You have a sales call coming up and you need to know what sales discovery questions to ask. I’ve got you covered.
Sales discovery questions help you get to know your prospect. Get to know the landscape. Create rapport and inch your way closer to a final sale – or at least learn enough to feel confident moving onto someone else.
Easier said than done. I know.
Ask these questions, and you’ll be in a much better position to close the deal.
Table of Contents
- Best Sales Discovery Questions
- 1. What does your company do?
- 2. What do you do for your company?
- 3. What problems are you trying to solve?
- 4. What are the root causes of these problems?
- 5. Why haven’t these problems been solved yet?
- 6. What would the perfect solution look like?
- 7. What are your goals?
- 8. What are your goal deadlines?
- 9. What’s your budget?
- 10. Who is responsible for allocating this budget?
- 11. Do you have a current solution or vendor in place?
- 12. How is that solution working out?
- 13. What would persuade you to switch?
- 14. What’s your purchase decision-making process like?
- 15. How can I make things easier?
- 16. Are you ready to solve the problem today?
- 17. What are the alternatives?
- 18. What’s stopping you from moving forward?
- 19. Are there obstacles that could get in the way?
- 20. What will happen if you don’t do anything?
- 21. Tell me more.
- Your 6-Step Sales Discovery Process
Best Sales Discovery Questions
Quickly, before we get started.
Do NOT ask these questions rapid fire. You don’t want to seem like a robot, or like you’re reading from a script. Instead, just have a real conversation.
These sales discovery questions are meant to guide you, not to rigidly confine you.
So tweak them to suit your personal selling style and remain flexible!
1. What does your company do?
Depending on your lead generation strategy, you might already know. But that’s not the point. You want your prospect to talk about their business in their own words. How do they see the business? How do they describe it? You’ll likely learn something about the business and something about the person in the process.
2. What do you do for your company?
This person has a specific role within the company. What is it? You don’t need to get into the weeds here. Just find out their job title and a bit about how they function in the hierarchy. It can help you learn about their perspective, and whether they’re a decision maker worth persuading.
3. What problems are you trying to solve?
Don’t use this question verbatim. Instead, tailor it to the person’s role and organization. What are the biggest issues this person faces? What are the obstacles that stand in the way of their goal progress?
4. What are the root causes of these problems?
Be an advisor and work together to figure out what the root causes of these problems could be. Is there a tool that’s missing or insufficient? Is there an organizational hierarchy problem? Is there something else at play?
5. Why haven’t these problems been solved yet?
Let’s assume they know the root causes of the problem. Why haven’t they been addressed? Chances are, you’ll hear something like “lack of budget,” “lack of interest,” or even better, “I don’t know.” These could be valuable opportunities to move in with a recommended solution (solution selling).
6. What would the perfect solution look like?
Alternatively, you can ask your prospect to describe what the ideal solution looks like. If they, unprompted, describe a solution like the one you’re selling… get ready for a persuasive slam dunk.
But most likely, they’ll describe something unrealistic. For example, the perfect solution to heavy traffic could be a flying car. We don’t have those yet. (Get on it, Elon).
7. What are your goals?
You can phrase this as an individual question or as a question of the organization. First, focus on aspirations for the next few weeks and months. Then, focus on aspirations for the next several years. Again, you can use this as an individual-level or organization-level question.
8. What are your goal deadlines?
This is huge. If you have a chance of helping your prospect achieve their goals, you need to know what kind of timeline they’re looking at.
For example, if they’re trying to accomplish something by the end of the year, that could give you a perfect opportunity to step in now and ramp things up. If they’re working with a 10-year timetable, they may not be ready for your solution yet.
9. What’s your budget?
Assuming you’re talking to a decision maker, consider asking about budget. No use selling a $1,000,000 tool to a small business owner with $10,000 to spend.
10. Who is responsible for allocating this budget?
In larger organizations, you’ll need to figure out how the budget is determined. Is this something that could change with a bit of influence and persuasion? Or is it set in stone?
11. Do you have a current solution or vendor in place?
If there’s a problem that needs solved, there may be a solution already in place. Figure that out.
12. How is that solution working out?
Ask about this solution. Is it excelling or merely getting the job done? Do people in the business seem to like it, or is there a seething, collective hatred of the system?
13. What would persuade you to switch?
Okay. Let’s say they’re in love with their current product or solution, whatever it happens to be. Is there anything that could persuade them to switch? Oftentimes, you’ll hear something like a “lower price” or “better service.” This is your chance to jump in.
14. What’s your purchase decision-making process like?
Get to know what the purchasing process is like. Is one person ultimately in charge? Is this the kind of thing that has to be approved by 16 people in 10 different departments?
15. How can I make things easier?
You’re the problem solver. You’re a beacon of help and hope. It’s your prerogative to make things easier. Figure out how.
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16. Are you ready to solve the problem today?
This question only gets rolled out if you get some positive answers on the questions above. You’ve got them interested. They know they need a solution. Are they ready to solve the problem today?
17. What are the alternatives?
If they say no, figure out why. What are the other alternatives they’re considering? Can they simply tolerate work in a world where this problem continues? Are there limitations to making a purchase?
18. What’s stopping you from moving forward?
Follow up here. What’s stopping this prospect from moving forward with an exciting new solution?
See these common sales objections and how to overcome them for help!
19. Are there obstacles that could get in the way?
Assume they’re into your solution. Do they foresee any obstacles that could prevent you (or them) from adopting it? A vindictive manager who naysays every new solution? A tight budget? A wizard with a stupid owl who keeps reversing the flow of time?
20. What will happen if you don’t do anything?
If you get someone hard to persuade, get them thinking about the consequences of not taking action. What happens if they don’t move forward? What happens if this problem persists?
21. Tell me more.
This is listed last and it’s not technically a question, but it’s one of the most important phrases in this entire list. Simply ask your prospect to tell you more – about anything that seems interesting or important. Keep them talking and absorb even more information.
Open-ended sales questions are excellent ways to get prospects talking so you can get closer to closing the sale.
Your 6-Step Sales Discovery Process
The discovery process in sales is meant to accomplish a handful of goals simultaneously. Make sure to consult this sales discovery call checklist to see if you’re doing it right.
1. Introduce yourself.
Don’t launch into questions right away. Take a moment to introduce yourself, talk about your company, and set the stage. This way, you’re not going in cold.
2. Warm up.
Spend some time warming up with small talk. Yes, yes, we all hate small talk, but you know what? It works. It loosens people up. Talk about the weather or a sports team or raising a family.
Learn about how they work. Learn about how they live. Learn about their values, their beliefs, and their mannerisms. The better you know them, the more effectively you’ll be able to sell to them. On top of that, your path to better understanding will help you bond with them.
It’s good stuff, and it can eliminate that awkward cold feeling that can come with initial introductions.
3. Figure out their goals.
Everyone’s got a goal. Figure out theirs. Are they trying to win more sales? Reach more people? Better communicate with the team? You may or may not be able to help them with their most important goals. If you can’t, you won’t have to waste any more time.
4. Educate them.
One of the best plays as a salesperson is to adopt the role of the consultant (see consultative selling). You’re not an outsider trying to hock a product; you’re a member of their team trying to achieve a common goal. Use this, and frame yourself as an expert. Educate them about the problem – and about your solution.
5. Showcase a brighter future.
After you’ve asked your questions and set the stage, show your prospect a vision of a brighter future. Explain how you can make it possible for them to achieve their loftiest goals. Paint a picture that’s practically irresistible.
6. Make the pitch.
You should have their attention now. The next step is to prove that your vision is logistically possible. Cite statistics, name drop big clients, list referrals – do whatever it takes to show off that you’re not all talk. Social proof goes a long way here.
For help, see our guide on how to close the sale.
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.