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The art of asking questions

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The two most important aspects of selling are asking questions and listening. The listening part is easy, though we all need more practice; it’s asking the proper question that we salespeople must master. The proper question will make your potential buyer tell you everything you need to know to sell him or her. So what different types of questions and listening skills can we can learn to improve our ability to help our prospects?

Types of questions

  • Open-ended
  • Closed-ended
  • Tie-down
  • Inverted tie-down
  • Tag-on tie-down

Open-ended questions

Open-ended questions are those that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer.

Such as:

  • How have you used your current plan in the past year?
  • Which feature have you received the most benefit from in your current plan?

Words that initiate open-ended questions:

Tell me…Describe…How…Explain…What…Why…

Remember questions “gather” information.

Closed-ended questions

Closed-ended questions generally require a “yes” or “no” (or a one or two word) response.

Too many closed-ended questions make the interaction an interrogation.

However, closed-ended questions help break the ice and loosen up a resistant prospect.

Words that initiate open ended questions:


Tie-down questions

Tie-down questions are generally used at the end of a sentence. You normally already know the answer.

They are most commonly used to:

  • Get agreement of small points.
  • Ask when you know the answer to be yes.
  • Get and give acknowledgement from prospect that they understand and agree with solutions discussed.

Words that initiate tie-down questions:

  • Aren’t you? Couldn’t you? Doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it? Isn’t it?
  • Isn’t that right? Didn’t it? Wasn’t it? Won’t you?

Inverted tie-down: Use at the beginning of a sentence.

  • Isn’t it nice to know…
  • Isn’t it reassuring to have…

Tag-on tie-down: Use every time your prospect says something that indicates a buying motive.

Prospect: “Protecting my assets is important.”

Agent: “Isn’t it.”

You tie it down to get a complete “minor” agreement: Don’t you?

Active listening skills

Asking questions implies listening for the answer. To actively listen means to interpret and get feedback from the prospect.

There are six active listening skills:

1. Acceptance responses

Use these to indicate you are listening:

I see…I understand…Uh huh…Yes…

2. Repeating

Restate key words or phrases of the prospect.

You only want a…deductible.”

3. Paraphrasing

Restate, in your own words, your understanding of what the prospect said.

4. Reflecting

Give feedback to the prospect that conveys the emotional overtones of their comments.

“That can be so frustrating.”

Be congruent with your voice, tone and message.

Remember, you paraphrase content and reflect emotion.

5. Clarifying questions

When the prospect says something that is not clearly understood, or open for interpretation, ask questions to clarify the meaning of the message.

Prospect: “Health insurance is expensive.”

Agent: “Is it more than you expected or more than you are willing to pay?

6. Summarizing

Simply summarize the dominant buying points the prospect has disclosed. Use the prospect’s words and phrases as much as possible.

Remember questions gather information, objections “disclose” information.

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