What makes a question useful

If you work in sales and deal a lot with customers directly, you are probably familiar with this situation: During a sales pitch, you talk to a prospect for a long time, but in the end there is no deal. Why? Exchanging ideas with a potential customer has a lot to do with sales psychology and conversational skills. One way to accomplish your goal is through alternative questions.

What are alternative questions?

The question technique "alternative question" belongs to the area of closed questions. With this type of question, you ask a question in such a way that the person you are speaking to can choose between a few specific answers - the alternatives.

Examples of alternative questions

The type of question is characterized by the fact that you answer two or three questions Answer options integrate. The respondent can then decide which selection to make. Alternative questions sound like this:

  • "Should our customer service come by on Monday morning or Tuesday afternoon?"

  • "Would you like the sweater in red, blue or black?"

  • “We currently have 200 or 500 screws in the package price. What should I pack for you? "

Tips for using decision questions

Give as much as possible with this type of question few alternatives to choose from, two to three are ideal. If your customer can choose too much, she has to weigh and think too much. This leads to the so-called “Paradox of Choice” (also known as the jam problem).

Ask your question easily understandableby formulating a short sentence - and combine You don't have a positive option with one that is negative for you.

Example: "Would you like to buy now or do you want to think about it?"

Such a question could raise doubts that stall the sales pitch - and endanger your purchase.

Also, think about which answer you would prefer to hear from the person you are speaking to: try yours preferred selection to use last in your question. The probability that your customer will take the latter option is higher than with the former alternative.

Find the right one timeto use the question form. Some customers do not like it when you “urge” them to make a choice right at the beginning of a conversation. Therefore you should add alternative questions towards the end; if you think that the person you are talking to is ready to make a purchase decision.

If the person you are speaking to is unsure about the answer to the question, you should tell her support to offer. For example, you could combine your alternative question with other questioning techniques such as a leading question.

Example: “Would you like to have the yellow or white shoes? The whites look better on you, don't you think so? "

If you receive specific statements, you should get to the end of the conversation quickly, for example to conclude a purchase.

The advantages of alternative questions

  • The point of a closed question is to restrict your counterpart in his "freedom of speech". Instead, the interlocutor should talk about concrete answers think and yourself decide.

  • That leads to a Efficiency increase: You can speed up the individual conversations and dedicate yourself to more customers in the same period of time. In sales, this increases the completion rate and sales.

  • Alternative questions are therefore very suitable for "influencing" your interlocutor. By preselecting the answer options, you are practically forcing him to choose one of the To choose alternativeswithout thinking about others spontaneously.

  • With the answer options, you direct the respondent into one of you desired direction. For example, you can make her an offer that works to your advantage.

Why should alternative questions be avoided?

This questioning technique not only offers advantages, after all it is not suitable for every discussion situation in sales. It can happen that none of the alternatives mentioned suits your interlocutor. So he thinks about other alternatives - that costs time.

A customer might ask themselves such a question put under pressure feel. He has to make a concrete decision, although he cannot or does not want to at this point in time.

The respondent realizes that you want to manipulate them through the choices. This is how Resistance.

These types of questions are good alternatives

If you notice that the other person still has a need for speech and information, you should open questionn, for example:

  • "What else would you like to know?"

  • "Which points are particularly important to you?"

use to askto make sure your conversation is going in the right direction. Example:

  • "Do I understand correctly that red is your favorite color?"

Go to the emotional level and ask a question of feeling. Example:

  • "Do you notice how the new tennis racket becomes a part of you?"

Rephrase your closed questions by using no alternatives to offer. Instead, you could focus on the other person only answering yes or no. This questioning technique is called a decision question.

Steer conversations in one direction

If you want to sell successfully, you have to respond to your customers in the best possible way. And you should be careful not to waste too much time. That is why it makes sense to deal with different questioning techniques to deal with.

Alternative questions are ideal for a To steer conversation into a path - but only if you don't put your customers under pressure or push them into a corner. Therefore, study this question form correctly in order to be able to use it.

Cover picture: fizkes / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Originally published February 12, 2021, updated 10 May 2021

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