Consultative Selling Probing Question that Creates Sales Opportunities Blog Feature
Dan Fisher

By: Dan Fisher on March 17th, 2016

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Consultative Selling Probing Question that Creates Sales Opportunities

consultative selling

Over the past 20+ years there has been a rapid shift from selling features and benefits to that of a consultative sales approach.  The biggest driver for this change has come directly from B2B buyers themselves.  Research tells us that buyers no longer want to engage salespeople the way they have in the past. Instead they expect their time spent consultative sellingwith a salesperson to be valuable in which sellers ask thought provoking questions and challenge their assumptions and thinking.   

This paradigm shift requires sales professionals to adopt a more consultative sales approach including more advanced communication skills.  Below I share a sample  consultative selling probing questions that create sales opportunities.  

Consultative Selling Creates Opportunities, Transactional Selling Only Finds Them  In addition to putting the customers goals and objectives front and center, consultative selling is also about creating opportunities, not simply finding predefined, budget approved job orders. Keep in mind that all buyers have goals that they need to achieve and business issues or challenges that stand in their way from achieving those goals. But NOT all buyers have predefined, budget approved job orders. In fact, most IT hiring managers don't have budget approved job orders. So, how can sellers generate sales opportunities with prospects and customers who do NOT have predefined, budget approved job orders? They can do it by applying a consultative sales approach and asking consultative sales probing questions that demonstrate their expertise.

Remember, buyers want to collaborate with salespeople and engage in a meaningful, two-way conversation about topics relevant to them, their role and their goals. To accomplish this sellers must develop the skill of asking effective, thought provoking probing questions. This gets the customer to reveal insights about the current state of their team, department or project and their level of satisfaction with each.

What buyer's don't want to hear is a seller who says "tell me about your staffing needs."  The reason is the question is not thought provoking for the customer. The customer gets no benefit from this question because it fails to stimulate them intellectually nor does it challenge their thinking.  Sellers who ask questions like this create a dull and boring experience for the prospect or customer.  Even worse, questions like this will never get a customer to consider solving a problem or achieving a goal because it is limited to only helping the seller identify if the customer has a predefined, budget approved need. In essence, this probing question fails to probe!

Instead, consultative dialogue and asking probing questions that create a sales opportunity may sound something like this.

Sales Rep:  “Mr. Customer, one of the trends we are seeing in the data management space is the need to make actionable insight and data available on a mobile device for front line managers so that they can make decisions on the spot with customers rather than having to delay and miss a potential opportunity.  However our customers are sharing with us they are struggling to set up their meta data repository when it comes to this task.  What are you finding most challenging in this space?”

Customer:  “That is interesting to hear.  One of the things we have been working on to address that is….”

Do you see the difference between this question and "tell me about your staffing needs?"  Notice that asking this probing question showcases the salesperson expertise? To develop consultative sales probing questions that showcase your expertise you should begin by building buyer personas, the foundation of consultative selling. 

How do you develop your sales probing questions? How are you showcasing your knowledge and expertise in sales probing questions that you ask? 

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About Dan Fisher

Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.

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