Selling a Service by Asking Better Questions

selling a serviceTo be successful in selling a service the sales person’s primary role is to present a solution to their customer’s current needs and then to close the sale by demonstrating to the customer how the service they offer solves these current requirements. An effective method of finding out a customer’s needs is by asking questions.

For sales people, developing an effective questioning technique means learning how to ask questions which require more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer from the customer (known as "closed" questions). You have probably heard that it is better to ask customers so called "open" questions - those which contain the interrogatives what, why, when, which, how, who and where. The main reason for this is that open questions encourage discussion and disclosure, as they require the customer to provide more information.

However, when asking open questions the construction of the question you ask is vitally important. Effective sales people know they need to encourage the client to take an active part in the sales discussion. Framing such questions requires practice.

You can obtain important information to help you to identify the customer’s needs with the help of the following open questions:

‘If you could select a service level irrespective of price - what would you choose and why?’

This question provides useful information about the customer’s perfect solution.

‘Could you describe for me what you are looking for a service provider to do so as to meet your requirements?’


‘What standards does a supplier have to meet to earn a share of your business?’

If the customer is using another supplier, this question will get you information about what they like in their supplier. It may also lead to disclosure of things they don’t like in their current supplier, in which case the following question helps to explore these:

‘I gather from what you say that you are not one hundred per cent happy with your present service provider. What are the precise problems?’

If the customer identifies something that they say is important (for example, reliability) then this type of question helps to identify what this means for them:

‘You mentioned that reliability is of the utmost importance for you. Could you tell me exactly what you mean by reliability?’

These open questions encourage your customer to identify their decision making criteria and so selling a service to them that meets these criteria becomes easier.