Discovery Questions: Why You Should Start Using This Sales Tool Today

By Erin Ollila, Contributor, on November 29, 2017

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Discovery questions are one of a salesperson’s favorite tools. But, you’re not a salesperson … or are you? As an independent worker, you’re the manager of every department, including sales. Let’s face it: If you aren’t selling your product or services, you aren’t making any money. And, in order to stay in business, the money needs to be coming in. Learning how to talk to potential clients, when to let them do the talking and — most importantly — knowing which questions to ask to get them talking, are key to surviving and thriving as an independent worker.

So, What Are Discovery Questions?

The definition is remarkably simple: Discovery questions are questions that allow you to find out what your potential customers are trying to achieve. So, you basically pick the brain of your lead to find out what they want, or what their needs are at that moment. There’s no guessing. You’re directly asking for information. This helps you figure out if you’re the right person to solve their current problem. And if you are the right person, their answers will show you how to go about presenting yourself as the superstar they need to hire.

Was that too simple? I get it. When I first studied up on this selling technique, I was confused. I mean, aren’t we supposed to ask questions of our leads? Isn’t it widely accepted that the more information, the better? But the more I spoke with colleagues, the more I learned how infrequently people try to learn information about their potential clients before trying to sell to them.

Questions First, Sales Later

Imagine this scenario: You’re at a networking event. You introduce yourself and suddenly, the person you’re speaking with bombards you by telling you how much you need to buy their product. It’s the only thing that’ll help you solve a particular problem, and you need to get it now. This person went from knowing your name and maybe your profession to hard selling you in an instant.

Another situation: Have you ever walked into the beauty section of a big department store only to have an employee spray perfume on you right when you turn the corner? Not only are they selling too hard immediately, but they’re also literally forcing their product on you.

Here’s another scenario you may be all too familiar with: The phone rings. You pick it up, and there’s a person on the other end whose voice and name you don’t recognize. “May I have one minute of your time?” they ask. Without waiting for a reply, they trail off on a list of benefits and features about their product or service. You try to get off the phone, but they keep pressuring you to schedule a follow-up call or meeting where they can give you more information. No thank you.

Do any of these scenarios make you feel ready to buy? Do you feel as if any of these sellers are actually interested in your needs? I’m sure your answers to both of these questions is “no.”

By actually taking the time to learn about your potential customers, you can build a relationship with them. Then, once you foster the necessary confidence in a prospect, you can assure them that you’re the right person for the job.

Why Should You Use This Tool?

I’m not a natural-born seller. If anything, I’m a saver at heart, and I want my clients to get the best bang for their buck, too. If you’re selling-adverse like me, there’s a lot to like about using questions as a sales tool. First, what you’re doing is building a relationship. Even if this person doesn’t end up being a client, he or she will appreciate the time you took with them, and may recommend you to others for your thoughtful approach.

Second, discovery questions benefit you, the business owner, the most. You’re able to identify any potential issues, concerns and needs, and make a decision on whether or not you’re the right person for the job. You may discover, based on the answers, that this person could be a potential nightmare client. Thankfully, you can run for the hills before you even start working with them.

Start With These Discovery Questions

  • What are the goals you’re trying to achieve?

  • When do you need to reach these goals?

  • What roadblocks do you keep coming up against?

  • Who is involved in this decision-making process?

  • How could I make this process any easier for you?

  • What would be your ideal outcome, if money and time weren’t an issue? Can you explain what you mean by that?

  • What is your budget?

  • Can you explain, in detail, what products or services you’re interested in?

Don’t forget to ask anything that’s specific to your industry. For example, as a writer and content strategist, I might ask about a potential client’s interest and experience with SEO and website copy when I’m on a discovery call.

If you’re feeling anxious about using this approach, try to remember that there are no wrong questions. As long as you ask open-ended, business-related questions that help to keep the conversation flowing, you’re moving in the right direction.

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