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30+ Sales Probing Questions To Identify Customer Needs

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An engaging conversation starts by asking the right questions. The questioning techniques can help you understand the needs and demanding solutions of your customers. As a result, this will lead you to make sales or close deals. On the other hand, failing to do so can prevent you from earning.

Fergal Glynn, a writer on HubSpot, says, "...the best salespeople know exactly which questions to ask in order to uncover customer needs and to coach them through a sale."

closing a sale for the company

So, what better way to start a potential sales conversation? By asking appropriate probing questions, you can gather new information and understand the situation without offending anyone.

However, you may need ample time, research, and determination to earn such valuable skills. In this article, we'll learn what a probing question is and what are compelling examples of probing.

What is a Probing Question?

Sometimes, prospects may hesitate to disclose information. In this case, sales reps use probing questions to clarify a point or deepen their understanding of a particular information.

The probing questions work like 'follow-up' questions that guide your prospect and customer to increase cooperation and reveal information that you can use to facilitate closing.

You can use probing questions in a variety of situations such as:

  • When you want to learn something new about your customer
  • After a presentation
  • When doing a type of market research
  • If you feel the customer is not speaking of the whole situation
  • When assessing the needs of a client
  • When ensuring you understood the entire story and situation
  • When you want to gain insight into the customer's thought process

Most Common Sales Probing Questions

successful closing a sale via telephone call

Sales reps should master the art of asking probing questions. It's an opportunity for businesses to learn detailed information about a prospect, generate more leads, and receive greater revenue.

These are a few of the most common probing questions examples you can use to identify the needs of your prospects and customers.

When did this situation begin?

Identify the current challenges of your prospects. You can do this by asking ‘when did the problem start’ or ‘when did you notice things are out of the way.’

This will allow you to learn the root cause of the problem and for how long did the problem exist to mitigate a solution.

Could you tell me how it looks or sounds like?

Once the challenges are identified, we want to get a better understanding of the problem. You can do this by visualizing how it looks or sounds through probing questions.

For example, if you think your company was able to handle other customers in a similar situation, link it back from your previous experience to suggest a potential fix.

Have you done anything to address the issue?

In order to discover the degree of the problem, ask if the prospect made actions to attend to the problem. This can ensure that we are not passing on advice that has previously failed.

Why is your current product/service not working for you?

Not to talk negatively about other people's products/services, but this question aims to find the missing piece that will enable your prospect to resolve the issue and recognize if the resources they have are sufficient.

What would be your ideal outcome?

Sometimes, prospects reach out when they expect that you can handle their existing problem. Although this is a good sign for your market, it's fair to simply ask probing questions to hear their thoughts and manage their expectations.

What was your intention?

Intent differs from one person to another. In your case, how would you find out the motive of your prospects? What are they planning to achieve, and how did they plan to do so?

How would you describe the best-case scenario?

A counterpart of 'biggest fear' comes with the powerful probing question about the expectations your prospect set to accomplish.

If everything goes to plan, would they be satisfied with the result? Would they think it's worth it?

What are the pros and cons of the situation and your probable solution?

Everything has positive and negative factors. However, listing down the pros and cons of the problem and the proposed solution can help you and your prospect examine and assess both sides.

growing your business by closing more sales

Do your competitors face the same challenge?

Does your prospect have competitors around the area? If they did, have they experienced the same problem? Does the issue persist with other businesses?

Learning a thorough answer to these questions will help you resolve the problem like no other.

What are the criteria of your buying decision?

The factors affecting your prospect's decision-making process can help you evaluate the way they think and the way your offers can fulfill the criteria. These factors may include the cost, terms, and functionality.

Is there a timeframe that you’d like us to work within?

Services often require time to finish. Others last for a few days or weeks, while others expect a longer partnership. But in order to solve a particular problem, it's appropriate to know how urgent they would require you to work.

Learning upon the time frame can help you prioritize the problem and set up their expectations.

How much is the issue costing you?

How much does the prospect lose trying to solve the problem in terms of finances, time, and resources? What are the effects of the problem financially?

And how does this affect the workforce? Make sure to suggest efficient solutions that can ease their expenses.

Just to make sure I fully understand the problem, could you give me an example of what you mean by…?

Probing questions are also meant to clarify answers. By asking this question, you are respectfully leading the prospect to clearly explain the situation with examples.

This way, you are confirming the details, while prospects articulate the problem well.

If you need help finding prospects, you can check out our prospecting guide.

How did you come to this conclusion?

It seems like an easy question, but this is actually a thought-provoking inquiry that allows your prospect to think twice before coming up with the decision.

Whether they bought what you sell or not, this will help them recognize patterns that they had subconsciously missed.

handshake after signing an agreement

Additional Sales Probing Questions

Besides the most common probing questions we listed above, there are various probing questions sales reps can ask from their prospects and customers. There are several categories in order to discover more probing questions you can apply for your next sales calls. Some of these are the following:

Rapport-Building Questions

Sales reps have limited time to build relationships over the surface. So instead of wasting time on empty fillers, sales reps must show that prospects can trust them. You can do this by asking rapport-building questions such as:

  • How’s the business?
  • How long have you been in the/this business?
  • Does your company have other locations?

Problem Questions

A probing questions use at the early stage of the sales process. Its main objective is to uncover the challenges that your prospect face and the motivation to resolve them. For example:

  • How would you describe the current problem?
  • What other challenges have you encountered while trying to solve this problem?
  • What other factors worry or frustrate you?

Solutions Questions

This aims to design an appropriate resolution for your prospect and understand if your product/service fits into their criteria and meets their expectation. This includes:

  • How does the ideal solution look like for you?
  • What is your strategic direction?
  • What are your short-term and long-term goals?

Buying Process Questions

Not every situation requires the same steps. Before sales reps could even implement the processes to secure the sale, they must first learn about the buying process questions like the following:

  • Can you describe more about your decision-making process?
  • What other information will you need in order to make your decision?
  • Who are the other people involved in the buying decision?

Business Budget Questions

Before presenting an alternative fix, inquire about the budget set aside by your prospect in implementing the solution. Learning every source of income could come in handy in budgeting questions as well. Examples are:

  • Do you have a budget in mind?
  • What will happen if your budget isn't enough to implement the desired solution fully?
  • Are there other sources of funding that could be explored if necessary?

Deep Probing Sales Questions

Once you establish a rapport, you can now dive in with deep probing questions to uncover critical information that you can ask at any point in the process.

  • Can you tell me more about that?
  • Can you be more specific about that?
  • How did you feel about that?
team meeting in the conference room

Expert Tips On Asking Sales Probing Question

Since sales probing questions support cooperation between the sales team and prospects, both parties makes it easier to find applicable answers to the existing problem.

Sales reps know how to ask questions confidently. However, most of them have no predetermined thoughts on what types of questions to ask. Some stick to leading questions instead of guiding prospects to answer broad to narrow open questions.

Indeed, it is challenging to learn probing techniques and apply them effectively in sales. However, since we've already mentioned some of the most sales probing questions, let's talk about how you can weave prospects into customers using these tips.

Research your prospects

Before calling your prospects, always try to get a better sense of who they are, what industry they belong to, and how it is structured.

Most of the time, sales reps opt to go for LinkedIn to get more information. Yet, the problem with this is that not every business has detailed information written on its LinkedIn profile.

Hence, you can check other channels to get more insight into your prospects and their teams, including the company website, social media profile, and customer reviews. You can even look at their competitors to see how they are doing in the market.

Redirect the word "Or."

Aim to know more about your prospects - their pain points, concerns, objectives, and end-goal. However, asking questions that involve the word 'or' limits the way they answer the question.

So instead of saying, "Does the problem affect your business or it didn't do as much damage?", you can ask: "How did the problem heavily affect different parts of your business?"

The former is answerable by a one-way response, while the latter allows you to get descriptive answers. So, which one do you think is more helpful in getting elaborate answers with powerful data points?

Actively listen

Sales calls put an end to the phrase "listening in order to respond."

A good communication happens when the caller and the receiver allow one another to listen attentively and speak at the right time.

Doing this will move your prospect to elaborate on the current situation and share the challenges they face. It also sets up a relationship on the right foot, as the prospect feels heard.

Know When to Ask Questions

An experienced sales rep uses the proper judgment to brought up specific questions at a particular time. Meanwhile, prospects are willing to answer probing questions when it was asked timely.

As a result, you can gain more information about their business, concerns, and the demands they need.

Understand your prospect's objectives and primary goal.

Sales probing questions are an excellent way to dig up the main objective and goals of your prospects. Once you learn them, you're now one step close to proposing an effective solution using your product/service.

Use the TED Approach

The TED approach refers to Tell, Explain, and Describe. For example, you can say,

  • Please tell me, what are the challenges you faced when using this product/service?
  • Explain to me how it affected your finances, resources, and workforce?
  • Describe what does it look or sound like?

By starting your probing questions with TED, you can nudge your customers to give you a specific detail regarding a specific issue or problem.

End with a Closed Questions

End the probing questions with closed questions or answerable questions with limited options, usually "yes" or "no". This is common when you want to reaffirm the statement while making sure you and your prospect (or future customer) are on the same page.

Show a Positive Attitude

Regardless of what kind of job you do or what kind of people you talk to over the phone, it's essential to show optimism to establish trust and engaging conversation. Therefore, a positive attitude leads to a productive outcome and lasting relationship for you and your customer.

Maximize Success With Sales Probing Questions

Prospects and customers have a deep motive or underlying reasons why they may want to talk to you. Whether you initiated the conversation or they did, it's your responsibility to understand the situation, build rapport, and offer solutions based on what you offer.

You can start a good conversation by asking effective probing questions. The following questions mentioned above will help you get started to turn every opportunity into a good one.

If you're looking for assistance to ask effective probing questions or other sales techniques, please give us a call, and we'll be happy to connect you with the best lead generation partners in the United Kingdom.

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