What Makes Good Discovery Questions?

BY Jessica Helinski
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Do you know what makes good discovery questions? How do you decide which questions to ask during discovery? Sellers are faced with seemingly endless choices when it comes to asking the right discovery questions. And what they choose has an impact. 

These questions are more than mere inquiries; they are strategic instruments that decode your client's essential needs,” explain the professionals at Showell

It’s important that sellers don’t waste time asking ineffective questions. Knowing what to ask, and why, will help sellers make the most of this learning opportunity. 

Why Do Good Discovery Questions Matter?

Discovery questions help sellers in so many ways, from qualifying leads and uncovering pain points to establishing trust and a connection with prospects. 

In many cases, the discovery call is the most important step in the sales process,” writes Dan Tyre for Hubspot. “It sets the tone for the entire relationship, both pre and post-​sale. Either you’ll be able to establish an authoritative relationship, or you’ll be stuck playing catch up.”

But not all questions are worth asking. And certain types of questions are better for specific inquiries than others. Sellers need to know how to effectively ask questions that will accomplish their objectives, all without wasting precious time during the call. 

Unfortunately, not all sellers have mastered discovery questions. SalesFuel’s research found that for nearly one-​quarter of sellers, discovery questions are one of their top weaknesses. 

Balance Open and Closed Questions

One of the most important bits of advice for asking good discovery questions is asking both open-​ended and closed questions. While closed questions simply require a yes or no response, open-​ended questions are formatted to invite more in-​depth discussion. 

According to Showell, ask open-​ended questions specifically for:

  • Deep insights — They encourage prospects to share more, opening up dialogue to uncover and explore pain points.
  • Building relationships — These will encourage a conversational atmosphere and nurture rapport.

Closed questions, they advise, are best for:

  • Specific information — They help “in gathering precise data and facts quickly, essential during the qualification stage.”
  • Guiding the conversation — Allow “you to steer the conversation in a particular direction, maintaining focus and efficiency.”

Sellers will be most successful if they strike a balance between these two types. “Incorporating a mix of these question types into your sales dialogue ensures you not only gain a comprehensive understanding of your prospect's situation but also drive the conversation with purpose and clarity,” advises Showell. 

Use Probing Questions

Probing questions are another type of good discovery questions that sellers should use. They are a type of follow-​up question that play off of a prospect’s response. They simply ask for more details or an expansion on what was said. 

Probing questions are follow-​up questions that dig deeper into a buyer’s initial response,” according to Allego’s Richard Smith. “They help salespeople explore the context, motivations, and reasons behind the buyer’s answers, providing a more comprehensive understanding.”

Allow the Conversation to Flow–and Don’t Forget to Listen

Don’t get too caught up in making sure you ask a certain number of questions during the call. While you don’t want to overwhelm the prospect, simply focus on quality over quantity. And allow the conversation to naturally develop. 

As Smith points out, “If the buyer is elaborating on a particular topic, you might ask fewer questions in that area. On the other hand, if a topic is glossed over, you might need more questions to gain a complete understanding.”

And just as important as asking good discovery questions is listening to the responses. Engage in active listening to ensure that your thoughtful questioning doesn’t go to waste. You’ll walk away from the call with deeper insights into the buyer, as well as a valuable connection, setting the stage for a successful partnership.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio