Probing the Prospects Needs

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Probing, simply stated, is the process of asking questions in order to obtain information...the act of identifying the prospect's needs so you can present reasonable solutions. Probing is one of the most important selling skills any telesales/service person can develop. If you can identify needs, you can line up the appropriate services to fill those needs. Probing is used to:

1) Qualify an prospect- "Can they buy?"
2) Build a relationship - "Will they buy?"
3) Uncover a customer's needs - "Why should they buy?"
Through probing, you should be able to establish if any of the following situations exist: The prospect:
1) Is unhappy with their current situation,
2) Would like to improve upon their current situation,
3) Perceives a risk with, or potential deterioration of, their current situation. If one of these situations is not uncovered, either you do not have a valid prospect, or you did not probe deeply enough. If the situation is the latter, which questions should be asked to establish needs? There are six words that form the foundation for probing:

These words can be used in two ways: in the form of open-ended or closed-ended questions - both of which are needed to elicit information. Closed-ended questions are used to verify facts and can usually help determine if a prospect could buy. Usually answered by a "yes" or "no," closed-ended questions frequently begin with: is, do, are, has or will. Open-ended questions usually determine if a prospect should buy and are really the heart of the probing effort. Because open-ended questions frequently begin with the words what, how or why, they enable the customer/prospect to fully explain his or her situation. In so doing, they force the customer to become involved in the conversation. The greater the customer’s/prospect's involvement, the greater your probability for success. A good rule of thumb for successful probing is to use the probing-funnel approach - go from broader open-ended questions to more specific closed-ended questions. An effective use of questions enables you to maintain control of the call and provide a more appropriate feature/benefit response. To help identify the "real" value of an opportunity, use the following probing checklist: * What is the problem?

* Why is it a problem?
* How is it a problem?
* Where is it a problem?
* When is it a problem? * Who is involved in the problem?

* What is the priority in solving the problem?
If you have received answers to all these questions, you will know what your next step in the process should be. A recommended exercise is to write down the greatest number of questions you can come up with. When finished, place a "C" (for closed-ended) and an "O" (for open-ended) to the left of each question. To the right of each question, indicate if this question is to qualify the account, build the relationship or uncover need. Then "star" the questions you feel are the most effective. Now you're ready to probe! You know that asking questions is the key to sales success, but do you know the difference between a gentle probe and an irritating question the customer resents, blows off or provokes a hang up? The answer lies in the purpose of the question and the technique used to obtain the information you need. Questions that probe into the personal life of a consumer must be phrased carefully. If you want to garner the information you need from prospects to close more sales, you need to predetermine how your questions are going to sound and how prospects will...
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