“The art of asking good questions”

Of course, most salespeople are aware that asking good questions is necessary to understand the needs of the prospect or customer.

What is the most perfect approach for this?

First, the salespeople should ask open-ended questions. These start with who, what, when, why or how.

This ensures that prospects or customers will answer more extensively. For example, if you only ask closed questions, you will only get a yes or no. With these answers you can experience less what is going on with the prospect or customer.


It is very important to immerse yourself in the customer. Without this knowledge, it is difficult to ask substantive questions. So preparation is everything! Go deep into your customer beforehand and ask yourself some relevant questions about the sector or the position of the prospect. It not only makes this process more efficient, but also comes across as good.

Scoring with hook-in questions

It has happened to everyone that customers can be vague. This is obviously bad if you want to obtain information during a sales conversation.

You can get more information from customers by asking plug-in questions. What is this?

In concrete terms, you will ask for clarification when you ask questions.

Example :

Customer : ‘In general, apart from some minor flaws, we are quite satisfied with our current system.’

Salesperson : ‘Little minuses, what do you mean?’

You can do it even shorter, repeat the gist of what the other has just said in interrogative form ‘Small minuses?’ You reflect in a questioning tone what the other person just told you. You can of course also add:

“Can you tell me more about that?”

Another example:

Customer : ‘A few months ago we were almost done with another supplier, but that fell through at the last minute…’

Salesperson : ‘What was the reason for this?’

Avoid here to talk about the benefits

The answer to these questions is the starting signal for many sellers to start talking about the many benefits of their product. Prevent this! First, these benefits for customers are rarely the reason for switching suppliers. You must first analyze the need further and respond to the negative consequences of the pain point that the customer is experiencing.

Asking hook-in questions opens new doors that would otherwise remain closed. This all sounds very logical, yet many sellers miss out on these opportunities. Instead of asking these kinds of questions, they assume things. They assume they already know the answer. You should NEVER do this! NEVER ASSUME.

Situation Questions

Make sure that your needs analysis with the customer does not come across as an interrogation. What can you do to prevent this? Watch out for situation questions! This is asking for facts and circumstances. Of course the answers are useful for the seller, but for the customers these questions have already been asked many times and is repeated for the umpteenth time.

Hook-in questions come in handy here too. In order not to give the prospect or customer the feeling that they are being questioned, you can ask questions. People answer this almost automatically, because you give them the opportunity to provide further explanation.

Be short and to the point!

Don’t start explaining your question after asking. Here it can happen differently that the prospect or customer then asks: ‘What did you actually want to know?’

Keep your mouth shut and stop speaking after asking your question. Resist the temptation to put an answer in the customer’s mouth when the silence lasts longer. This can come across as quite manipulative and you run the risk of telling him/her the wrong answer.

Asking for confidential information

When you ask for confidential or sensitive information, it is wise to give a reason for your question.

For example: ‘To be able to make a correct calculation of your pension, it is necessary to know how much you earn now. We can then make a comparison with the income you will receive after retirement and in this way determine whether you are short of something. Can you therefore indicate how much you earn now?’

Multiple choice questions are a no-go!

You put answers in the mouth of the prospect or customer from which he/she has to choose. If none of these answers are relevant, they should come up with something. This makes it difficult for them and often they will choose an answer most suitable, with which you obviously do not know much more.

Non-verbal communication

Pay attention to the customer’s facial expression/position when he answers. Non-verbal signals sometimes say much more than what they literally say to you.

For example: when answering a question about deliveries, you can clearly see that something is not pleasant with the prospect or customer. Inquire about this! This way you can uncover interesting information that you can use in your value proposition!

Types of questions

  • Closed questions
  1. Starting with a verb
  2. Can be answered with yes or no
  3. Do you use to verify something: verification question
  4. Do you use it to let people make a choice or make a decision: closing question

Open questions

  1. Beginning with an interrogative pronoun: who, what, why, which, how
  2. Can’t answer yes or no
  3. Use you to collect information

In a specific context, open and closed questions can take on a special meaning.

  • The affirmation spoken in a questioning tone , to affirm something or to ask for consent:

So the operational unit is located in the middle of the port of Antwerp?

  • The alternative question , to let the customer make a choice:

Do you prefer a temporary cheap solution or do you prefer a sustainable solution?

  • The counter question : the question in response to a question from the customer, especially applicable in the closing phase:

Customer: What are your shortest delivery times?

Seller: What quantities are we talking about then?

Or better: To help you further, we can even deliver from our stock within three days. What quantities would you like to order?

There is also a universal counter-question: Is this important to you?

  • The hypothesis question : with this the seller puts his interlocutor in a hypothetical situation; making the situation appear real would be too much of a deterrent for the customer and too much risk for the seller to meet sharp resistance.

Salesperson: Suppose you had to press the emergency stop in your production, what would be the consequences?

  • The rhetorical question : that is a question to which you do not expect an answer. Be careful because that can sometimes be disappointing.

Salesperson: We could of course ask ourselves: how are your customers going to react to this? But let’s leave that aside.

  • The control question: with this question you can check something:

Seller: Did I explain that clearly?

Seller: Was that an answer to your question?

  • The Leading Question : A question to use judiciously, here is an example of a good use of the leading question:

Salesperson: And who are your customers?

Client: Mainly banks and insurance companies.

Seller: And the department stores too, right?

Customer: Yes, of course, they also use our electronic payment systems.

Seller: So you mean Carrefour, Delhaize…?

Customer: Yes, everyone. Nowadays you can pay electronically everywhere.

Seller: And retailers who pay electronically, aren’t those also potential customers for you?

Customer: Yes indeed, in fact all companies that can accept payment electronically are potential customers for us.

Seller: That’s almost all SMEs, if you take the future developments in the field of electronic payments into account?

Customer: Yes, you could put it that way.

Seller: So is your ultimate target audience very large?

Customer: Yes.

The example above concerns the sale of advertising space. The larger the customer’s target audience, the more meaningful publicity in a national medium becomes. Initially, the customer limits his target group to banks and insurance companies. With leading questions, the seller has broadened this picture significantly.

With all these questions you can already collect a lot of information from the prospect or customer. Now it’s up to you! Do you have questions for us? Do not hesitate to get in touch!