How To Be A Pro At Asking Discovery Questions

Mark HolmesSales strategy, Selling value, Value Proposition

*Read time: 2-3 minutes

The top-producing salespeople master discovery questions. When you are effective at discovering a buyer’s value drivers and any unrealized needs, it benefits you at all stages of the sales cycle.

Being good at discovery requires the 3 C’s: curiosity, concentration, and comprehension. Natural inquisitiveness, focusing intensely on the information being conveyed, and listening with comprehension to make accurate conclusions are essential traits for today’s seller.

But being good at discovery also requires some advanced preparation. If you attempt to develop questions on the spot you’ll probably come off sounding too much like (Sameness Selling) the competition. And when this occurs, you will land in the buyer’s commodity coffin, unable to compete on differentiated value, and instead, compete at a lower price if you are to win the sale.

You can avoid the buyer’s commodity coffin by asking effective discovery questions. Here are a few tips:

  1. Know where you want to end up – know the conclusions the buyer must reach and the feelings they must have toward your solution if you are to win the business. B2B sales are both a cognitive and an emotion-based decision, and you should be asking questions that touch on both realms.
  2. Invest ten to twenty minutes before each call to develop questions. Focus on clarity, wording, and tone. Think about how the question will come off to your prospect. Is there a better way to ask what you want to know?
  3. Fit the question to the customer’s industry or business, but also tailor it to their position. In other words, don’t pose a question to a C-level or senior decision influencer that sounds like a staff person should be answering instead. For senior executives, ask questions that focus on strategic issues and business outcomes. For a lower-level decision influencer, ask questions about steps, tasks, budgets, and timeline.
  4. Have alternative questions ready. Give some thought to your follow-up questions if the person answers one way versus another. If they agree or disagree. If they provide specifics or give a generic answer. And, if they are forthcoming or become dodgy about answering your question. Be prepared.
  5. Ask personalized questions. Asking good questions requires tailoring the question in a way that doesn’t sound robotic, forced, or attorney-like. It’s best to ask questions that sound like you are carrying on a conversation you’re interested in having with your customer.

If you want more tips on structuring questions that lead to your differentiated value, I recommend you check out The 5 Rules of Megavalue Selling.

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