Effective Probing Strategies

By Kathy Sisk

The world of telemarketing can be daunting. An agent may lose a customer’s interest and miss a sale simply by asking the wrong question. If you want to get to “yes,” you must ask the right questions. Here are some effective probing strategies to enhance your communication skills and build stronger customer relationships.

Frame Your Conversation: One of the most effective strategies is proper positioning. This gives you permission to ask your customer almost anything and increases your chance of getting the right answers. The perfect way to frame a conversation is to say what you want to do for your customer: Explain the purpose of your call and let the customer know you need to ask some questions to better help him or her. By doing so you justify your questions in advance and encourage your customer’s willingness to cooperate. Say: “Mr./Mrs. Customer, so I can help you in the best way possible, I need to ask you a few quick questions, if you don’t mind.”

Ask Funnel Questions: The funnel effect involves asking general questions to be on point with each answer. It helps the customer focus on useful details about his or her concern. The trick to effective funnel questioning is to ask open-ended questions, which helps you discover useful details to determine the best solution for your customer. It helps you gain their interest.

Flow with the Answers: To ask the right questions, you need to listen. Pay attention to what your customer is saying. By actively listening to each answer, you can properly formulate your next question and get the information you seek. Active listening ensures the natural flow of questions and makes you trustworthy. Following a rigid script is impersonal and makes your customers feel like you are up to something; they won’t believe you really want to get to know them and help them.

Use Positive Words: Having a positive attitude yields positive results. Be energetic and smile when speaking with customers over the phone. This makes them more comfortable about sharing information. Your goal when probing is to get useful details from them. Speaking with a positive and proactive attitude makes it more likely they will respond to you in the same manner.

Kathy Sisk, founder and president of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc., is a trainer and consultant, contributing forty years of expertise to the telemarketing, sales, and customer service industries.

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