I’m not one for making snap judgments, but I feel confident assuming most salespeople are outgoing. They can easily chat up a total stranger, assert their curiosity, and identify ways to strike a deal that makes both parties happy. Make no mistake, I don’t think being outgoing is a negative trait.
In fact, I admire salespeople for it - you’re required to converse easily with prospects, check-in with customers regularly, and pitch your organization’s message effortlessly. Coming from a writer who airs on the shy side – I salute your confidence.
Regardless of how long you’ve been in the sales game, you’ve likely hit a moment or two (or four), where you just cannot get past any surface level questions and answers with a prospect. If you have been feeling these similar obstacles in your sales conversations, consider the following examples of discovery questions.
Key Checklist for Discovery Questions
Asking highly targeted, open-ended questions at the start of a relationship with a sales prospect, sales reps can learn more valuable information about the customers’ needs, wants, and concerns. Being cognizant of the kind of questions you ask your prospects can save you and them time.
The questions you ask should always be well thought out. To ensure you’re approaching your sales conversations the right way, consider these check-points during your early conversations:
- Are you identifying needs? Challenges?
- What are the challenges you’re hoping to solve?
- How have you tried to solve problems before?
- Why do you want to make a change now?
- What’s most frustrating about your job right now?
It’s important to note that needs and challenges are two different things. What a prospect needs can be disassociated to the challenges they are facing at work. For example, a prospect may need to find a more financially conservative solution, while the challenges they’re feeling could be related to customer services. Aside from asking the right questions, the best way to distinguish between the two is to listen. Ask yourself:
- How are you generating demand?
- What kind of changes would you like to see, regardless of budget restrictions?
- How will you spend your extra time and revenue after making the change?
- What will your team do if you can’t come to a decision?
These types of questions are meant to focus on the long-term. Asking prospects about how they hope to change their current processes using your solution can put things into perspective for your client. Consider the following:
- Get into authority
- Besides yourself, who else at work is facing these problems?
- What is the purchasing process for your immediate team? For your department?
- Are other stakeholders having issues that I should know about?
Get a clear understanding of who holds the buying power early on. Depending on the industry, you may need to work through several levels of stakeholders before closing a deal. Getting insight into all decision makers early on will help avoid confusion and mistakes later. Ask yourself:
- How are you building rapport?
- Tell me about how you got into this line of work.
- How long have you been working at (current company)? Do you live in (current company’s location)?
- What did you do prior to this job?
- Are you using what you studied in school in your current role?
Working relationships are still relationships. Sales people should be constantly tuning their rapport-building skills in order to create and nurture professional relationships. Making connections with prospects will go a long way. After all they are human (just like you). Ask yourself:
- What other solution providers have you researched?
- What positive financial impact has your current solution done for your business?
- How do you feel about our solution, compared to others you’ve researched?
Don’t shy away from inquiring about competitors. After all, we are in business! It’s fair game to ask questions regarding other vendors and solutions. Having an in-depth understanding of your clients’ current usage or previous usage will only help you be better at your job. Consider the following questions:
- Do you have budget planned?
- Are you in charge of creating/managing budget?
- What is your ideal goal to invest?
Your conversation around budgeting will change depending on the type of lead. If your prospect makes it clear they have no room to purchase your solution, it’s your job to begin conversations about planning for the long term, when budget is available. If a prospect is warmer (meaning they have budget to work with), your questions will change slightly. Ask yourself:
- If there were no hiccups, when would you hope to implement the new solution?
- Are you using a current solution? When is your contract up with that company?
- Does your team have adequate time and resources ready to handle implementation?
Establish a timeline in the beginning stages of your conversation. For a deal to successfully close a prospect needs the right solution, at the right time. Be pro-active about this. Ask the following questions:
- When can we talk next?
- What goals should we make sure to accomplish in that meeting?
- Who else should I be connecting with on your side of things?
- What questions do you have before we hang up?
And if you don’t move forward with the prospect…
- Can you give me some feedback on how I could have earned your business?
- What could I work on as a sales representative?
- Can you keep me in mind for future opportunities?
- Can we set up time to revisit things next quarter?
As your deal ends, it’s imperative to remain in close contact with your prospect - whether the deal ends in your favor, or not. Sales influencer Jonathan Farrington shared his advice for how to handle losing a prospect in our Xactly Inspire™ ebook, “Take the initiative, call the prospect or customer, and tell them that whilst you are obviously disappointed, you hope you will be considered for any future opportunities.
By staying ‘front of mind’ with them, you are not only showing good grace but you will, in all probability, be the person they come to first if things don’t work out with the successful bidder…” Asking the right follow-up questions can ensure peace of mind for both parties.