sales discovery questions

Sales Discovery Questions

What are the most powerful sales discovery questions? One of them is not, “are you happy with your current solution”, although in all fairness it’s not an inappropriate question used in the right circumstances. However, try to not to rely on questions like ‘are you happy’.

In this blog post I’m going to draw heavily upon Keenan’s book Gap Selling

gap selling







Like all good business books, Keenan’s Gap Selling describes the obvious, but only obvious, after you read it. Until then it’s anything but obvious!

“Asking ‘why’, gets customers to say yes” (Gap Selling book quote). In sales discovery questions the more ‘why based’ questions you ask, the more you’ll understand. OK, so we’ve all asked the question, “are you happy with your current solution”. Usually our boss or customer (if you’re self- employed) has asked you, to ask that very question, so it might be unavoidable! Unfortunately, when one asks the question it’s either answered with a yes or a no, and there is nowhere to go if the answer is no.

discovery questions






As we all should know by now, selling is about solving problems, that’s true whether you’re a corner shop or someone selling an Enterprise ERP solution. You can’t solve problems until your prospect and you understand what problems they have. As often, they don’t know, or don’t care to communicate it. This touches upon an earlier blog The Challenger Sales Person . The more you know about potential problems a customer might have, the more you can ask ‘why based’, sales discovery questions.

A better strategy for asking questions is to dig deep, based on the knowledge of problems within the industry. If you understand where the problems may lie, ask questions about their current situation, how they handle what you know to be potential problems. Then you can test how well their current solution is really addressing their problems or ‘pain point’.

asking probing discovery questions






The 4 types of sales discovery questions are:

  1. Open-ended “probing” questions to uncover important details
  2. Open-ended “process” questions to learn how
  3. Open-ended “provoking” questions to help your potential customer to look at their situation in new ways
  4. “Validating questions” in which you repeat rephrased answers to earlier questions back to the prospect, so you can:
    • understand their current reality accuratel
    • demonstrate to them you understand
    • keeping the discovered pain point ‘top of mind’

It’s about collaborating to arrive at the best solution, building a relationship as a trusted advisor. You’ll either get the prospect to think about problems and solutions in a new, unique way, differentiating yourself; or ‘qualify out’, early, so you’re not wasting your time.


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David Doyle

David has spent 30 years in sales successfully building business from zero to acquisition. Having studied Electronics and Computer Science at DIT and Enterprise Ireland's Export Sales Development Programme, he has spent most of his time in selling technology. He is founder and Managing Director of B2B Sell and leads a small team of experienced business and technology trained sales professionals.

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