Recently I was involved in a discussion about different types of questions sellers can ask during calls to have a buyer share goals (or problems) that can be achieved through the use of a seller’s offering.

We discussed the types of questions that can be asked and the pros/cons of each:

Questions to Ask Executive Buyers

Open questions…

PRO: Open questions allow buyers the comfort of going wherever they want in responding.
CON: The risk is that buyers can stray from the direction sellers were hoping to go.

Control questions…

PRO: Control questions elicit short responses (a yes or no, a number, etc.) that allow sellers to drive conversations.
CON: The downside is they can dominate calls if they use too many control questions. In extreme cases buyers can feel like hostile witnesses being cross-examined.

Framing questions…

PROS: Framing questions offer the best of both worlds. They start with the words “How do you ___?” Sellers fill in the blank that will provide boundaries as to what areas buyers will discuss. Framing questions require easy answers, facilitate buyers doing more talking and allow sellers to more gently steer conversations in desired directions.

Executive Insomnia

Someone then asked if “What keeps you up at night?” was a good or bad question to pose to executives. Before buyers will share goals or problems sellers must establish their sincerity and competence (Steven Covey’s definition of being deemed trustworthy). I feel buyers would be put off if asked this question prematurely.


[clickandtweet handle=”@PrimaryIntel” hashtag=”” related=”@Official_CCS” layout=”” position=””]To elicit meaningful responses, sellers have to earn the right to pose the question.[/clickandtweet]

A safer approach?

Offer a brief title/industry specific success story with a goal the seller feels may be relevant to the buyer and ask if they’d be interested in learning more. If a goal isn’t shared, the seller could ask framing questions to establish credibility. If no goal is shared, the seller can offer a menu of goals as a final effort to get a buying cycle started.

This is a gentler approach. If goals aren’t shared, then sellers can provide a menu of goals that have kept other executives awake and ask if any apply to the buyer.

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