Best Practices in HR

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John Healy
  January 1, 1970

5 Questions You Should Never Ask on a Sales Discovery Call

You’ve probably heard me say this before: Prospect discovery and pipeline discovery are two VERY different meetings. And, the questions you ask on a sales discovery call are MUCH different from those you ask in pipeline discovery. If you’re not adamantly nodding your head in agreement, go and read about the difference right here.

If we can agree that prospect discovery should feel light and focus on building rapport, you’ll also agree that we want to stay away from your typical discovery questions. All we need to do is find an edge, right? A hint of P.A.I.N., not deep actual pain. 

So here are five questions you can ditch immediately and NEVER ask in a sales discovery call (warning, you were probably taught to ask all of these in training).

  1. What isn’t working about your current solution?
  2. What is keeping you up at night?
  3. If you had a magic wand, how would you fix it?
  4. What do you think not solving this is costing you?
  5. How does picking the right solution impact you?

Yes, if you Google, “10 best sales discovery call questions” you’ll see every one of these. So why am I hating? Because nobody wants to get into this with you right now. This isn’t a scheduled pipeline call, it’s a prospect call. They don’t necessarily HAVE a defined problem, and you asking more about it and what it’s costing them personally and professionally is just funny – and more than a little irritating. 

Here are a few to try instead.

  1. What are you using today for XYZ? (your category here)
  2. What do you like about it? (finding likes, needs)
  3. What drew you to it? (finding challenges they’re solving)
  4. Any issues at all with 123? (likelihood of falling into potential pitfalls)
  5. Have you seen the new ABC? (insert cool related tech here [not necessarily yours] to test for newness)

Each of these map to the P.A.I.N. questions for prospect discovery. Each is designed to find a tiny edge you might be able to flip up into a full-blown need on the next call. Remember, the goal of the prospect discovery is NOT to collect fruit that has already fallen from the tree – those are pipeline calls (they have a need, they’ve found you, let’s talk about fit). Prospecting calls are when we’re climbing the tree looking for fruit that will be ripe soon. The most important thing you can do is not be pushed out of the tree! Back your questions off and just look for fruit.

Important: These questions should be asked in a light and positive tone. I’m not searching for what’s wrong, I’m asking genuine questions about your likes and dislikes and I’m learning with a curious and open mind about your situation, the market, and the competitive landscape. What I’m NOT doing is looking for a chance to wedge in my pitch, outsell who you’re using, or impress you with my better features. Remember, this is a connection conversation. If I learn about you authentically, don’t badmouth the competition, and present no threat of a hard sell then I’m just a nice person having a great conversation and I’ve moved from probable distrust into conditional trust. 

That gets “yesses” to the next meeting.