a few examples:

  • Do you feel like you’re hiring the best people consistently?
  • Do you feel like you’re getting the pool of candidates you want when you’re looking to hire, and getting them fast enough?
  • Do you feel like you’re wasting time sifting through the also-rans to get to the highest potential candidates?
  • When you make offers, do the best candidates accept them as often as you would hope?

You can see how these questions are very specific and can open up new paths of discussion.

Here are four examples of closed-ended questions you can use in your next sales discussion.

  1. Would you say all of your customer service reps are using the technology to its full ability?
    This question is all about finding holes in the buyer’s operational processes and isn’t limited to reps and tech. Replace with “project managers” and “building materials,” and you have a different conversation with a different buyer.
  2. Should your team be doing more of X?
    Similar to many of the questions in this area, if they say yes, you can explore this further. If they say no, you can do the same. Push the buyer with questions that get them to question their initial response.If they should be doing more of X, you can ask them many follow-up questions.


What difference would it make if they did?

Are any of them doing a lot more than others? What sets them apart?

What do you think would need to happen to get them to do more of X?

  1. Do you think you’re doing all you can in [insert area]?
    Maybe they are. Maybe they aren’t. But this question, coupled with a follow-up question, will challenge them to deeply consider their efforts.
  2. Do you think [insert area] is a problem for you?
    If they say yes, you can explore. If they say no, same thing. You can push them with questions that get them to question their initial response. As the expert, you’ve seen what problems other companies in their space face. This question both establishes you as knowledgeable about their industry and exposes potential pitfalls.

You can very quickly get a great deal of information by employing closed-ended questions. Of course, each answer can be followed with a “why?” or “tell me more about that” to dig deeper.

The best sellers use a mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions to conduct a thorough needs discovery, touching on a number of different topics.

It’s also important to remember that the best sales conversations balance advocacy and inquiry—how much they ask questions with how much they talk. The conversation should be a back and forth where you’re asking good questions and sharing appropriately how you’ve helped others address the same challenges and what you know could work for them too.