“Are you aware that reading this article could improve your sales prospecting?”
We use discovery questions like these early in our sales cycle to learn information about our prospect’s environment. This gives us context into their work life and their company while keeping the conversation interesting and natural. This context is valuable not just in appointment setting but all the way through nurturing and closing the deal.
In this piece, we’ve put together a list of proven discovery call questions and other advice for discovery questions; let’s dive in:
Discovery Question Goals
“Selling needs to be less like a prospect/salesperson relationship and more like a doctor/patient relationship.”
-Mark Roberge, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School and former Hubspot CRO
A great salesperson is like a great doctor. They’re not just giving you a generic pitch with the information you could find on their website; they’re talking with you and trying to uncover context and treat your pain. Building off that idea, an SDR is like an intake nurse; they’re gathering information on the prospect/patient to save time for the doctor/salesperson.
The intake nurse isn’t making the final diagnosis, but they’re asking the questions that will allow the doctor to give a more personalized diagnosis and treatment plan. And it’s the same for SDRs, we’re asking discovery questions to qualify leads which saves time for the sales in two ways:
- Sales have to answer these question to create a sales qualified opportunity, having SDRs do this early means that the sale meeting can focus on the pitch instead of qualifying.
- By asking these questions early, we can kill bad leads before they take up our sales team’s time up with an unproductive meeting.
Further, the prospect may not even be aware that they have a problem. We’re not just trying to find the problem; we’re trying to find pain in the context of how it affects the prospect, and asking good questions will help put them in the right mindset to consider a new solution.
What should you look for in discovery
When doing discovery we’re primarily looking for lead qualification criteria, which we discuss in more detail in our Lead Qualification Criteria, Process, and Tools article. Criteria are what we use to make sure that the lead is ready for a sales conversation.
Here are the criteria we mentioned in our lead qualification article:
- Is this the right company?
- Am I talking to the right person?
- Do they have an apparent need for my product and service?
- What is their timeframe?
That’s an excellent framework for SDRs, but it’s really just a derivative of BANT.
BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe) is a framework created by IBM for qualifying opportunities. Let’s look at it in their own words:
- Budget: What is the prospect’s budget?
- Authority: Does the prospect have decision-making authority, or is she an influencer?
- Need: What is the prospect’s business need?
- Timeframe: In what time frame will the prospect be implementing a solution?
These are the questions that sales reps are trying to answer to create an SQO (Sales Qualified Opportunity) by having compatible answers for at least three of the four BANT items.
As an SDR, you don’t need to answer all of these questions. But remember that every question you answer in your discovery call saves time for your salespeople, particularly if you can kill off a bad lead before it gets to sales.
Discovery Call Questions
We’ve prepared a list of proven discovery questions broken up by category. While most of these questions are open-ended, some close-ended questions are used to gather specific qualifying information. Almost all of these questions have come from our senior staff or have pulled from the sales playbooks we’ve used in our client’s campaigns.
|Topic||Questions||What you’re looking for|
|Authority||With Authority discovery questions, we’re trying to determine:|
|Business Goals||Business Goals isn’t an element of BANT, but we can learn:|
|Pain Points||Pain points are our bread and butter. Pain is what we’re treating with our solution. These questions reveal what is important to the prospect, where they can see the value in your solution. Most importantly though, it’s telling your sales rep what areas to focus on. If your solution treats ten pain points, but the prospect only cares about two, you’re not going to waste time harping on points they don’t care about.|
|Current Solution or Problem||When trying to pitch a new solution, you need to understand how they’re currently handling the problem. Knowing what solution the prospect is using will be helpful for sales when crafting the pitch. If they’re familiar with the solution, they can apply knowledge of strengths and weaknesses as it compares to their product.|
|Timeframe||These questions are mostly closed-ended questions where we’re looking for specific responses. We’re not really fishing for content with these questions.|
|Company Size||Many of the questions here are closed-ended questions trying to find out necessary qualifying information about a company. You’re trying to find out if the company is worth your time, we typically only levy SDRs for sales sizes of around $20,000 or more. For example: If you sell software at a $100/month per seat, you’re probably not going to want to spend your SDRs’ and sales reps’ time working on a company with only three employees who would be using it.|
|Budget||Typically, we don’t have our SDRs ask too many budgetary questions. We tend to focus on company size questions instead. These are more relevant for sales reps who are trying to create an SQO.|
As you can see, there are many discovery questions you can ask. You don’t need to ask all of them (nor should you unless you want to test your prospect’s patience). Typically we have our SDRs ask four to five discovery questions that capture the environment or high-level pains, but it can always be more or less depending on the solution you are selling. You’ll likely need to create questions that are specific to your offering.
How to write discovery questions
Your best discovery questions are based on understanding the challenges of the industry. Try a little roleplay as your target buyer persona and consider:
- What are the challenges I experience in my day-to-day?
- What causes me pain?
- What do I value?
- How would the offering help me?
These questions give you a place to start, but you ultimately have to know what it’s like to walk a mile in your prospect’s shoes so that you can understand what the potential pains are. If your persona isn’t well developed, you may need to do some more research and conduct some interviews with previous customers and see how you can improve your understanding.
The advice above will help you find the right questions to collect information and context, but they may not necessarily provoke. A question that’s provoking should be open-ended and stimulate the prospect to think.
Can I ask you why you went with your previous solution?
This would help you not only uncover the motive and reason behind what their current solution is, it also can put the prospect in the mindset they had when they procured their solution.
Context is key, knowing more than just the pain points, but the stories behind them will give your sales team the full picture when closing with a prospect; and great discovery questions will give you that context while stimulating the conversation.
If you pick or create great discovery questions for your SDRs, you’ll be able to qualify better leads and equip your sales team with the information for more persuasive closing.
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