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Do Sales Discovery Questions Work?

Author: David Brock, president, Partners in Excellence

The discovery parts of the buying and selling processes are, perhaps, the most important part of the sales process. It is a huge amount of the shared learning process we start with our customers.

But, do we really “discover” in this process, or are we just seeking confirmation for what we want to hear?

Too often, our discovery questions are highly scripted to get us to learn the things we need to know to better sell. First, we ask a series of questions to qualify, nominally, the opportunity. We only want to know one thing, “Is this a good fit for us?” (Note: we usually don’t “discover” the customer’s compelling need to change and the consequences of not changing).

Then there are a series of questions we ask, listening selectively to the answers, often hearing what we want to hear, rather than what is being said. These questions are really oriented to helping us identify the features and functions we want to pitch about our solutions.

Do Our Sales Discovery Questions Really Work?

Even as biased as those questions are, too often, we fail to ask them. We check off the obligatory questions we are told to ask, then ask to schedule a demo.

What are we discovering?

In reality, nothing. We are just confirming what we want to hear, but not learning much about what the customer really wants to do and why they want to do that.

Discovery is critical for the customer, as well. It’s the process to go through to assess what they are currently doing. To understand if they are doing those things as effectively and efficiently as possible; to understand if there are things they could be doing better. To understand if there are things or opportunities they are missing.

Discovery is where the customers learn what others are doing, how they might think differently about their own businesses and goals. They learn what’s happening with their customers and how they might better serve them.

Discovery is where the customer learns what they have to do to be successful in managing the change, where they assess the risks, where they develop solutions for managing that risk. Where they establish goals and timelines for what they want to/need to achieve.

Discovery is where we, the sellers, and they, the buyers learn about each other. Not just the products and solutions, but also about how we work together to achieve our shared goals.

What Are We Really “Discovering”?

Too often, buyers fail in their discovery journey. Often because they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know what they should be discovering–they may have never been on this buying journey before.

Part of it may be their attention is diverted by the various sellers, asking their pre-programmed questions.

Part of it may be just aligning the buying team with what they are really trying to do.

Or it may be just the pressure of their day jobs and all the other demands on them.

Discovery is the most critical part of the buying and selling process. Wouldn’t the results buyers and sellers produce be much better if we truly went experienced the shared learning of that process?

Wouldn’t it be a stunning outcome if we led our customers through a true discovery process?


Author David Brock is president, Partners in Excellence. Read more from David Brock here.

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