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Article 11 min read

50 sales-probing questions to better understand your prospects

Sales-probing questions help you better understand your prospect’s needs and wants. Here are questions you can use in your next call.

By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Last updated September 20, 2023

Striking up a conversation with a stranger can feel daunting. If you’ve ever stumbled over your words asking for directions or dared to invite someone you like for a coffee, you know the feeling.

For sales reps, especially those new to the game, finding the right questions to ask is half the battle. Enter the probing question—a sales tactic that will help your team seal more deals.

In this article, we’ll explain exactly what a probing question is and share probing question examples that will get even the most tight-lipped prospects to open up.

What is a probing question?

A probing question is an open-ended question that nudges prospects toward revealing more information about their situation. Learning about a prospect’s needs, wants, budgets, and goals keys sales reps to the best tactics to guide their prospects toward buying.

What is the purpose of asking probing questions?

The purpose of a probing question is to learn more about your prospect’s needs so you can better meet them. Probing questions for sales illuminate the best pathway toward a purchase.

Remarkably, 70 percent of purchasing decisions are made to solve a specific problem. Once you learn what challenges your prospects face, you can adjust your sales pitch to best fit their needs. How can you learn? By asking questions, of course!

Probing questions work across all channels. You can deliver probing questions via email, phone call (whether cold calling or following up), or in person.

Types of sales probing questions

Types of sales probing questions, fingers pointed up

Most sales companies use four types of probing questions to start great conversations: open-ended, loaded, close-ended, and recall and process.

Sales probing questions examples

Sales probing questions examples, person holding book

1. What do you do?

This classic question feels friendly and welcoming when you’re starting to get to know a potential client. It’s also open-ended, inviting the individual to talk about their work situation. This can yield a lot of information about the prospect’s business and their own place within it.

In B2B sales, asking this question can help you establish if this individual has final purchasing power or if that’s someone higher up the chain.

2. What’s your current situation?

While this question may seem vague, asking about a current situation can spark a fantastic sales conversation. Let the prospect open with what’s foremost on their mind. They may take you right to their primary issue, providing the opening you need to share your perfect solution. If this approach doesn’t work, you can always shift to more specific questions.

3. What issues are you looking to address?

Here’s a more specific probing question in which you’re guiding the conversation. Get the prospect to talk about the problems they need help with. Once you have a clear picture, position your product as part of their solution.

4. What are your goals?

Sure, you need to know what frustrates your prospect. But it’s just as important to understand a potential client’s hopes for the future and what they want their company to achieve. Certain prospects are attracted to a product’s positive impact and the opportunities it opens up, rather than just the problems it solves.

5. What brings you here today?

This is another masterful opener. Its flexibility allows the prospect to speak to whatever’s most pressing on their minds, but it also highlights their timing. Why today? Did they try a different solution that failed? Are they heading toward an important business milestone and looking for a boost? You may just end up with a terrific angle for your pitch.

6. Are you considering any other options?

By bringing up the competition, you can suss out what other options are on the table. You need to know who you’re up against so you can speak to what makes your product or service superior.

7. What led you to consider our product?

Get a prospect talking about what initially drew them to your product specifically. Of course this helps your potential client sort through their thought process, but you may also discover what could attract future customers. If one person finds a product attribute appealing, chances are others will, too.

8. Are you familiar with our product?

Discover whether your prospect has done any product research. There’s no need to repeat information that the prospect already knows. Conversely, if they have no idea about your product, begin with a broader sales pitch to introduce them to it.

9. Where is your business located?

If you’re at all familiar with the area in question, take advantage of this opportunity to establish a personal connection. You’ll also likely learn more about the size or type of their local industry.

10. What are your priorities right now?

Is solving this issue the prospect’s priority? How urgent is their need? This question can provide information that can help you work on their timeline and prioritize what feels most pressing for them. Not only will you better meet their needs, but this question can help prospects feel heard.

11. Should we add someone else to this conversation?

Just because the individual you’re talking to doesn’t have personal purchasing power, doesn’t mean the sale is lost. A question like this one opens the door to further conversation with someone who can make the purchase. Plus, if you’ve already gotten your initial contact on board, it’s easier to convince a higher-up.

12. Can we schedule a time to talk again?

Don’t take indecision as a “no.” Your contact may be genuinely on the fence. If they’re not yet ready to buy, set up a time to talk again. Just because now’s not the moment doesn’t mean things won’t change in the future.

13. How did you hear about us?

Take advantage of an opportunity to gain insight into how well your marketing strategies are working. See what channels successfully draw in new leads. It will also illuminate what caught this particular prospect’s attention.

14. What can we do to make you feel comfortable buying?

Sometimes you need to pose a direct question. If you feel like you can’t close the deal and you’re not sure why, it’s not out of line to just ask. People appreciate transparency. They may just tell you how you can support them.

15. Is there anything else I should know?

When a prospect is getting ready to leave, it’s wise to ask this final check-in question. Maybe they forgot to mention a detail that will prove helpful next time you talk.

The motherlode of sales email templates

We’ve compiled 12 email templates that cover every sales pipeline stage, from prospecting to closing.

35 additional probing sales questions

35 additional probing sales questions, notepad

Sales reps can and should ask more specific probing questions. Try out some of these insightful inquiries:

Strategies for asking probing questions

Strategies for asking probing questions, two people talking

How you deliver a probing question is just as important as the question itself. Here are some strategies to effectively ask thoughtful questions:

  • Be warm and friendly. Treat your prospect personably and try to make an authentic connection with them. Whether or not you’re working for commission, always work toward the prospect’s best interests. They’ll respond positively to the effort.
  • Practice active listening. Make the prospect feel heard and use what you learn to cater your sales pitch to their needs. Better-angled sales pitches improve your sales funnel.
  • Search for the root of each prospect’s issue. They may not see their needs in the same way you do. Assure them your product is not just a workable solution, but the best one for their needs.
  • Be clear and approachable. Don’t confuse potential clients or put them on the defensive. If you sense a miscommunication bubbling up, redirect or simplify your sales approach.

Engage with Zendesk Sell

An arsenal of discerning questions will yield insightful data for your sales and marketing teams. Track these insights in a first-rate CRM—like Zendesk Sell—so you can shepherd your prospects through the pipeline to conversion.

Start a free trial of Sell today and see how a quality CRM can keep your sales reps on track and smashing their selling goals.

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