By Kathy Sisk
The fifth of the twelve steps to successful telemarketing is generating quality leads. During Step Five, you will need to decide where you want to go with your prospect. You do this by asking probing questions, which are designed to accomplish three functions: qualifying your prospects, establishing their wants, and creating a need for your product or service. These functions were covered in the last issue and must be addressed in order. Here is some important additional information about successfully implementing this step.
Keys to Probing: The following keys can help you during your probing stage:
- Ask open-ended questions that qualify your prospect. Establish wants and create needs.
- Listen to and mentally paraphrase all points. Write them down. Be sure to use the listening techniques discussed in “Setting the Stage” in the March, April, and May 2011 issues.
- Assure prospects that you want to help them select the right product or service by the type of questions you ask.
- Identify dominant wants or needs. Later on, you will get the prospect’s agreement (Step Six).
Additional Ideas: Some important ideas to keep in mind for effective probing are:
- People buy what can satisfy their own needs, not what you want for them.
- Selling is determining and satisfying needs, fulfilling wants, and offering solutions.
- Focus on the prospect’s needs, not your own.
- Probe with open-ended questions that contain the words who, what, where, why, when, how, explain, describe, or share.
- During the probing step, let your prospect talk approximately 80 percent of the time. Spend 20 percent of the time asking open-ended questions. Remember, the prospect’s problems and needs are the keys to your success.
- Do not act or react as a salesperson by responding to your prospect’s answers. This is crucial. Respond only with another probing question. Use this time to get to know your prospect by actively listening. Later on, prospects will get to know you (Step 7).
- There is no need to persuade your prospects to buy your product or services. By using probing, open-ended questions, they will talk themselves into it!
- Never begin selling, telling, or demonstrating your product or service until your prospects have adequately established their needs.
Do Not Pass Go: One very crucial guideline is that you cannot continue past Step Five unless you create a need for what you have to offer. Continuing without doing so will encourage unnecessary objections and reduce the likelihood of later closing the sale. Remember, prospecting is planting seeds for a future harvest. Once you’ve planted a seed, keep in touch by watering it and feeding it, and eventually you’ll reap the fruits of your labor.
Formulating Questions: Remember to start your questions with who, what, where, why, when, how, explain, describe, or share. Also, make sure your questions are nonthreatening. Base each question on the prospect’s responses.
Being able to think quickly on your feet is a tremendous advantage when prospecting. Asking the right questions at the right time is a skill. Like most skills, the ability to probe effectively must be learned. Once you are aware of the differences between open-ended and closed-ended questions, you will have taken a significant step.
However, knowing the difference and implementing it are not the same. You must make a point of practicing open-ended questions; this will be helpful in evaluating others, listening to the types of questions they use, and analyzing their techniques. Try to turn your prospects’ closed-ended questions into open-ended ones. You will benefit from developing this skill.
The Two-Call Close: You’ve asked open-ended questions and have received information that qualifies your prospects and establishes their wants. You’ve created a need for your products and services. Now, what do you do with that information? You restate it and conduct a “two-call close.”
Remember, when you slow the process down, this impresses your prospects; they are taken back that you aren’t “pouncing” on them or “going for the throat,” as many agents and salespeople do. Your close at this point is similar to the easy close discussed during Step Three. For example, you might say, “Thank you for sharing this with me. I would like to send you more information about our company and the products and services we offer. Would that be all right with you?”
Once your prospect agrees to receive your information, you can qualify their interest level by saying, “Once you have had the opportunity to review the information, I would like to gain your feedback. Does that sound fair enough?” When your prospect agrees to receive a follow-up call from you, you now have a “healthy” callback. You have increased your opportunities in closing for a sale or securing an appointment on your next call.
(Should you encounter that 10 percent of prospects who are in the market today, don’t use a two-call close. Conducting a two-call close is a judgment call on an agent’s part, and the decision is usually based on how the prospect responds during the probing step.)
The Post Close: If you are going to conduct a follow-up call, you need to first do a post close now in order to further stabilize your prospect’s agreement to receive your information and establish his or her willingness to allow you to conduct the follow-up call. Your post close would sound something like this:
“To ensure that your information gets to you in a timely manner, I need to verify my information. Your mailing address is 312 Merry Lane—is that correct? What is your fax number? Should I send this information to only your attention? Thank you for the additional information. You should receive this information by Tuesday; I can follow up with you on Thursday. Would you prefer that I contact you during the morning or afternoon? Is 9:00 a.m. good, or would 10:00 a.m. be better? Okay, great! I have you on my calendar for Thursday at 10:00 a.m. In the meantime, are there any other questions you might have at this time? Again, thank you for taking my call, and I look forward to gaining your feedback on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. You have a pleasant day!”
Conclusion: This establishes the basis for a healthy callback. The prospect is fully aware of your intent, but you have presented yourself in bite-size pieces. You might worry that some of your prospects will talk themselves out of the follow-up call because of “post purchase remorse” (as in “What did I just do?”). However, because you have prequalified them, successfully established their wants, and created a need for what you have to offer, it’s unlikely you will lose them. Actually, you have increased your opportunities to have greater control during your follow-up call. And, should you encounter resistance, you will have an easier time overcoming it.
Take time to learn, practice, and implement the first five steps. Remember that if you have been doing things a different way, it will take time to unlearn it first. Be patient; it will be worth it. Monitor your results before, during, and after. In this way, you will see a marked improvement in production and attitude and less turnover and burnout in your telemarketing department!
Next time we will cover how to continue your presentation with Step Six.
Kathy Sisk is president of Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc.
[From Connection Magazine – April 2012]