Probe. Probe. Probe. That´s the name of the game. In the last 20 years I have worked as a telemarketer for and with a variety of companies, from Insurance firms to graphic design agencies. I have sold radio air time, scheduled appointments and acted as a customer service representative for many top firms. I have been trained by some of the best sales and marketing people in the business and have read quite a number of books on telemarketing and sales. However, one thing most (if any) don´t talk about is the art of the probe. Probing a prospect is a lot like building a case is to lawyers. Gathering facts and asking specific questions at specific times to get to the heart of the matter is key. The interesting thing about probing is that hardly anyone does it, most sales people don´t know about it , and very few do it right. For years, those of us who have made cold calls have subscribed to the "smile and dial "way of doing things despite the fact that the process no longer works. That is to get a prospect on the phone and then cram information down their throats without the slightest notion of what they´re interested in. No one ever questioned this way of making cold calls because its´ always been done one way. I am here to give you another. Think about it this way, you can´t make a sale without knowing your market. You can´t make a sale without knowing what your customers are interested in. And you can´t make a sale without asking questions. The right questions at the right time. Probing is not just about asking a couple of questions because it goes way beyond that. It´s about asking the question in a way that gets the prospect to tell you what they want instead of you telling them. Here are two examples of short presentations. The first one is the way most sales people make cold calls. The second incorporates the art of probing.
Hi. This is_______ calling for (name of company). We specialize in graphic design. I understand that you are the person in charge of contracting outside graphic designers. We would like to meet with you to show our portfolio and bid on any new projects you might be outsourcing. We handle corporate identity pieces, website design and business cards. Is that ok?
Hi. This is_______ calling for (name of company). We specialize in graphic design. I understand that you are the person in charge of contracting outside graphic designers.
Do you accept bids from outside vendors?
Will you be taking quotes on any new design projects?
What type of projects?
Can you tell me about the project?
How soon will you be accepting quotes?
Do you have a budget mapped out for this project?
We would like to meet with you to show our portfolio and bid on any new projects you might be outsourcing. We handle corporate identity pieces, website design and business cards. May we show you our portfolio and submit a quote to you?
As you can see the first example was more about giving information while the second is about asking questions and waiting for a response. Probing questions also allows you to pre-qualify the lead more effectively by not assuming that there is a need but creating interest by creating a need for you product or service. You create the need simply by finding out what the prospect wants and asking enough of the right questions to get them to determine that they have a need for your service. Probing also allows you to listen more (which is a problem for most cold callers) and talk less thereby giving you a better shot at closing the deal. Trust me if a prospect is really interested they will have a lot of questions and you´ll have plenty of time to talk.
Tony Wilkins is the author of "Telemarketing Success for Small and Mid-sized Firms available in most bookstores and online at www.amazon.com and www.xlibris.com you may also find out about his workshops and services at
http://stores.ebay.com/telemarketing-success or via e:mail at firstname.lastname@example.org