Strategies to Increase Sales: Asking Bold Discovery Questions
Categories: Sales Discovery Process
Discovery is the most important part of the sales process. This is where you lay the groundwork for all future interactions with the client and build a relationship that will provide value over the long term.Some salespeople have a tendency to rush the discovery process, anxiously trying to get the order. Pushing the process leads to bad habits. Instead, focus yourself on being more efficient in uncovering key business issues that lead to great deals. Here are a few questions to use that will help lead a conversation to a business impact discussion.
Find out what the major needs of the business are by starting with the positive. This technique is a great way to get the conversation going, and often people will revert to the negative which opens the door for you to probe deeper.
- What's working well?
- What does good look like?
Here's an example we often hear in discovery: "Our reps are getting great first meetings with companies, but they aren't high enough in the organization." If you feel like there is an opening in the conversation to talk more specifically about challenges, here are some question options that skew negative:
- What’s the biggest frustration in your job?
- Where do you feel money is being wasted?
- What’s holding you back from achieving your goals?
Where is the company headed? What are their goals? How do they see themselves performing in the future? Key questions here include:
- What changes would you make if you had an unlimited budget?
- If your people had an additional day in the week, what would you have them work on?
- What companies do you model yourselves on or aspire to be like?
Discovering the Buying Process
Every business has its own purchasing process with a set of stakeholders involved in the decision-making process. It’s important to know how this process works in the client’s company and to ensure that you’re speaking to someone with the authority to authorize a purchase. Key questions here include:
- Who else is dealing with these problems?
- What other departments might be impacted?
- Who would be held accountable if you fail to make improvements?
How does the client measure success? The person to whom you are speaking will have their own focus, whether it’s revenue, efficiency, customer engagement or something else. What are they focused on and, more importantly, how do they measure it?
Additional Decision-Making Factors
As a salesperson, it's critically important that you understand somewhat subliminal factors that will impact your ability to empower your customer to see their own future state. These are underlying components that can make your job difficult. The key to dealing with them is to first, uncover them.
Discovering Magical Thinking
Magical thinking can happen to even the most rational person. It’s the result of overlooked details in planning, and sometimes it can only be exposed by an outsider who sees the flaw in your plans.
For example, you may be dealing with a client with ambitious growth plans, such as a 100 percent increase in revenue over the next three years, but they hope to do so without making any investment. Hoping for great results without making plans to achieve them is the definition of magical thinking. Probing for specifics on how they plan to execute can often reveal gaps where you may be able to help.
Discovering Fantasy Planning
We sometimes call this "The Miracle Cloud". It's a similar issue to magical thinking, the difference being that this business strategy relies on events that are unlikely to happen. For example, you know you have a sales rep productivity problem. Your solution is to higher more reps and by some miracle they will be more productive without looking at your on-boarding, sales messaging or sales execution processes.
Identifying this kind of issue means asking lots of “What if?” questions when doing discovery. What if Plan A doesn’t pan out? What if the marketplace changes? What if you lose people? If the client hasn’t given adequate thought to these scenarios, then there are probably several pain points that they haven’t considered. If you can bring these to light, then you can help uncover some underlying needs that may align with your solution.
Getting answers to discovery questions isn’t always easy. However, there's no better way to gain trusted advisor status within your accounts. When you uncover key business pain, then you're able to offer solutions. When you have solutions, buyers always have the time to talk with you.