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9 of our favorite discovery questions and why to use them

The first district manager I ever had once told me anytime he met a new salesperson the first thing he’d ask them is what their “opener” was. He swore that based on the answer they gave, he could guess how good a salesperson they were. For reference, his favorite opener was “what’s a typical day like for you?” Though a bit reductive, it is an interesting idea. A salesperson’s ability to extract useful information from a prospect is paramount to their overall success. And, questions are the main tool by which someone would get information from another person.  In fact,…

The first district manager I ever had once told me anytime he met a new salesperson the first thing he’d ask them is what their “opener” was. He swore that based on the answer they gave, he could guess how good a salesperson they were. For reference, his favorite opener was “what’s a typical day like for you?”

Though a bit reductive, it is an interesting idea. A salesperson’s ability to extract useful information from a prospect is paramount to their overall success. And, questions are the main tool by which someone would get information from another person. 

In fact, research shows 22% of salespeople list discovery as the most difficult part of their job, which makes sense. In most situations, there are numerous amounts of questions you could potentially ask. However, since there’s a finite amount of time you have with a prospect, you have to be economical with your inquiries. 

To help you avoid playing an unwanted game of 20 questions, and get to the answers that help you close the deal, we’ve put together a list of our favorite discovery questions and explain why you should use them in your discovery efforts. Read on to learn more. 

1. What problem are you trying to solve?

There’s only one reason we ever buy anything: to solve a problem. We may not always phrase it that way, but that’s the truth. For example, any time you buy food the problem you’re solving for is hunger. Or, if you buy a coat the problem you’re solving for is staying warm. 

Your prospect is no different. They have a problem and you can earn their business if you sufficiently show how you can solve it. However, you’re only able to do that if you’re aware of what their problem is.

Though it may not seem like the most elegant solution to just bluntly ask, it is effective. And it’s well worth your time to do so. Only 13% of customers believe a salesperson can understand their needs. Since it’s so foundational to the sales process, this is a great question to ask early in your discovery process. 

2. Tell me about your current process

More than likely your prospect has a workflow they’re currently using. If they’re talking to you, that’s a pretty clear signal whatever it is they’re currently doing is no longer working. Or, at the very least, can be improved upon. 

By asking about their current process you’re able to uncover some pain points they may be experiencing. You’re also given insight into how you may be able to position your product as a better solution. For example, at Qwilr we often hear prospects mention how much of a pain it is to update proposals, or contracts, and then resend them to get signed. 

With that information we can talk about how you can update a Qwilr Page and simply have the prospect refresh the link on their end and the changes are reflected. No back-and-forth needed. By understanding their current process you’re able to better position yourself as the next evolution of their effort.  

3. What do you do day-to-day?

When you tell someone you’re a salesperson they probably think the majority of your time is spent selling. However, as you well know, that’s not the case. In fact, salespeople only spend about 35% of their time actively selling

Though that may seem crazy to think to someone outside of sales, those who know the job wouldn’t be nearly as surprised by those numbers. 

The reality is someone’s job title really only gives you a little bit of information about what they actually do day-in and day-out. Similar to the question above, when you ask about your prospect’s daily activities what you’re looking for are ways, or areas, your product or service is applicable. 

4. What are your top priorities? (price, value, etc.)

Every prospect has their own set of priorities. For example, some may be most concerned with how easily your service may integrate with their current workflow. Others may be interested in specific features, or security measures taken. For many, price is the biggest determining factor.

By asking about their priorities you’re better able to speak to any concerns they may have and overcome objections. You’ll also be able to discover any potential deal-breakers early on. 

5. Who’s involved in the decision-making process?

As teams have become more cross-functional, and purchases more complex, the number of people involved in any purchasing decision has grown over the past few years. In fact, on average, there are seven people involved in the decision-making process for most purchases. 

The goal of asking who’s involved in the decision making process isn’t really to get the names of all the decision-makers, but more so to have a better understanding of who may need to be convinced. For example, if you’re pitching to a sales manager your approach will be different than if pitching to an account executive.

Knowing who else you potentially have to talk to, and convince, empowers you to start planning for those conversations early.

6. Do you have a timeline for getting a new tool/ service?

Timing is as important a part of closing a deal as any. By understanding if your prospect has a specific timeline you’re better able to understand where they are in the buying process and how urgent their need is. 

If they don’t have a solid timeline chances are they’re earlier in the process and still probably in the research phase of their decision. However, if they have a hard deadline it probably signals they’re a more serious buyer and may be closer to actually making a purchase. 

7. What metrics are you responsible for?

We all have goals. And, for most of us, the way we measure our success is by looking at one, or a few, different metrics. For example, a sales team may be responsible for monthly recurring revenue (or MRR, for short). 

As with many of the questions in this article, the real goal is to get a deeper understanding of your prospect and how you can frame your pitch to make it as relevant as possible. Being able to relate exactly how your offering could impact their primary metrics could be incredibly powerful. 

8. What is your ideal scenario? 

Any time we make a purchase we have an expectation of the item, or service, we’re purchasing. Not only do we have an expectation of how the product or service works, we also probably have an expectation of the buying process, too. 

By asking about an ideal scenario what you’re really finding out is what the prospects expectations are. If you’re selling software they may expect your team to help set up integrations. They may also have an expectation of how long implementation of the software is. 

No matter the case, it’s good to know what those expectations are upfront. That way you can plan for them beforehand. Remember, the sales process doesn’t end when a prospect signs the deal. 

9. Are there any potential roadblocks? 

There’s a great saying, “an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.” What it means is that being prepared upfront can save a lot of time later on. When selling there are any number of potential roadblocks that could come up. If you’re unprepared, they can cause a lot of trouble. 

Though it may seem a little blunt to simply ask a prospect if there’s anything that could cause a potential issue, it is the most effective way to get informed. If they do raise any concerns you’ll have more time to come up with solutions, which could be a difference-maker in the end. 

Staying curious 

Learning about your prospect and their needs is an integral part of the sales process. One of the best ways to do that is by asking thoughtful questions to your prospect. Though there’s no perfect set of questions you can ask, the ones mentioned above should be a good place to start. 

The more conversations you have, the more you’re able to develop a bank of questions you can pull from to make sure you get the most out of any conversation you have. As long as you’re earnest in your effort and curious about your prospects, you’ll be on the right path. 

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