A closed question is one which restricts the ways in which it can be answered. Yes or No. This or That.
An open question gives the other person a great deal of freedom in how they choose to answer. These questions often begin with words like what, why, when, who, where, and how.
In High Probability Selling (HPS), we ask a lot of questions, both open and closed, each in their own place and time. It’s a discovery process. There are a lot of things to find out.
When we ask a prospect anything about want, we always ask a closed question. We want to hear a simple yes or no answer. “Is that something you want?”
If a prospect says “yes” to our question about want, we ask, “Why?” That’s a very open question.
After we set an appointment for our next meeting or phone conversation with the prospect, we ask an open question again. We ask, “When we meet, if our packaging meets your criteria, what will you do?” We leave this as open as possible, without suggesting an answer. We never ask, “Will you buy from me?”
When we ask questions to find out what kind of person the prospect is, and what sort of relationship is likely to form, almost all of our questions are open ones. We learn more that way. (See Chapter 7 in the book.)
In the Discovery / Disqualification process (Chapter 8 in the book), most of the questions we ask are open questions. Even the closed ones leave the other person some latitude in how they might choose to respond.
Near the end of the sale, when we review the details, we we ask a series of closed questions. For each feature, we ask, “Will that work for you?”
And finally, at the close, we ask another open question: “What do you want to do?”
Jacques Werth (co-author of the book, High Probability Selling) has written about using open questions in the context of needs-based selling (Questions: Open-Ended or Close-Ended?). That article seems to suggest that HPS asks more closed questions than open ones. However, the opposite is true. We just use open questions for a different purpose than all of the “getting-people-to-buy” methods of selling.