Sales discovery questions that get prospects talking
Discovery calls are supposed to help sales pros learn more about their prospects so they can provide relevant insights that guide the purchasing process. And eventually, deliver the ideal solution to buyers’ most pressing pain points/a path toward high-level goals.
Unfortunately, discovery calls often don’t yield those kinds of results. Sellers run through a generic list of questions – approaching the discovery process like a checklist, rather than a conversation.
In this article, we’ll explain the importance of sales discovery questions, go over different types of questions to ask prospects, and finally, share some tips for a successful discovery.
Why are sales discovery calls important?
Discovery calls have a major impact on the buying experience for a few key reasons.
For starters, a discovery call is the first conversation that a sales rep has after a prospect has indicated interest.
In other words, it’s the seller’s chance to make a strong first impression and introduce themselves, their business, and the products or services they sell.
Discovery calls also go a long way when it comes to building rapport and trust.
And, on the seller side, discovery calls are an opportunity to get to know the prospect and assess whether they’re a good fit.
How to create sales discovery questions
We’ve put together a list of sales discovery questions and organized them into different groups, depending on the goals they support and when to ask them.
Keep in mind, this list should not be used as a script. Rather, it’s designed to help you figure out what to ask your prospects at key moments in their journey.
Early on, you’re trying to understand the prospect’s current situation.
So, here, you’ll want to focus on asking questions about the buyer’s work environment, the processes and solutions they use, and what kinds of problems/challenges they’re dealing with right now.
Questions you might ask:
- Tell me about your company.
- What does your day-to-day look like?
- What is your work environment like?
- What metrics/KPIs are you responsible for?
- What is your current process for dealing with X?
- What solution are you using to address that problem?
- What’s working or not working with your current solution?
- What’s the biggest challenge you face with X solution?
Determining whether the prospect is a good fit for your solution. Here, you’re trying to assess their goals, priorities, and whether there’s room in the budget for your solution.
Questions you might ask:
- What are your goals?
- What’s your timeline for achieving those goals?
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- Are you experiencing problems related to X or Y (these are problems your solution addresses)?
- What is the source of the problem?
- Do you have room in your budget for this investment?
- How much can you spend on solving this problem?
- Where does the budget for solving this problem come from?
Do keep in mind that different methodologies approach qualification questions in different ways.
We’ve put together several guides that break down individual frameworks.
Here’s a list of recent posts you might use as inspiration as you put together your discovery question strategy:
- Customer-centric sales
- Sandler Sales System
- Triangle Selling
- SPICED Sales Framework
- MEDDIC Sales Process
- MEDDPICC Sales Process
- BANT vs. GPCT
The point is, you don’t have to commit to one methodology (even if your corporate trainer says otherwise).
You might use bits and pieces from various frameworks to create a sales process tailored to your unique team, your buyers, and your business model.
Note that you’re not just trying to identify pain points, you’re trying to understand more about the impact that pain creates.
Questions you might ask:
- How satisfied are you with your existing solution?
- What happens if you don’t solve X problem?
- How much money are you losing to X problem?
- What opportunities have you missed out on?
- How does that impact your team?
- How does it impact you personally?
- What roadblocks do you believe are preventing you from achieving critical goals?
- If X or Y happens, do you have a plan for dealing with the problem?
Follow-up questions provide you with a better understanding of the customer’s commitment to change. Are they willing to take action, and if so, how soon? Essentially, it’s about getting an idea of the timeline and how quickly you can expect the deal to close.
Questions you might ask:
- What kind of results do you expect to see from a new solution?
- When do you expect to see those results?
- Is this currently a priority for you? Why/why not?
- Have you defined criteria for selecting a vendor?
- What other solutions are you considering?
- Does our solution completely address X challenge?
- If not, what’s missing?
- What would make this process easier — is there anything I can do to help?
Finally, you’ll want to guide buyers toward taking the next step. Aim to gather a few more details that can help inform how you’ll proceed with working this deal, then end by making a recommendation.
Questions you might ask:
- How do you make a decision?
- Who else should be involved in this decision?
- Who should be invited to the demo?
- Who else will this change impact?
- If I can help you do X, what would we need to do to make a deal happen?
Best practices to prepare before a sales discovery call
Now that we’ve gone over the types of questions you might ask during a discovery call, let’s go over a few best practices for running a successful discovery session.
1. Do your research
Questions should be informed by research. You’re wasting everyone’s time when you ask questions that could easily be answered in the first page of the Google results.
As an example, before your initial information gathering session, you’ll want to do some basic research before the first call. In this case, it’s pretty easy to track down information about company size, annual revenue, product offerings, and so on.
So, there, you might use that information to come up with questions that help you gain a deeper understanding of how things work internally and what unique challenges the buyer and their team are facing.
Note that the Weflow Panel feature allows you to access notes, tasks, and other insights related to each prospect without clicking between tabs.
That means, you can pull up your preliminary research when coming up with an initial set of questions, and, as the deal progresses, keep adding new insights as you uncover them.
2. Set an agenda
Reps often skip this step because they wrongfully assume they can wing it by shooting off a series of questions.
But, setting an agenda is critical to any sales meeting – especially discovery calls.
Discovery calls set the stage for the entire sales process – and if you’re not careful, can derail the deal before it even gets started.
Make sure you send your prospect an agenda that lays out the key points you’d like to cover. This gives them a chance to bring up any additional topics they’d like to discuss or share some background information you might use to inform the direction of that initial conversation.
3. Listen more than you talk
Top reps listen more than they speak.
Discovery calls are a two-way conversation. When you ask a question, it’s important to listen to that response and validate the pain points, goals, and roadblocks buyers bring up.
Now, this is basic conversational etiquette that you’re probably used to practicing when chatting with colleagues, friends, and family. You want prospects to get the sense that you actually care about the needs and challenges they’re dealing with.
It’s just that often reps get nervous before meeting with a potential customer. Or, in some cases, they’re too focused on hitting every item on a checklist, instead of embracing the humanity of the situation.
You’ll want to keep things open-ended and avoid asking yes or no questions. This inadvertently leads to reps talking more than the buyer and limits the amount of information you’ll get from them during the call.
Leave some space for the conversation to change directions. You don’t have to use every question on your list. As long as you’re capturing good info, why not see where things go.
4. Keep asking questions until you get to the root
This tip builds on our last point, in that you're trying to avoid running through your discovery questions like items on a list.
Close.io’s Steli Efti explains how this approach can come back to haunt you in this 2015 video (it’s still relevant, we promise). He says asking questions like “how many people are using this solution?” or “what features are you looking for?,” then answering with an “okay, cool.” or “great, we have that” creates an “f***d-up dynamic.”
First, it makes the buyer feel like you don’t care–like you’re trying to get through the questions so you can go have lunch or whatever. It also doesn’t give you anything to work with if that poor first impression doesn’t derail the deal.
Instead, your goal is to get at the heart of the problem – the root cause – and truly gain an understanding of the impact it has on the customer and their business.
By digging deeper and discovering more about the buyer’s personal and professional motivations, you’ll have more data points you can use to move deals forward faster–while also nurturing stronger relationships along the way.
5. Look for opportunities to add value during conversations
During the call, you’ll want to listen for opportunities to demonstrate why you’re the right person to help the prospect solve their problem. That might mean relating a concern/pain point they’ve shared to another customer you’ve helped, weighing in with market/industry insights, or throwing out relevant solutions when appropriate.
6. Define next steps
Think of this as a sort of “verbal call to action.” Essentially, you’re trying to convince the buyer to commit to a logical next step.
That might mean booking a demo, setting up a call with additional stakeholders, whatever. The key thing is, the next step needs to make sense in the context of where the buyer is in the sales funnel.
7. Record your discovery calls
Finally, it’s a good idea to record your discovery conversations so that you can focus on having a conversation, rather than scrambling to take notes. If you’re too busy jotting down notes, you miss the opportunity to connect with prospects on a human level.
Rather than using your smartphone or landline, it’s a good idea to use video conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Meet. That way, you can analyze the buyer’s reactions to your questions.
Ultimately, it gives you another set of data points that can help you understand where buyers are coming from. Additionally, discovery call recordings can be used in training sessions to showcase best practices in action – or help reps understand what not to do.
If you’re looking for a solution that can help you record meetings and capture insights, our recent product comparison–Gong vs. Chorus is a good place to start your search. Both platforms allow users to analyze sales conversations and use that information to improve rep performance and the buyer experience.
Sales discovery questions guide the entire buying process. They’re central to building trust, qualifying prospects, and presenting the relevant solutions that close deals.
But, it’s important to remember that discovery calls are two-way conversations.
Reps need to listen to buyers and add value where it makes sense.