The Single Most Important Step of the Sales Process…Bar None!

The Probe step is probably the single most important step in the selling process and the one that’s done the poorest by many salespeople.

If the point of selling is to provide a solution to your prospect’s problems or to help him make an informed buying decision, how can you accomplish that if you don’t first make an attempt to understand his problem or uncover his needs and wants? That’s the primary purpose of the Probe step.

Too many salespeople are so anxious to tell the prospect all about what it is they are selling that they spend very little time, if any, probing to ascertain if the prospect has any real interest in what the salesperson is selling. They need to put their ears to work before exercising their mouths.

So then, the purpose of the Probe step is to:

  • qualify your prospect, (turn suspects into prospects)
  • start the rapport-building process
  • establish credibility
  • build and maintain trust

How can you use the Probe step to establish credibility and trust? After all, all you’re doing is asking questions. In fact, because all you’re doing is asking questions and not selling is the key to building trust with your prospect. You establish yourself as less a salesperson and more a resource person.

The quality of your questions establishes your credibility. The better and more meaningful your questions are, the higher your credibility. Of course, the reverse is also true. Ask dumb or irrelevant questions and your credibility goes down.

WHY Qualify?
If a prospect doesn’t have a need for your solution, or can’t afford it, or doesn’t have the authority to buy it, then you don’t have a pros­pect.

WHEN to Qualify?
Either before your approach or very early in the sale.

HOW to Qualify?
Ask questions! Find out what your prospect wants and why he wants it.

In order to have something to listen to, you have to get the prospect talking and you do that by asking questions. The right questions will help you assess your prospect’s needs, wants, challenges, budget, decision making authority, decision timing, competitive preferences, organizational structure and personal agenda/s. Come on now, who wouldn’t want to know all that? And it’s right there for the taking!
The question is: What questions should you ask?
In order to answer that question, you must first know the answer to these two questions:

  1. What need or want does my solution fulfill?
  2. Why should a prospect buy my solution?

Once you have the answers to these two questions, you’ll know what questions to ask to get the answers you want to hear. You see, it’s not good enough to just ask questions. You have to know what answers you’re looking for in order to have the right questions.

Authored by Mark Christie, owner of SalesForce Training.

SalesForce Training & Consulting is a professional services firm and training firm based in Toronto, with training centers in Boston and Chicago, helping sales teams improve their performance, in front of the computer…and in front of the customer.