A Probing Primer – A Review of Good Question Skills

by Michael J Griffin, Founder ELAvate Sales, MHG Master Sales Trainer for 35 years

“If you can’t ask good questions, you will never be a great sales person.” Jeffry Gitomer
“Good sales people ask great questions.” Adapted from John Maxwell

Let’s review and upgrade your ability to ask great questions by reviewing the different types of probes you can employ to gain customer trust, relevant information, needs to achieve better win-win decisions for you and your customers.

Open Probes
Open probes allow the customer to respond freely, and answer anyway he or she likes. They show respect, build trust and can gain a lot of information. The downside is they may lead to irrelevant information.

What are the reasons for the change in strategy?
What is your perspective on the situation?
Why do you say that you are concerned about……?
Tell me more about…..
Please elaborate more on…..
What do you mean?

Closed Probes
Closed probes direct the customer to a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ a choice you supply, or a single fact. They gain specific information and are normally used when customers are trusting you enough to reveal more detailed information. The downside is they may lead to wrong assumptions on your part or the customer may feel interrogated if you ask too many.

Do you think you can meet the deadline?
Can you get me that information?
When will you start the project?
How many items do you require?
Do you wantto go to Chicago or Shanghai?

Confirming Probes
These probes are to ensure you understand what and why the client has said. They show you are intent on listening or confirm customer needs or requirements.

You need to solve this productivity problem to meet production quota. Am I correct?
You require the delivery to three construction sites, correct?
So what you need is a quick solution but still meet cost constraints. Is this correct?

Collaborative Probes
Sometimes you need the client to “open his/her mind” to collaborate or problem solve without being pushy. Collaborative probes do this very well.

Can we explore how we might…..
Have you considered…….
What if…..
Have you compared…..
Let’s evaluate the alternatives.
If budget wasn’t an issue, how might you solve this problem?

Impact Probes
Impact questions get the customer thinking about the consequences of not changing or implementing a change you are suggesting. They get the customer thinking about the effect of solving or not solving a problem.

What might be the impact of not hiring enough staff?
How might your customer service improve if…….?
What are the effects of poor quality on your company image?
Do you see any consequences of not meeting year end targets?
How do you feel about this situation?

Checking Probes
Checking probes are very useful in cross cultural communication settings or when the client is distracted. They are to help make sure “the customer is on the bus” with you.

How does that sound?
Is that OK with you?
Any issues?
Can we move ahead?
Anything else?

A thoughtful combination of using these probes with customers allows you to be consultative with the customer in a way that you are seen as a problem solver focused on the customer and  his her success. Successful sales people ask great questions!

Have a great week asking great questions!

Michael J Griffin
Founder ELAvate Sales
MHG Master Sales Trainer for 35 years

About Michael Griffin

Michael is the CEO of ELAvate Global and Equipping Leaders for Asia Pte. Ltd. Over 40+ years, his career has revolved around developing leaders, especially sales leaders, in emerging nations. Mr. Griffin has spent the majority of his 40+ year career in Asia. His areas of expertise include Sales Productivity, Senior Executive Development, Cross Cultural Leadership, Strategy Mapping and Balanced Scorecard.

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