3 Questioning Techniques from Dr. Phil That Every Tele-Prospector Should Know

Can you imagine if Dr. Phil was a tele-sales rep?

He’d be utterly fantastic!  There is a reason why Dr. Phil has such a popular show. He’s a master at getting his guests to open up and discuss the core issue of a problem or a situation. Once the real issues are on the table, the therapy can begin.

When you think about it, tele-sales reps should be doing the same thing. Your approach should be more ‘therapeutic’ with the aim of getting the client to open up and discuss the core issue of a problem or a situation.

You can be the ‘Dr. Phil’ of tele-sales if you follow these three questioning tips:

1. Use Therapeutic Questions

Dr. Phil knows that it takes his quests a little time to get ‘warmed up’ when he questions them on his show.  Their initial responses to his questions are very often general, vague or superficial. It is not necessarily that they are hiding something but rather because it is human nature to be reticent with information when speaking with people we don’t really know.

Kind of like selling, isn’t it?  Prospects typically don’t open up and blossom like a flower right away when questioned by a sales rep.  Prospects hold their answers close to their chests like playing cards simply because they don’t know you and don’t trust you. Knowing this Dr. Phil has a couple of questions that always get to the heart of the matter.

“How Do You Feel About That?”

Asking a prospect how he ‘feels’ about situation or event is brilliant because the question seeks to tap into the ’emotional’ side of selling. At some level, even in B to B, buying is an emotional event. How a prospect ‘feels’ about a situation often directs his or her buying behavior.

For example, suppose you ask a client about their sales growth over the last quarter and the client replies, “Twenty per cent.” That sounds good, doesn’t it? But is it?  Dr. Phil knows there might be more to this answer than meets the eye (ear?) so he would ask, “How do you feel about it?”

“Are you kidding me?” says the client, “In this market and with this product we, should be nailing 30-35%!” Instead of assuming that the current sales growth is good, the sales rep discovers it’s a source of angst.  Whole new ball game in terms of an approach.

“How’s that working for you?”

Here is another question that Dr. Phil would use if he were a sales rep: “How’s that working for you?”  It’s a superb question because it is not only open-ended but it casually asks for an evaluation; it gets the client to elaborate, expand and explain.

For example, if the client says, “I am getting my yearly accreditation at a weekend seminar in Tampa,” Dr. Phil would say, “Oh ya, and how’s that working for you?” as a means to get the client to evaluate the process. He wants their opinions and thoughts and this question helps elicit them.

So, if the client says, “It’s a royal pain in the backside. I lose the weekend and I have to drive 75 miles there and back on Saturday and Sunday,”  you know precisely how it’s NOT working for him. The devil is in the details and this question helps get you the details you often need to evaluate the client’s situation.

2.  Watch Your Delivery

Delivery of these therapeutic questions is critical. Dr. Phil knows that the manner in which he presents a question can influence the quality and the nature of the response from the client.

If you watch him, you will notice that his tone is neutral and non-threatening.  He does not want to give away a bias one way or the other. He doesn’t want to appear too intrusive and too direct because he knows that will put the guest on the defensive.

In the world of tele-sales, your delivery is important for precisely the same reasons. You must ensure that you are not giving your prospect the sense that she is being interrogated.

3. Let them Answer

But what Dr. Phil does best is that he lets guest answer the question. He does not interrupt. He does blather on.  He waits patiently as the client formulates the answer and responds.

Some reps have learned to keep silence but many are not evaluating what they hear but rather they are waiting for their turn to speak or they are waiting to ask the next question regardless of what was said. Dr. Phil would NOT do that. Instead, he listens and evaluates what he hears and based on this analysis he can ask more questions or provide feedback as appropriate.  In short, he is flexible in his approach to question and goes with the flow of the response.

You can do the same. Let your clients answer and tune in to what they are saying and how they are responding to that question. Does it make sense to you? Does it need more elaboration? Does it create other avenues to explore? Think and proceed just like Dr. Phil.


Wear your Dr. Phil hat the next time you question a client or prospect. Follow these three tips …and let me know how it’s working for you and how you feel about it.

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