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The discovery phase of the sales process always proves to be critical. Most salespeople waste discovery by asking the client about their problem or their pain. The reason is that many salespeople were taught to ask these poor discovery call questions for a long time.

Those who ask questions about the client's problem also ask about the implications for the B2B buyer and their company. After a sales rep has had several sales calls with prospects, it is impossible not to know how their poor results impact their business. Questions about things the salesperson should already know can prevent them from establishing themselves as an expert and an authority.

It's not that salespeople can't ask these discovery call questions, but because they have been asked for so long and so often, they don't create any value for the client. The discovery call has been commoditized. As a salesperson, you already know your contacts have one of the few poor results you can help them with. Impotent questions don’t teach your prospective client anything, and they aren't that helpful for salespeople, either.

In Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative, you'll find a lot of powerful discovery call questions. One way the modern sales approach differs from the legacy sales approach is that the modern sales techniques use questions to teach the client something about their reality, the root causes of the poor results, and, when done well, something they need to recognize why they need to change.

Great discovery calls lead to great sales conversations and a better sales experience. Here are five questions that create value for your contacts and decision-makers and help you lead them to the better results they need.

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Discovery Call Question 1: Your New Initiatives

"Have you already started new initiatives around this key result or started conversations about what changes you might need to improve those results? If you haven't, can I share with you what we see working and what is no longer working and why?"

This question allows you to set up a conversation where you help your contacts understand that things have changed and, in doing so, encourage them to recognize that they also need to change.

This B2B sales discovery question suggests the client needs to change and that they should have started sooner, without accusing them of negligence. Because there is a natural information disparity between the salesperson and their client, you help them recognize the need to change while educating them on what is possible and what is working for other companies. You are also conveying you know what your client will need, adding to your authority.

Discovery Call Question 2: Readiness to Change

"How prepared is your team to address the challenge and what level would you say they are when it comes to the readiness to change?"

Inside every one of your prospective client companies is a status quo and its defenders. Your prospective client's company may not be ready to change. This question indicates to your decision-makers, stakeholders, and key contacts that their teams will have a say in any decision to change.

One way to improve your sales performance is to facilitate the buyer's journey. Asking this question introduces the idea that your buyer will need to prepare a task force for this purchase decision. It also helps consider what they need to do and who they need to bring into future meetings.

Discovery Call Question 3: Differentiating Yourself and Your Model

“Your experience is not uncommon because most people won’t tell you about the concessions you agree to when you choose a certain delivery model. What was it that caused you to recognize that things were not working the way you expected?”

Like most salespeople, you may find that a prospective client’s problem and pain points come at the hands of your competitor. There is an opportunity in sales discovery to differentiate yourself, your model, and how it improves the client's results.

This sets up a triangulation strategy that causes the client to recognize that different companies deliver value in different ways. To differentiate in a commoditized industry, this approach will help you stand out. This open-ended question can help you better understand your prospect and determine if they are a good fit. It can also help you build trust.

Discovery Call Question 4: Controlling the Process

“Would it be okay if I shared with you what seems to be the most valuable next step and produces the best overall long-term results?”

What makes one a consultative salesperson is the ability to provide counsel, advice, and recommendations. One way you can help your client succeed is by controlling the sales process, especially since it is now nonlinear. One strategy is to ask a permission-based question. These questions are polite, professional, and prevent your contacts from feeling like you are pursuing the outcome you want instead of what matters most to them.

This question allows you to trade value for the commitment you are asking your client to make by explaining why and how it will help them move forward successfully. If you want to avoid resistance, this soft language can make it easier for your prospective clients to act on your advice and recommendations.

Discovery Call Question 5: Compelling Change

“Is it better to change on your timeline? What challenges would you have if you were forced to do it on a timeline not of your choosing?”

Compelling change is one of the biggest challenges in sales. There is sometimes a need to compel the change, especially when not acting will harm your client. You can't be a trusted advisor without providing advice and recommendations before your prospective client is harmed. To do this, you also need a certainty sequence.

This is a value-based question that causes the decision maker to consider the potential negative consequences, should they need to pivot at an inopportune time. We must help our clients and prospective buyers prevent coming to harm when we can. The answer here can prove B2B buyer intent, but to understand your prospect, you may have to dig deeper.

Adjusting Your Approach to Discovery

The discovery phase of the sales process is critical and you should approach it with thoughtfully crafted questions that create value for the client. By asking questions designed to help the client recognize the need to change while teaching them something they need to know, a salesperson can establish themselves as an expert and an authority in their field. By utilizing these five powerful discovery call questions, salespeople can lead their clients to better results and facilitate the buyer's journey.

How to get started using these five powerful discovery call questions:

  1. Become familiar with the five powerful sales discovery questions. Review them regularly and practice saying them out loud.
  2. Incorporate the five sales discovery questions into your sales process. Check-in with your clients and ask them the questions in a conversational manner.
  3. Use the five sales discovery questions to drive the conversation and focus on providing value to your clients. Ask follow-up questions as needed to get a better understanding of their current situation and how you can help them.
  4. Monitor the results of using the five sales discovery questions. Track how your clients respond to them and adjust as needed.
  5. Refine your approach to the five sales discovery questions to get the most out of them. Implement any new strategies you develop to ensure you are providing the best service to your clients.

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Post by Anthony Iannarino on January 20, 2023
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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