Asking effective probing questions is critical to high sales performance. With the right questions, your salespeople can uncover the buyer’s needs and wants, as well as their budget and decision-making process.
Here’s what you need to know to help your reps develop and master critical questioning skills.
1. Listen Actively and Deeply
Good questioning does not mean firing off a rapid series of questions to pry as much information out of the prospect as possible. Teach your reps to ask and then to listen without talking until the prospect has a chance to fully answer the question.
This allows the prospect to reveal information about their challenges in their own words. It also sets up the relationship on the right foot as the prospect feels heard.
Coach your salespeople to ask permission to take notes, and jot down the important points to return to later. The key here is to listen and to pay genuine attention. No “listening in order to respond” allowed.
2. Know When to Ask Which Questions
Prospects will be more willing to answer probing questions when the questions are timed well within the conversation. Teach your salespeople these 6 types of probing questions, as well as the appropriate timing for them.
The most effective salespeople know how to read a buyer’s personality style within the first minute or two of meeting them. This information allows them to know what type of communication the buyer prefers, and whether they should open the conversation with rapport-building questions, or get straight to the intent of the meeting.
For example, buyers who have a strong Influencer personality (based on the DISC model) are typically friendly and talkative, and would likely appreciate a little chit chat before getting down to business details.
Buyers who have a strong Dominance personality, on the other hand, prefer direct, fast-paced interactions. These types of buyers would most likely prefer getting straight into the nitty gritty of the meeting.
(Identifying and adapting to buyer styles is a key component of IMPACT-U online sales training. You can learn more about the system and request a demo here.)
Problem questions aim to uncover the true challenge the buyer is having, as well as the buyer’s deep motivations. These questions are appropriate early in the sales process. Examples include:
- How would you describe the problem you’re trying to solve?
- What about this situation keeps you up at night?
- What challenges have you encountered in the past while trying to solve this problem?
- How much is this problem costing you personally?
- How much is it costing the company?
- Is there anything else about the situation that worries or frustrates you?
- If there is a current supplier, what are your reasons for considering an alternative?
Solution questions aim to guide the customer in designing an appropriate solution to their problem, and to understand how your offerings fit into that solution. These questions are best saved until after the problem has been clearly established. Examples include:
- What would an ideal solution look like for you?
- What does a realistic solution look like to you?
- What are the must-have criteria for a solution to work for you?
- What is your timeline for developing a solution?
- What are the qualities you need in a solution provider?
- Would any of these additional products/services/criteria be helpful in your solution?
Buying Process Questions
Buying process questions help the sales rep understand the steps they must take in order to secure the sale. These questions work best after the problem and desired solution are established. Examples include:
- Who, besides yourself of course, will be involved in the buying decision?
- Can you let me know about your decision-making process?
- What is your timeline for making a decision?
- What additional information will you need in order to make your decision?
- Have you had problems in the past when making similar purchases?
- What has worked/not worked for you in the past?
Budget questions aim to understand the budget, and also to discover potential additional sources of funding. These questions may be asked while uncovering the desired solution or during the buying process discussion, and always before presenting a solution. Examples include:
- Do you have a budget in mind for this?
- Where will the funds come from to pay for the solution?
- What will happen if the available budget isn’t enough to fully implement the desired solution?
- Are there other sources of funding that could be explored if necessary?
Deep Probing Questions
Great questioning helps your reps uncover critical information even from reluctant prospects. Once rapport is established, deep probing questions can be asked at any point in the process. Examples include:
- Can you tell me more about that?
- Why does that matter to your/your business?
- Can you be more specific about that?
- How did that impact you?
- How did you feel about that?
3. Have the Right Attitude
Remind your salespeople to approach a sales meeting as a conversation aimed at establishing trust and uncovering buyer wants and needs. In general, open-ended questions work better than close-ended questions, as they urge the customer to reveal helpful information and to take ownership of the proposed solution. In all cases, having a positive and helpful attitude will result in a more productive outcome.
Effective probing is one of the most crucial components of the sales process, so you want your salespeople to be completely confident in their questioning strategy.
The IMPACT Selling® process helps reps consult with prospects and clients to gather all of the necessary information before making a recommendation. This includes pre-call investigating and planning, asking effective probing-questions, and digging deeper to uncover as much information as possible.
Your sales team can now learn the straightforward, customer-focused process of IMPACT in a self-paced, online format, IMPACT-U®. Learn more and request a demo here.