Open Sesame: The Magic of Open Questions

Adam Hankinson, Managing Director at Furniture Sales Solutions, talks about what questions you should be asking your customers.

As all great salespeople know, and as we tell all our delegates, we should treat every single person who enters our store as if they’re a buyer. Once we have this idea cemented in our minds, then the next hurdle is how do we begin to build genuine interest and rapport with each customer, as well as truly understanding their needs, wants, and desires?

The answer is open questions. It’s the same way that we build real relationships in everyday life. If you were to meet someone for the first time and start to reel-off lots of closed questions:

  • Where are you from?
  • Have you been here before?
  • The weather’s been bad, hasn’t it?

It wouldn’t get us very far; we wouldn’t find out much about this new person and it may quickly start to feel more like an interrogation than a conversation. However, if instead we try to ask some more open questions:

  • What brought you here today?
  • What do you like to do for fun?
  • Where do you work?

We’re likely to get more detailed and interesting answers, which tell us a lot more about this new person and help us start to build a picture in our minds of what this person is all about and what they’re interested in.

I imagine that at the start of every new interaction every customer is like a closed door, but every open question that we can ask them allows us to open this door by another inch. Some open questions are better than others and will open it even more until finally we’re able to see the full view of what’s inside.

For example, we might ask:

  • How would you describe your perfect sofa/bed/dining group?
  • What are your 3 must-haves for your new sofa/bed/dining group?
  • Why are you thinking of changing?
  • What kind of style are you going for in your living room/dining room/bedroom?
  • What colours or materials did you have in mind for your new furniture?

Each of these questions will give us a little bit more information to work with so that we can add more and more clarity to the image of that perfect product for each unique customer. 

Remember that these questions aren’t only for your benefit, but they will also help the customer to establish for themselves what they TRULY want. Most likely they won’t have considered many of these necessary details because they just have a general, broad idea in their mind (i.e. “I want a blue sofa”, “We don’t want leather”, “we want it to be stain-resistant”, etc).

The more that we can avoid the terrible habit of a constant stream of closed questions and downloading hundreds of product facts and features, which ultimately leads to a completely overwhelmed customer, and instead try to instil the habit of using thoughtful open questions linked to relevant and helpful product benefits, the better our sales performance will become.

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