Strategies to Increase Sales: Asking Bold Discovery Questions
Categories: Sales Discovery Process
Deals are won and lost in discovery. It’s a critical part of the sales process because it’s where you lay the groundwork for attaching to business problems and selling on value.
Some salespeople have a tendency to rush the discovery process, anxiously trying to get the order. Pushing the process doesn’t set your deal up for success. However, taking your time in discovery requires effective questioning. Take your time, you’ll thank yourself later. Here are a few tips to help you ask great questions.
1. Discovering Needs
It can be difficult to get your prospect to tell you what’s not working in the business. Open up valuable conversations by getting them to talk about what’s going well.
- What's working well?
- What does good look like?
This technique is a great way to get the conversation going, and often your prospect will default to what isn’t working well, which opens the door for you to probe deeper.
If you feel like there is an opening in the conversation to talk more specifically about challenges, here are some questions that will help you dig deeper:
- What’s the biggest frustration in XYZ situation?
- How does XYZ impact your ability to achieve critical outcomes?
- What’s holding you back from solving XYZ challenge?
Approach your conversations with empathy as you go through your question flow, in order to demonstrate your positive business intent.
2. Discovering Demand
Aligning your solution to a critical business issue drives urgency with the deal. If a problem is so big that it can’t go another day without solving — you’ll drive urgency and funding. Consider, where is the company headed? What are their goals? How do they see themselves performing in the future? Key questions to help you uncover demand:
- 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?
- What is roadblocking your desired outcomes? Is there a known point of friction?
3. 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 your buyer’s company specifically. It’s also critical that you work to ensure that you’re speaking to someone with the authority to authorize a purchase. Key questions to help you ensure you’re navigating the decision process with multiple important decision makers.
- Who else is dealing with these problems?
- What other departments might be impacted?
- Who would be held accountable if you fail to make improvements?
4. Discovering Metrics
We’ve done hundreds of deliveries around our Command of the Message® methodology. In these engagements, uncovering buyer metrics is a topic that frequently comes up, even with experienced reps. Our facilitator’s immediate advice, don’t overcomplicate it. Metrics help you focus on how your company and your buyer will jointly measure the capabilities and success of the solution. They don’t necessarily solve the buyer problems. They’re simply the outcome you’re driving to.
Stay focused on helping your buyers define ways to measure the success of a solution implementation within their business. How does the client measure success? Each decision maker you work with will have their own focus, whether it’s revenue, efficiency, customer engagement or something else. Use your questions to uncover what each decision maker is focused on and, more importantly, how they will measure those outcomes? Key questions you can use:
- What metrics are you currently working to improve in your business now?
- What success metrics does your current solution provider report on in quarterly business reviews? Are there ones that would be more impactful for you to focus on?
- When you achieve your desired future state, what metrics do you want to be able to show your C-suite leaders, Board, etc.?
Additional Decision-Making Factors
As a salesperson, it's critically important that you understand any outlying factors that will impact your ability to get your customer to reach the conclusion that they have a big business need that demands an urgent solution. These underlying components 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% 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 hire more reps and by some miracle, they will be more productive without revising your onboarding, 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 (we know that can happen in an instant…)? What if you lose people?
If your customer hasn’t given adequate thought to these scenarios, then there are likely several pain points that they haven’t considered. If you can bring these to light, then you can help uncover underlying buyer needs that align with your solution.
Improve Your Discovery Skills. Close Bigger Deals.
Getting answers to discovery questions isn’t always easy, and can even be uncomfortable at times. Great conversations only happen when salespeople aren’t afraid to be uncomfortable and ask bold discovery questions with patience, empathy and confidence. Improve your discovery skills by constantly refining them and taking note of what’s working for you, and what isn’t. This episode of the Audible-Ready Sales Podcast covers tips on the art of great discovery and how you can earn the right to ask hard questions.