Monday, July 14, 2014

The Art of the Probing Question

To fully understand what products and services your client needs, you need to learn about their pain.  What isn’t working?  Why doesn’t it work?  How does that affect their business?  These questions are all about establishing the specific needs of your customer, and bringing those needs to the front of your mind and theirs.  (Make notes of the answers!)  Probing questions should be a major part of every sales call you ever make.  Finding a way to discuss what your client finds to be a problem and then keeping them talking about it is the bread and butter of daily sales work.  It tells you what to sell them.  

The question I get a lot from sales pros is this: How do I work them in without sounding like I'm interrogating the prospect?

Let’s use the example of a vacuum sales pro.  “What’s the dirtiest area in your house?” “Does anyone in your home have allergies?”  “Who uses the vacuum at your home?”  “Do you vacuum the stairs or curtains?”  “Will you be vacuuming hard floors, or carpeting, or both?”  These are all probing questions that will help the salesperson guide the consumer to the right product, while also reminding the shopper of all of the ways they use their vacuum.  It might come off a little abrupt without some polishing.

You need to open the conversation with a warm greeting, and ask about their goals for having a new machine first.  Then you keep the conversation focused on the customer by responding to whatever they say as a person first, and following up with a professional option, second.  

Client: I want to finally get rid of the dog hair in my carpet once and for all!  You: I know! That can be so aggravating!  That's why Acme Corp designed this Pet Defender model.  Pet hair is removed in one pass.  No extra work!  Now you can move on to your next probing question.  You: What kind of dogs do you have?

Focus on the problem.  Every product or service represents a solution to a want or a need.  The right probing questions will lead to a sense of urgency on the buyer’s part.  All probing questions should focus on the pain, or how the solution will be implemented.  What problems has the unmet need caused?  How it will affect their life or business the longer their need goes unmet?  Does this need arise oftenHow long has it been unmet already?  How would it be if the need were met today? 

Sometimes the consumer doesn’t know there is a solution available for a need, so they don’t mention the need.  If our vacuum sales pro doesn’t mention the robot vacuum that cleans floors by itself, how many will he sell?  If he asks how much time people “waste” vacuuming rooms that could “clean themselves,” would he sell more?

Picture your conversational flow like this: Client information>respond like a human, then with a professional option< ask the next probing question. Remember, as the sales pro your job is to provide the best possible solution to the problem or need.  You can't assume the prospect knows what all of their options are, even if they tell you they do!   Ask the right questions, enhance their urgency to buy, and sell them the right solutions.  You're right on target.

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