To succeed as a sales rep, you need to know the right sales probing questions to ask your prospects. This sales technique requires research, determination and patience to get it right. You want to know all about your client’s hurdles but don’t want to sound too pushy. Finding the right balance between the two can be tricky, but it’s necessary to guide your prospects towards cooperation.
What is ‘probing’ in sales?
Probing is a general term given to the act of asking a multitude of questions in order to uncover concealed information. Researchers employ this technique in interviewer-administered surveys when respondents initially refuse to answer a question.
In the realm of sales, probing is the technique of asking questions designed to encourage prospects to talk more about their challenges and pain points.
What are probing questions?
Probing questions are a handy sales qualification technique to pitch their product or service to the right client more effectively. A probing question is an inquiry employed by sales reps to spark an insightful discussion with their prospects about the business hurdles they face. By asking multiple questions in succession, sales executives can gather all the information needed regarding a topic of mutual interest.
What are the types of probing questions asked?
There are four types of probing questions asked by sales teams to garner different sorts of responses from their target prospects:
|Loaded questions||A loaded question is phrased to your advantage and leads a prospect down a certain topic. You’ll be taking a chance and might come across a little strong because this question is meant to be biased toward your product or service. It’s intended to make the client realise that your solution is the answer.|
For example: ‘How exactly did your previous solution fail to live up to your expectations?’ This question will tempt the client to tell you all about how the previous solution disappointed them. Important note: Always position loaded questions strategically and use them sparingly, so you don’t appear manipulative.
|Open-ended questions||Open-ended questions don’t have specific answers. The prospect is free to take it in any direction they wish, setting the narrative. Such questions help pitch the tone of the conversation and give the sales reps an idea of what to ask in their follow-up questions. However, don’t make the questions so vague that the prospect is left feeling flustered, such as, ‘What are your key initiatives and goals?’ |
Instead, you can ask, ‘Can you tell me a little about your business?’ or ‘What sparked your interest in this industry?’
|Closed-ended questions||A closed-ended question warrants a brief response, typically in the form of a yes or no. Sales reps use these probing questions to gather data while qualifying a lead. They give you specific answers that you can use to improve your sales pipeline. For example, ‘Have you set a budget to overcome this issue?’|
Important note: Avoid asking multiple closed-ended questions in succession because the prospect might feel like they’re being interrogated.
|Recall and process questions||Recall and process questions are two-fold — ‘recall’ makes the prospect reflect on vital information regarding their business while ‘process’ pushes them to think critically. An example of a recall question is: ‘Have you outsourced employee training before?’ If your company provides employee training services, this will help you highlight what you can do better. Similarly, a good process question is, ‘How do you hope our services will progress your business?’ as it gets prospects thinking about the results they want to see.|
Best probing questions for sales + tips
The best sales probing questions are designed to get vital information from the prospects, which can then be used to help sales reps deliver the perfect tailored pitch. We’ll be sharing some examples of effective probing questions that lead to insightful business conversations.
Understanding their needs
The first goal of a sales meeting is to establish the client’s needs. You can use sales probing questions to get a better grasp of what your client wants. Their needs can be physical, psychological or both. Common types include price point, enjoyable user or personal experience, compatibility with other products in the company and solving a specific problem.
Here are some sales probing questions designed to identify the client’s primary needs:
1. What led you to look for a solution like this?
By asking this question, you can get a better understanding of the client’s reasoning behind considering your product. You get to know what aspects of your product attracted them and what motivated them towards this choice. They will tell you what problem they were facing (primary needs) that made them seek out your company. Remember to document the response and ask follow-up questions accordingly.
2. Can you tell me about the challenges that led you to start this search?
This is a good example of an open-ended question to encourage your prospect to talk openly about their problems and business challenges. This will help you qualify them early on in the sales process. This question also works well when you get the sense that your client is still determining whether your product is the right choice. After letting them open up about their concerns, you can cater to any objections and help them identify the value of choosing your product.
3. How does this problem impact your business or daily life?
The key to identifying and understanding your prospect’s pain point is asking them how it has impacted their business and personal life. When you spot a measurable issue that’s adversely affecting their business, you can explain why it needs to be addressed immediately and what your company’s role is in helping them to do so. If they aren’t well aware of the potential consequences of their issue, help them understand it using your expertise in their industry.
- The goal of such questions is to gain a deeper understanding of your target prospect’s pain points, so be sure to tailor your solution to their specific needs.
- Listen actively and find the right opportunity to ask follow-up questions. For example, ‘You mentioned X problem. Can you tell me more about that?’
Assessing their decision-making process
The decision-making process varies from one business to the next. So, you should take the opportunity to ask about it at the beginning of the sales process. Sales team leaders should train reps to inquire about their prospect’s previous purchasing decisions. The responses will enable them to understand how the prospect’s company normally makes decisions, who is involved in the process and the complexity of it.
4. Who else is involved in the decision-making process?
This question tells you if you’re talking to the primary decision-maker of the company and how many others are involved in the final say. Ask follow-up questions to understand the roles of these decision-makers in the company and any objections they might have about the product you’re selling.
5. What criteria are you using to evaluate potential solutions?
You want your product to meet the prospect’s criteria for solving their problem. Ask them openly about it to help you understand the thought process that goes into making the decision.
6. What is your timeline for making a decision?
Interest doesn’t always mean urgency. You should assess when your customer is likely to decide on your product and how much of a priority it is to solve their current issue.
- You’re asking these questions to understand to whom you need to sell and the factors that will influence their decision. Use that information to help you conduct an accurate sales forecast and avoid surprise obstructions.
- Ask open-ended questions to encourage your client to share as much as possible.
Qualifying their budget
Did you know that 58% of prospects want to talk about the budget on the first sales interaction? It’s no secret that this aspect plays a key role and can make or break a sale. So, use your sales probing questions to get to know the prospect’s budgetary situation.
7. What is your budget for this solution?
Has the client set a budget to overcome this issue? If yes, then is it sufficient to serve as a mutually beneficial sale? Asking them about it will help drive the conversation accordingly.
8. Have you allocated a specific amount for this project?
To mitigate the risk of sounding too abrupt, you can also ask the same question differently. It will help you assess whether pricing is one of their primary concerns.
9. How does the cost of this solution fit into your overall budget for the year?
This question will help you determine the prospect’s concerns regarding the budget for this solution. Is there enough room or will they worry about exceeding their yearly limit?
- Remember to be direct but respectful when asking about the budget.
- Try your best to gauge the budget range without sounding pushy.
Closing the sale
The last aspect of a sales conversation is closing the sale. You should approach this part of the discussion strategically because you don’t want to sound too eager or desperate to close.
10. Can you see yourself moving forward with this solution?
Pick your client’s brain about the discussion they just had. Do they have any doubts or do they have objections? Once they open up, you can ask appropriate follow-up questions to close.
11. What would be the next steps to get started?
Ask about the next steps required to help you initiate the closing process. This way, you’ll know if there are any more people they’d like to involve before agreeing.
12. Is there anything else you need from me before making a decision?
This question is helpful when you sense that your client is having second thoughts. It will give you a chance to address their objections to the sale.
- Deliver your closing statements confidently but don’t be aggressive.
- Give the customer some time to reflect and ask for feedback.
- Offer to provide further information if necessary.
Are there any best practices for using probing questions in sales?
Yes, the best practices for using sales probing questions include:
- Building rapport and trust with the customer
- Demonstrating your commitment to solving the client’s problem
- Listening actively to their responses
- Talking respectfully and staying professional at all times
- Preparing to address objections and overcome obstacles to the sale.
How can I use probing questions effectively in sales?
To use probing questions effectively in sales, it’s important to build rapport and establish trust at the start of the process. So, you should listen actively to what the customer has to say and use their responses to adjust your sales pitch accordingly. Additionally, you must also prepare in advance for any objections they might have about the sale.
What are the benefits of using probing questions in sales?
There are several benefits to using probing questions in sales, including:
- Qualifying leads to develop a healthy sales pipeline
- Gathering information about the customer’s needs and pain points
- Building rapport and trust with the customer
- Demonstrating readiness to help the customer
- Learning about possible objections and closing more sales.
While it might sound like a good idea to dive into a sales meeting with a big list of sales probing questions, it’s better to let the discussion flow naturally. You don’t want to sound impersonal or like you have a strict agenda. Let the prospect open up to you without feeling like they’re sitting in an interrogation room. This way, you’re bound to engage them in an insightful business conversation.
If you are ready to use probing questions in your next pitch, get started with fullinfo to find up-to-date contact information for the decision-makers that you need to talk to.
References & Further Reading
- Seven Proactive Sales Techniques to Scale Your Sales Now
- The Simple Guide To Sales Qualification Frameworks
- 100+ Important Sales Statistics : Figures, Salaries, and Statistics
- The Essential Sales Team Performance Metrics To Track
- The 8 Key Steps Involved In Sales Forecasting
- How to Dramatically Improve Your Sales Pipeline + Examples
- The Seven Defining Qualities Of A Good Sales Team Leader