probing questions examples

Sales Probing Questions Examples To Unlock Buyer Needs

Sales probing questions examples play a big role in your understanding of the needs, wants and drivers of your client and they help you with unlocking the “why” they would purchase from you. Call after call, these key sales probing questions examples often come up.  They don’t get old and will probably always be relevant. While this list is not definitive by any means, it can give you a start and something to build off of when formulating your own probing questions examples.

I was on a call today with a prospect for a client and in advance we had developed a set of specific probing questions examples related to the prospect, their role in the organization, their group, and obviously, tied back to what we are selling.  The two attendees of the meeting were both senior level employees who worked in the research group of the organization. My client provides a software solution to help organizations, particularly medical or health related, to do research faster and more effectively. 

Qualifying questions included:

  • How many research project leaders do you have in your group?
  • How many research projects do you undertake annually?
  • How many users are from within your organization?
  • How many users are external collaborators?
  • What is your budget?
  • What is the timing of your budget process?
  • Is licensing reviewed locally or centrally?
  • What competitive product(s) are you using now?
  • How do you measure the ROI of the current product you are using?  Of new products?
  • What are your success criteria when deciding on whether the product was a good fit or not?

Here is another example and this time it is related to me trying to better understand a potential new client for VA Partners and our Part-Time sales and marketing solutions.  In this case, the firm has less than $1 million in revenue with a handful of clients and a very small team mainly on the development/support and operations end of the business.  They have been in business for a number of years and now want to look to scale their revenue. 

Qualifying questions I asked included:

  • What do you do?
  • What are your goals?
  • Your company size? Number of employees and revenue?
  • Who are your current clients?
  • Who are you targeting? Sector/type of company/contact within company?
  • What is your budget and timing looking like?
  • Who are the key decision makers?
  • What are you looking for in a sales partner? What is your selection criteria?

As a summary, here are some key probing questions examples to keep in your back pocket when on a sales call (or some iteration of them).

1. What do you do?  What are your goals?  What is your current situation and nature of your need?

It’s important to understand what your prospect does and the services or products they sell. The deeper your understanding of who they are, what they do, their business pains and goals, the better you can position your product or service to help them.  

2. What projects are you currently working on now? What initiatives are priority this coming year? 

Are large capital projects underway where your offering can provide value? Is the fit here more along the lines of operational budgets and associated projects? What is the priority? How do they value a solution – what are the success criteria of the project and how are potential solutions being measured?

3. Are decisions made at a local office level or centrally (or both)? Who owns the budget? Who influences the budget? How does that influence work? How do you drive consensus for a national decision on something? 

Related to number 1, this question takes a slightly different angle. Depending on how the company is structured from a location standpoint, your sales approach, pricing and post-sales support could vary entirely. 

4. Is there a budget? Operating expense or capital expense? Time frames for decision making?

Everything needs a budget and it doesn’t matter if it is part of an operating budget or a capital expenditure budget. Depending on the stage of the sales process, there may not be a budget allocated yet and so this process will help your prospect define one. 

The other aspect to the budget question is time frame. When is their year-end? When do they start planning for next year’s budget? What does the process entail? How can you help? Can you support your internal champion in creating the budget?

5. Who is you’re your current supplier or vendor? What are you using them for?

Find out what solutions your prospect is currently using, why they selected them, the pros and cons and what they are looking for in a new solution. These are basic and solid questions to ask and they are also open ended enough to get a conversation started. 

You can leverage this question to probe on budget and spend, and do some competitive analysis which can feed into your pricing strategy. 

6. What criteria are you basing your buying decision on?

This helps you understand how your solution and other competitors will be evaluated. This can include things such as cost, terms, functionality, expense reduction, revenue generation capability, risk mitigation etc…Make sure you articulate how your solution fulfills each criteria so that it’s clear to them that your offering can meet their needs.

7. Are there other people involved in the purchasing process?

Different stakeholders from different departments may be involved in the buying process. It could be a senior manager and a buyer or it could be various stakeholders from various offices across the globe. You will need to ensure you understand their roles and responsibilities and tailor any messaging to them at the appropriate times. If you can identify who holds the budget, who is an influencer, who is your champion, who is the dissenter, and so forth, you can improve your chances of success. Work your sales strategy and process to ensure you can get enough of those people on board to drive a close. 

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