Prospecting is much easier when you’re talking to the right prospects. And the best way to figure out if your prospects are quality ones and move them down the sales pipeline is by asking sales discovery questions. Asking sales discovery questions is an open-ended way to debrief prospects and find out if your product or service is right for them.
These key questions are best asked on a sales discovery call, where you can talk to your prospects about their needs, wants, issues, and goals. This article covers everything you need to know about discovery questions in sales, including how to ask them, best practices, and exactly what to ask that’ll help turn your prospects into customers.
What are discovery questions in sales?
Discovery questions may just be the most important part of the sales process. These questions help you decide if a prospect is the right fit for your product, and a sales discovery call also sets the tone for your future business relationship moving forward.
Sales discovery questions are open-ended questions that can help you determine if it’s worth moving a prospect down the sales pipeline. If you don’t ask the right questions, you’ll waste everyone’s time and may not be able to sell your product down the line.
What type of sales discovery questions should you ask?
When thinking about what you need to know about a prospect, start with the basics, gleaning background info about the company and the person you’re speaking to (and their role within the organization).
You should be able to tell right away if the prospect is ready to buy by asking about their timeline. You’ll want to ask about the pain points within their company and how they anticipate solving them (hopefully — by using your product).
Once you understand more about their situation, their place in the buying process, and their goals, you can then map out the future by identifying the next steps. It’s also useful to understand how and when they prefer their next point and moment of contact to be.
Now that you know the type of information you should seek, the best practices section below can help you get it while building a (hopefully) long-term and fruitful client relationship with the prospect.
Best practices for asking sales discovery questions
There are certain things you should consider when asking sales discovery questions. After all, you’re getting to know a new person, and even though it’s in a professional capacity, understanding a few unspoken rules is essential for success and relationship building.
Do your homework
It’s always a good idea to know a bit about the prospect and their company before starting your conversation. This will help you sound prepared and may guide you toward asking just the right questions, which can make sure they’re viable prospects you’ll later be able to move down the sales funnel. If you’ve sourced the prospect on LinkedIn, make sure to sync all the notes you take about them to your CRM. Surfe can help you do that in a single click!
Make prospects the center of the discussion
Remember, this isn’t a speech or a one-way conversation. Your main job (besides asking the right questions) is to listen carefully to the answers and evaluate them. Most people usually only retain 17 to 25% of the things they hear, which isn’t a lot. Don’t be that person, and instead, actively listen to your prospects.
Mirroring is an excellent way to do this. When mirroring, you repeat back a few key words to the prospect — their words, not yours. Then you should continue to quietly listen and absorb what they’re saying. This shows prospects that you’re listening and retaining information and that you can understand and empathize, which can help them open up even more. Mirroring is a sales tip you can use in many sales situations, not just sales discovery calls.
Don’t pose an interrogation
While you’re definitely evaluating your prospect, sales discovery questions should be asked without an accusatory tone. Ask questions in a polite and respectful way, speak genuinely, and carefully listen to answers.
Ask open-ended questions
Yes or no questions won’t get you very far; the best way to get to know someone and make sure they’re the right prospect is by asking questions that invite useful, informational answers.
Go in the right order and ask the right questions
It may be useful to separate your questions into categories or organize them, which can ensure you identify all the information you need. For example, consider organizing your line of questioning into four main categories: setting things up, qualifying, disqualifying, and next steps. This can help you sort your data and prepare the prospect for what’s to come, decide whether or not this prospect will be a customer, and figure out what you should do next. Another way to do it is to use the BANT method, basing your questions on the following: Budget, Authority, Need, and Time.
Just know that not every sales discovery call will require the same exact line of questioning. Let the prospect guide you with your answers — based on what they say, you may need to change up a question to find out something new or avoid asking unnecessary things.
Understand the prospect’s pain points
While this has a lot to do with asking just the right sales discovery questions, finding out what’s going wrong can help you empathize with the customer and create a more human approach. It will put them at ease and help the conversation flow. And it can help you, as the seller, figure out just how your product can solve their particular issue(s).
What should you do if the prospect doesn’t have significant pain points?
Forget the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
It’s your responsibility to discover those deeper issues, ones that perhaps your prospect isn’t even aware of. After all, a prospect may not realize they can be doing things in a different (read: more effective) way until you present it to them. Remember, satisfactory doesn’t always mean great. Just because they don’t have glaring and obvious issues doesn’t mean things can’t be improved.
Consider this question: Even if things are going well, how can what you’re selling make things flow even better? This is the moment to make your prospect realize they need a solution (which is your product). This is also where actively listening to the prospect can be beneficial — you can connect your product to their goals, even if there isn’t a clear pain point.
Wrap up smartly
You’ll want to end your sales discovery call on a positive note. This means checking the impact of your call — is your prospect interested? Excited to move forward? Do they still have concerns? Make sure to end the call by asking them when is a good time to follow up. Not only will this help you have a specific time and manner of contacting them, but it can help you gauge their excitement and interest.
The right sales discovery questions
Finally, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for — sharing exactly which sales discovery questions you should be asking prospects on a sales discovery call.
Keep in mind that this is an example list, and it’s important to cater your questions exactly to your prospect and their individual needs, as well as the collective needs of their organization. We suggest asking between 10-15 questions, what we deem the “sweet spot” of sales discovery questions. Less than 10 may not guide you to the answers you’re looking for, while more than 15 might bore or turn off your potential customer.
Finally, make sure to tailor your questioning to whether or not your prospect was inbound (found within the company) versus an outbound prospect, like one sourced on LinkedIn or via cold calling).
Ask these sales discovery questions
These are example questions you can ask prospects. Just remember to customize them to your prospects and amend your line of questioning based on their answers as you go along.
- How did you hear about us?
- Can you tell me a bit about your company (and/or your role within the company)?
- What are your goals and what do you need to achieve them?
- What are the key problems you’re trying to solve?
- How long have these problems been going on?
- What do things look like using a potential solution?
- What price would you be willing to pay for a solution?
- How would a solution affect your ROI?
- What timeline are we working with?
- When would you expect to see results?
- What are the roadblocks to solving your issues?
- What solutions are you currently using? Why aren’t they working?
- What other solutions are you looking at or evaluating?
- What is the main metric your team uses to track success?
- Who else needs to be part of this process?
- When is the best time to follow up? Do you prefer calls or emails?
Win prospects with the right sales discovery questions
Obviously, asking the right questions during a sales discovery call is really important, but it’s also just as crucial to follow best practices for questioning and create a good rapport during the call.
A prospect will be evaluating your potential products and company, but sometimes, positive intuition or a good feeling during a call may be all a prospect needs to choose you and your company as a solution. Likewise, asking just the right questions can help you get a feel for the prospect’s goals and background to determine if they’re qualified and if you’ll be able to move them down the sales pipeline.