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8 Pro Tips for Asking Better Sales Discovery Questions

You can ask discovery questions that impress your buyer and show them that you’re the right person to help them. Or…you could totally blow it and bore them with the same basic questions they’ve heard on every other sales call throughout their entire career.

So, how do you make sure your discovery questions set you up for success?

We chatted with Hannah Ajikawo, CTM consultant for Skaled and a top voice in sales on LinkedIn, to learn how we ask better questions and improve the buying experience.

Click here to watch the full interview, or keep reading for Hannah’s best advice.

1. Make sure your SDRs are setting you up for a great discovery kickoff

AEs run discovery, but SDRs should gather some critical information before that first meeting.

“I’m a firm believer that SDRs should be asking a question like, ‘I want to get a feel for where things are for you so we can make sure our discovery makes sense in the next phase. On a scale of 1 to 10, where are you in your own internal evaluation of the problems?’” - Hannah Ajikawo, GTM consultant for Skaled

If the rating is low, your first discovery call shouldn’t be devoted to helping the buyer learn how to do internal evaluation like a pro. You can train them on the processes and workflows they need to audit and which people to involve.

This is how you cater to your buyer’s needs and act as a trusted advisor, instead of trying to rush the sale.

2. Stop searching for the golden question—and use the golden rule instead

Just like there’s no secret weapon for handling sales objections, there’s also no such thing as the perfect discovery question.

However, Hannah does have a golden rule for guiding the discovery process and making any conversation more successful: You should pinpoint exactly where the buyer is in the process (down to the details).

“Don’t rely on your assumptions or intent data to tell you what the buyer is interested in and where they’re at. You want to find out why the buyer showed up to the call and what issues they’re facing. Ask how big of a priority this is compared to other initiatives.” - Hannah Ajikawo, GTM consultant for Skaled

It might take you half a dozen questions to really understand where they’re at in their buying process. Hannah says the two ends of the spectrum are “I’m just here because it seems interesting” and “I’ve got a budget, a decision-making unit, and I’m ready to pick the right solution and implement it.”

2. Discover how you can facilitate and support the buyer

Once you know where they’re at, it’s your job to help the buyer to the next step. Let’s say that they want to grow their business in 2023, but they haven’t determined the projects and initiatives that will get them to this goal yet.

You could ask them what their next step is. How will they set that plan? Who will they chat with? When? After you collect that information, you can provide the right resources and help, such as a planning template or a list of questions they can ask their team during the next meeting.

“Always facilitate and serve. Show your buyer how to have the internal discussion that will help them buy your solution in the future. Help them through the decision-making process. Facilitate and serve.” - Hannah Ajikawo, GTM consultant for Skaled

3. Ask if the buyer has decided on your type of solution

Before you get too excited about a potential deal, you need to make sure that your buyer isn’t still considering other options that aren’t even direct competitors.

Have they decided that this is the right type of solution? Are they unsure? You need to find out.

“Make sure that your prospect has agreed that this is the way they’re going to go about solving for their challenge. If they’re still figuring out how to solve the problem—maybe a new hire or sticking with the status quo, or working with an offshore agency—there’s a very low chance of it closing. It’s too early on.” - Hannah Ajikawo, GTM consultant for Skaled

If they’re still weighing all sorts of options, help them as best you can to leave the door open, but don’t invest too much time.

5. Continue to ask why the buyer is still pursuing a solution

For most companies, discovery doesn’t happen in one call. It happens in a series of calls.

One of the best things you can do to ensure that the buying experience is relevant to the customer is to continue to ask why the buyer is showing up to calls and pursuing a solution.

This way, you stay in tune with any shifting priorities and deepen your understanding of their big problems and goals.

6. Gather the data you need to crunch ROI numbers realistically

During times of economic downturn, wishy-washy conversations about ROI just won’t cut it.

Ask buyers for the data you need to run accurate calculations. And be realistic. Let them know how any issues they’re already dealing with (such as a downsized team) will affect their potential for ROI and how your company’s custom professional services can help.

“Don’t just talk about the amount of ROI. Talk about when you’re going to get ROI and how. Our job as salespeople is to help people realize ROI and be truthful about it, especially if there have been layoffs and the team is small, we need to clarify what the buyer needs to do to get results. - Hannah Ajikawo, GTM consultant for Skaled

7. Don’t expect your buyer to answer all of your questions

Inexperienced sellers sometimes ask too many questions. They feel the need to hit on an entire list and then aren’t able to pivot well.

But if you ask questions the buyer isn’t ready to answer, you’ll only frustrate them.

For example, if they agreed to join a call because they’re merely interested in what you do, they probably won’t have a list of clear goals. So instead of drilling them about their goals and priorities, you might ask why their interest was piqued.

8. Get the customer to ask you questions too

The best discovery calls are a two-way street, not a grueling interview that puts your prospect in the hot seat.

Ask them what questions they have for you, and provide examples or ideas. For example, instead of asking “Do you have any questions?” you might ask “Do you have any questions about implementation or ROI?” Make sure to offer categories that are relevant to the current buying stage.

“I always tell salespeople, you don’t have to know everything. That’s why you’re having the call.” - Hannah Ajikawo, GTM consultant for Skaled

Sometimes, salespeople (especially newer ones) will feel a lot of pressure to perform when prospects are asking questions. But remember, you don’t have to have the answers on the spot. You just need to do the work and get those answers before the next call.

Remember: asking the right questions is all about identifying what the buyer needs help with right now, so you can help them progress to the next step.

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