As Britney Bailey discussed in her blog Teleprospecting: Using Open Ended Questions to Drive the Conversation , the key to a great teleprospecting conversation is asking questions that get your contact talking. You will learn a lot more about the company, their individual situation, needs, and interests without having to ask question after question, survey-style, if you know what kinds of questions to ask.
While reading a book recently, I found it interesting to see the author point out the importance of open ended questions as opposed to close ended questions as a way to get a good conversation going. Open ended questions are preferable to close ended in many situations, as they require a response that is lengthier, more in depth, and typically encourage the contact to become more engaged. For lead generation, close ended questions are crucial for starting a conversation, gaining control and summarizing a conversation, and achieving closure.
The use of both open and close ended questions is something that we highlight to our agents regularly during training and ongoing coaching and calibration sessions. But the author mentioned an interesting point about what he termed “wide open ended questions,” they are too overwhelming! Asking a wide open question will leave your contact confused and unsure of where to go with the conversation, having the opposite effect of the one you were hoping to achieve.
Here are some examples of wide open vs. open ended questions.
- What are your initiatives for the next 12 to 18 months? vs. What is your next priority?
- Tell me about your IT environment… vs. Tell me about where you are in terms of server virtualization…
Questions that seem wide open can work well if the conversation has a strong focus and direction. For example, asking a question like: “How do you feel about that?” can be too open if asked in reference to a very broad theme, while it is a great conversation starter in response to a more restricted topic.
Once you are asking the right questions there is one last step to having a great lead generation conversation: listen for the answers. After asking an open ended question, be prepared for what might seem like an awkward pause as it takes more time to answer a question when you have to think through your response. It is important to wait it out, the last thing you want to do is ask a great question and then interrupt the answer!