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Probing questions: building rapport over the phone.

By Anne Bagnall

Building rapport is a crucial element of any sales process. Although there are steps we can take to get the rapport ball rolling at the start of a call, maintaining rapport over the telephone can pose a significant challenge.

One of the main reasons for this is that as telemarketing agents, we are unable to physically match and mirror the body language of our prospects. This is a chief rapport-building method widely used by salespeople. When the benefit of being able to mirror and match body language is gone, other elements of the conversation become much more important.

The more tools a telephone salesperson can use to get into and maintain rapport, the better. One of these tools widely used at Phonetic is to ask probing questions. Most salespeople, both face to face and on the telephone, fall into the trap of asking factual, shopping list-type questions.

Although questions like these are necessary, they aren’t interesting for a potential client to answer and can very easily hinder the process of building rapport. They are best asked as sparingly and as quickly as possible in order to proceed onto more interesting conversation.

On the other hand, probing questions invite our prospect to fully consider their needs and how they would like their ideal world to look. By asking probing questions you are learning what is important to them and how you can help fulfil their requirements.

Asking probing questions strengthens rapport because in general, people love to talk about themselves and their needs. The insight you gain from this type of questioning allows you to tailor your offering to their exact requirements, and not just tell them what you do. The contact feels in control.

In order to be successful in building rapport, a telemarketing agent must be able to ask probing questions. Once you have understood their current and future needs, you are in a much better position to be able to sell to them.

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