The importance of open questions for the telemarketing agency

For campaigns to be successful, a telemarketing agency has to get people talking as quickly as possible. The faster they manage this, the easier it is to build rapport and start laying the foundations for a long term relationship. However, as most decision makers are busy, getting them to talk isn’t always easy. In our 22 years as telemarketing agency and trainer, we’ve tried out lots of different ways of getting telemarketing calls off the ground and by far the best method is the ‘open question’. Simple but effective, this tried and tested technique has been helping the Blue Donkey team to achieve outstanding results year after year.

What are open questions

A telemarketing agency needs to quickly engage decision makers by getting them talking. A call is unlikely to be successful if it doesn’t somehow draw the receiver of the call in, by getting their attention and contribution. An open question is a question that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no answer. They are open because they require someone to reflect, think, and respond expansively, so they are absolutely vital in a business cold call. So for a telemarketing agency, the open question is the main device used to intelligently turn their call from a cold one way interaction to a warm exchange between one professional and another. It also relates to the fact that people warm to people who get them talking, and tend to be put off by those that talk too much. According to the Independent newspaper, this ‘likability’ factor is important in life generally, and apparently, we can all do certain things that make us more likable. In their article, Harvard researchers discovered that talking about yourself may be inherently rewarding. Likability and warmth are important personality traits in business, especially in sales. So one way of improving likability, whether it’s in a professional call, or socially, is that we can become better at getting people talking.


Composing open questions is fairly easy. They usually begin with the words: who, what, when, why, or how. Some are better than others for inspiring detailed responses, and they need to be practiced in order to become second nature. Even for a telemarketing agency, there’s no one size fits all open question. The key to designing one that works is to build a snapshot of what information is required to really make that campaign work. In other words, asking questions that gain the most relevant information. The question chosen needs to build a picture of what the decision maker and their organisation are doing that might warrant them requiring the product or solution. Asking a question that begins ‘how do you go about’ might be a good place to start at it helps define certain criteria and opens up the discussion according to the buyer’s needs.

Ouch! My question just broke

Some open questions work beautifully for days, weeks, or months, then suddenly stop working for you. Others work for certain people but crash and burn for others. There’s no exact science which is why a telemarketing agency will teach their teams the principles of how to design open questions by using the keywords above and encourage them to experiment to find the ones that yield the most information for them or their particular project.

Yada yada yada

Ideally, your open question should ask about lots of areas of the business or their systems in one question. That sort of question might sound something like ‘what kind of process do you have in place for’. It’s effectively lots of different questions rolled into one. It’s important your call doesn’t sound like a survey, so one, two, or three open questions will be the maximum you should attempt to use, otherwise, it will seem like you’re going on a bit, and you will risk losing the buyer’s interest. If you need more, it’s probably because your questions could be designed differently. A telemarketing agency would review the open questions their team are using if they felt decision makers were being peppered with too many questions. And needless to say, only questions that are relevant to the call should be included. Asking someone you don’t know about how they are, or about the weather, won’t come across as professional.

Silence is golden

Don’t be afraid to ask your open question and stop talking. That’s easier said than done for most of us as the telephone is a scary tool if you’ve never met the person you’re speaking with. When we’re nervous, most of us are not as cool as we’d like to be, so it’s easy to feel threatened by silence. A few seconds of silent time on the phone can be like waiting for something vital. You’ve heard the expression, the seconds passed like hours. Be brave, when you ask an open question, give people a moment to reflect on their response. Resist the temptation to fill the awkward silence by jumping in with another ‘clarifying’ question, or a set of ‘multi-choice’ options. The awkwardness you feel won’t be shared by the decision maker you’re speaking with, as they’ll be busy thinking about your question. It might help to count to 5 on your fingers – that’s impossible to do faster than the moments it takes someone to start talking!

Open questions are a simple but powerful telemarketing tool. To learn more about improving your telemarketing technique, or to find out more about what we do, contact a member of our team today.

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