Are you confused about the difference between open vs closed questions? In this short article I will explain the difference with examples and you will wonder what the fuss was all about!.

Before we start looking at the difference, it is probably worth taking a step back and looking at why we need to worry about questions in the first place. So here is a statement of the blinking obvious:

In consultative selling, we ask questions to get answers!

Now we need to think about the kind of answers we want:.

Do we want information? Or do we want the prospect to make a decision?
Open questions

Open questions are used to get specific information. For example:

What does the prospect want?

Why do they want it?

When do they want it?

Where will they want it delivered?

How will they make their decision?

Open-ended questions only really make sense when you compare them with the exact opposite: Close-ended questions
Closed questions

Closed questions are used to get a decision. For example:

Would you like to go ahead?

What colour would you prefer – green or blue?

Which is best for you – Tuesday or Thursday?

Have I understood that correctly? (after summarising a conversation)

Whilst the above closed questions have two alternatives, a closed question can have more than two options. For example:

Would you prefer tea, coffee, or a soft drink?

Technically this is a closed question because there is a specific choice.

Often closed questions are associated with questions that can only answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ respeonse. The choice is not given but it is implied. For example:

Did you enjoy the seminar?
What does this mean for sales?

When you are going through the discovery stage of the consultative sales process you want to be asking open questions because you want information and you ask closed questions to confirm your understanding of the information.

When you get to the point of the sales process where you want your prospect to make a decision, you ask a closed question.

My best advice is to forget about open and closed questions and focus your attention on deciding what answers you want and then choosing the best question to get you that answer.