Closing calls are sexy. They’re the calls where a deal gets moved across the line, contracts get signed, and you earn your commission checks.
But closing calls are a bit of a fait accompli. Depending on who you sell to and what you sell, you could have already spent 10 to 20 hours with your prospect. You should have a good idea of whether the deal will close and for how much.
In many cases, the discovery call -- the first call after connecting with a prospect -- is actually the most important in the sales process. It sets the tone for the entire relationship, both pre- and and post-sale. Either you’ll be able to establish an authoritative relationship or you’ll be stuck playing catch up. I’ve had deals that I thought would be relatively standard, but because I didn’t dive deep in discovery, they ended up being unduly complex.
Most prospects are okay with participating in a discovery call, as long as it’s not an interrogation. Discovery calls are crucial for sales professionals to understand the details of a prospect’s situation. On the other side, prospects want to leave a discovery call knowing who you are and what your company’s all about. They might have specific questions about a product feature or a term. Most importantly, they need to be assured that you understand their problem and that you will make a professional assessment to determine if you can help them or not.
For your part, you should confirm lead intelligence associated with the prospect that is picked up by any inbound technology your organization might use. You also need to qualify your prospect and determine their business pain, influence within the organization, their willingness to advocate for your product, and their preliminary attitude toward purchasing your product versus a competitor’s.
Below I’ve listed my 25 go-to discovery questions. You won’t be able to cover every question in every call -- and it might not make sense to. Qualify your prospect using the following questions in order and disqualify at any point if it becomes clear they’re a bad fit.
- Tell me about your company.
- Tell me about your role. What do you do day-to-day?
- What metrics are you responsible for?
- Tell me about your goals (financial, customer-related, operational).
- When do you need to achieve these goals by?
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- Are you having problems in [area as relates to the product]?
- What’s the source of that problem?
- Why is it a priority today?
- Why hasn’t it been addressed before?
- What do you think could be a potential solution? Why?
- What would a successful outcome look like?
- If you didn’t choose a product, do you have a plan in place to address this problem?
- What are your primary roadblocks to implementing this plan?
- What’s your timeline for implementation?
- Is this problem funded?
- Whose budget does the funding come out of?
- Is the budget owner an “executive sponsor”?
- Who else will be involved in choosing a vendor?
- Do you have written decision criteria for choosing a vendor? Who compiled these criteria?
- Have you purchased a similar product before?
- Is this a competitive situation?
- What’s the process for actually purchasing the product once you decide on it? Are there legal or procurement reviews?
- What are potential curve balls?
- How can I help make this easy?
You’ll know that you’ve run a good discovery call if you and your prospect are able to formulate a written sales plan and delinate next steps. If there’s still uncertainty when you hang up the phone, schedule another call to iron out remaining details.
Prioritize qualification over process-based questions. A legal or procurement process isn’t a roadblock to a sale, but a lack of business pain is. Once you’ve gotten the big-ticket items out of the way -- for example, establishing a goal and talking through potential plans to achieve it -- you can move on to the nitty-gritty of the deal.
Ideally, a discovery call will either clearly surface a sales opportunity or definitively disqualify a prospect. You should come out of your calls with an understanding of your prospect’s needs and how you can help solve them.
One final note: Always add value to the discovery call by providing some recommendations or simple ways to help. If you leave the prospect with a positive impression, they are more likely to reach out when they become sales-ready (if they aren’t currently).
More of a visual person? Check out the handy SlideShare below for all 25 questions.
This SlideShare was created by 24Slides.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.