Questions to ask during discovery calls to improve your prospecting

For salespeople, closing a call is the best part of prospecting. Knowing that your research, preparation, and hard work has pushed that deal across the line, contracts have been signed and that commission is a done deal, is the best feeling ever!

As stated above, before we get to closing calls, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Depending on your clients and your products or services, you’ll spend 10 to 20 hours working on your prospect. One of the most important stages in those 10 to 20 hours is the discovery stage.

The discovery stage is a crucial part of the sales process – the first call after connecting with a process sets the tone for your entire relationship with your prospect. This is where you qualify your prospects fit, understand their pain points, clarify the benefits of your product/service, and gain visibility of their spending power. 

There’s, unfortunately, a common tendency to demo products or start preaching about your services once on a discovery call. Rushing to do this can lead to high churn rates and decreasing close rates. Doing this lowers the time you can spend on understanding your prospect, their needs, and their challenges. Discovery time is the best place to let the candidate lead the conversation, tell you about pain points, what they’re trying to accomplish, and what their drivers are. Doing this at the beginning increases your close rates and lowers your chances of losing deals that were initially winnable.

So, how does one go about finding all this out in a such a limited amount of time?

We can’t stress this enough; the discovery call is the foundation of the entire sales cycle. As a sales rep, it is imperative to start that process off on as positive a note as you can.

One of the best ways to do that is to ask the right questions. Before even picking up the phone, ask yourself: “What are my prospects’ core pain points and how can I solve them for him/her?”. This will help you figure out what questions to ask your prospect during your call.

What are discovery questions?

two women and a man in a demo meeting

Discovery calls are usually 10 to 15 minutes long; quite a short time to get all your questions in. That’s why it’s important to have good quality discovery questions. All your questions should:

  1. Show your product/service and client fit.
  2. Show what value your product/ service will bring to your prospective client.

There are many questions you could ask, and a lot of it will depend on the conversation you have with your prospect. Please note, there’s no one right way to conduct a discovery call. The most important thing to remember is to listen to your prospect. Don’t listen to reply but understand and process what they’re saying and ask only the pertinent questions from your list. This consultative approach will help not only yourself, but the decision maker understand exactly why they need your product or service.

Even if something seems obvious to you and your prospect, it is better to drive them towards that ‘aha moment,’ where THEY are actively aware of their drivers, motivations and challenges – instead of you telling them.

Having covered the WHAT and WHY of it, here’s a list of great discovery questions you should ask in your next discovery call.

Discovery questions to build rapport and validate your research

This is where you’re opening the question and setting the tone of your discovery call. It is a great time to learn about your prospect and their challenges from their perspective – either validating or invalidating all your assumptions from your research. You can use these questions to show your interest in their organisation, position, and work life. One important thing to remember is the need to establish a personal connection. This is the best stage to learn about your prospect as a person and establish ‘uncommon commonalities’ – did they go to the same university as you? Do they like the same sport or recreational activity as you? You get the point.

  • Tell me about [your role, company, team, industry].
  • Could you explain your role? What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
  • What do you like most about [your organisation, position, industry, etc]?
  • What prompted you to explore our solution?
  • What initially piqued your interest in our services/product?
  • What metrics are you responsible for?
  • What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced since [ started the role, changed process, switched companies – any new changes you’ve noticed]?

Discovery questions to qualify or disqualify your prospect.

Having learnt your prospect’s position and role. You now need to identify their goals and further clarify any pain points you may have missed. Let them tell you what problems your service/solution could solve. This is the stage where you figure out whether your product or service fits with their needs – qualifying or disqualifying them. Learn as much as you can about the decision-making process, whether that’s budgeting, scheduling, or the prospect’s ability to influence the buying decision.

  • Tell me about your goals [financial, customer centric, operational]?
  • Who is usually involved in the decision-making process?
  • Are you having any problems with [ areas related to product/service]?
  • Are you still struggling with [ identified pain points]?
  • What solution/s do you have in place to solve [identified pain point]?
  • What are some of the barriers to solving [identified pain point]?
  • Why wasn’t it previously addressed [why is it now a priority]?
  • What do you think is the source of [identified pain point]?
  • What would a successful outcome be for you?

Discovery questions to uncover your prospects, challenges and goals

  • What are you looking to improve?
  • How have you tried to solve [problem] so far?
  • What’s led you to want a solution now?
  • What could be a potential solution for [problem]?
  • What piqued your interest in our services/product?
  • Have you ever made a purchase like this before [Who? How did you find it? How did you make the decision]?
  • What components matter most when considering what tools/services are right for you/your team? [scalability, function, price?]
  • What solution/ service providers have you considered to date?
  • What’s been your experiences with [competitors]?
  • How do you think we compare to other solutions you’ve considered so far?
  • How do you see our solution fitting your future plans?

Discovery questions to understand the decision-making process

You’re not expected to close any sales by this point of the call, but you can still use it as an opportunity to identity and address any potential barriers that might stop them moving forward with your solution/service. Asking questions about implementation, purchasing decisions, and resources will help you understand if your services/solutions are the ones they need right now. Not only that, this is also the perfect time to push your prospect to the next stage of your pipeline and discuss your next steps. 

  • What does your implementation timeline look like?
  • What’s your typical purchasing process like?
  • When does your current solution contract finish?
  • Do you and your team have the resources to implement [new service/solution], should you choose to move forward?
  • What support would you need to make the transition easy for you and achievable for the timeline you’ve stated?
  • Do you have any set decision criteria for choosing vendors? Who created these criteria?
  • If you had no budget restrictions, what changes would you like to make?
  • After making these changes, what are you planning to do with your extra time/revenue/resources?

Next step discovery questions

  • What’s going to stop us working together by [date/time]?
  • Are there any concerns you have regarding our services/solutions that might stop you from purchasing?
  • When would be the best time for our next meeting?
  • What concerns do you want to cover at our next meeting?
  • When’s the best time to follow up with you on our discussion [give them a specific time frame]?
  • When could you, your stakeholders, and I connect next week?
  • How would you like to be contacted with [further information/ something the prospect requested to see or hear] later this week?

Closing your discovery call

By the end of the call, you should be able to tell whether or not your discovery call went well. You should have ideally done one of two things; disqualified them or found a sales opportunity. You should have finished that call with some sort of resolution, whether that’s a sales plan with the next steps, or definitive no. If you’ve still got questions, it’s advised to ask for a followup call to iron out those remaining kinks.

Please note, the questions listed above are not prescription. You don’t have to, nor will you be able to cover all of them in a 10–15-minute call. It might not even make sense to try to. Choose only the questions that are relevant and seem useful to you, based on your understanding of your prospect and their needs.

The whole point of discovery calls is to help your prospect see the value of your solution/service. Try to focus on the topic points that will add value. Even if the prospect isn’t sales ready right now, who’s to say they won’t reach out later, when they are? So always try to leave them with a positive impression.

Want to learn more? Reach out to one of our sales coaches on LinkedIn, or contact us here.

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