Probing vs confirmingA father and son went fishing one day, and after a short period of time in the boat, the boy became curious about the world around him. He decided to ask his dad some questions and began with, “How does this boat float?”

The father thought for a moment, then replied, “Don’t rightly know, son.”

The boy turned around and then turned back again asking, “How do fish breathe underwater, dad?”

Once again his father replied, “Don’t rightly know, son.”

A little later the boy asked his father, “Why is the sky blue?”

Again, the father replied. “Don’t rightly know, son.”

Worried that he was going to annoy his father, he said, “Dad, do you mind my asking you all of these questions?” The dad replied, “Of course not son, if you don’t ask questions, how will you ever learn?”

Although the boy in this story didn’t get a lot of answers, when you are investigating a prospect’s needs, you are probing, so open questions should be your favorite tool. They are designed to trigger free responses so that potentially useful information will be shared with you.

Open questions usually begin with who, what, when, why, where, tell me, or describe. Here are a few examples of how they might sound when utilized during a sales appointment in my business:

What type of sales training are you looking for?”

Why is that important to you?”

Who, beside you, is impacted by this issue?”

Describe your expectations of a competent training consultant.”

There are three general times when open questions are appropriate and will provide you a great return on your time investment:

Researching – This is when you are probing, gathering facts, learning about conditions, and exploring events occurring in your prospect’s environment.

Sounds like: “How are your sales people currently being trained?”

Retrieving – The easiest way to determine prospects needs is to simply ask them what they are. Remember that it’s not unusual to have multiple needs, so make sure you follow your buyer’s responses with what else questions.

Sounds like: “What kind of sales training help do you need?…In addition to that, what else?”

Refining – Get more detail by asking the prospect to be more specific about their comments.

Sounds like: “Tell me more about the training you are using right now.”

Open Questions Don’t forget that as valuable as open questions are they are only part of the equation. They will provide you lots of information, but they must be followed up with closed questions to confirm conclusions so you will know what direction to take next.

Closed questions tend to limit answers to:

Yes or No probing

Sounds like: “Have you ever used a training consultant?”

Choices you provide

Sounds like: “Are you planning a one-time training event or an ongoing weekly or monthly training series?”

Limited pieces of information

Sounds like: “How many outside salespeople do you have?”

Closed questions tend to work well in helping you in the following situations:

Gathering precise facts

Sounds like: “Between the two, which is the most pressing?”

Verifying buyer’s statements

Sounds like: “Seems as if the prospecting problem your people have is what’s really keeping you awake at night, right?”

Confirming that action will follow (Often there is a tendency to elaborate on problems with no willingness to fix them.)

Sounds like: “Is the prospecting issue a concern that you are committed to resolving as soon as possible?”

The information provided from open questions will be much more meaningful when followed up with closed questions that will provide more clarity.

When you go to a theatre and watch a 3-D movie without the glasses, the picture isn’t very clear. By adding closed questions, you clear up the questioning picture and add focus and perspective to needs and wants.

————–Begin Your New Year Right—————

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