Discovery: Open Ended Questions

Yesterday we kicked off our series on the importance of Discovery in sales. Discovery allows you to connect with your clients in an authentic way and learn what drives their business, how they make money and how your product can help fulfill their need(s).

Often sales professionals get so focused on robotic discovery and listening to reply with product pitching that they fail to truly understand what the client needs and in turn build the value so they can effectively ‘pitch product.’

As a recap:

  • Be focused and agile – be prepared with a standard and specific list of discovery questions (tell me about your business, what is your role, etc…) – but in this process actually listen to understand so you can follow-up with additional qualifying questions and drill deeper into their pain.
    • How would you like to go to a doctor and they already decide you have a disease before diagnosing you. The doctor just gives you a prescription for the flu, but you have a slipped disc – it doesn’t work out for you or the client when we sell this way
  • Discovery is fun and interesting because you are engaging in a journey with the client to learn more about their business and needs. Be curious. I’ve enjoyed learning about all sorts of industries I’d never encounter without sales – be interested because our clients are interesting. They have unique jobs and your product can help them achieve their goals – and exceed them (because often we need to consult and encourage on how they can improve and grow)

Discovery does demand focus and direction in your questioning – you are a trail guide and need to keep them on the path – but discovery is NOT an interrogation. Be conversational and genuinely curious.

So how can we ensure focused conversations that don’t feel like the client is at court? Open ended questions are key to great conversations – in business and in life. Open questions lead to thoughtful answers and deeper insight. It also helps keep the door open so you don’t have the client slam the door with objections.

A closed ended question should only be used when you need a yes or no answer – time of closing (can you purchase today? Can we meet on Tuesday?)

The problem is when we are nervous in a call we usually start asking closed ended questions by accident – especially when the conversation feels awkward. Don’t fall into this trap.

I recommend putting a post it by your desk that says ‘ASK Open Ended questions’


Closed ended: Does this product seem helpful

  • Flaw: Client says no – you can follow-up but they close the door. If they say yes – then it doesn’t tell you why. If you do ask a closed ended question – rebound by following up with open-ended questions: Tell me why this would not be helpful.

There are tons of online resources for open-ended questions two methods that stick with me are TED and the W questions because they are easy to remember and can help you turn any closed-ended q’s into open discussions.

TED stands for:

T- Tell me

E – Explain to me

D- Describe to me

Ex: Tell me how a customer feedback tool would help your hotel?

Ex: Explain to me how you currently handle customer feedback?

Ex: Describe to me why this would be impactful in your day to day

You can go through TED and tailor it to thousands of great questions depending on use case and need. It gets people talking.

W Questions:

In elementary school we learn about Ws – what, where, why, who, when? and you can add in How?

Sales is built on the Ws (and the H) – we want to know

Who is the decisionmaker

What is their job

How are they doing things now? How would this impact their business

Why do they need to implement the product

When do they want to go live?

Where can our product help their business

Constant ask the Ws and H questions. That will give you deeper answers to pinpoint your clients needs, build pain and properly pitch the VALUE of your product.

Hope these quick reminders empower your day:

Next post we will focus on Discovery Methodology (BANTC/TREAD/BNAPR)

Happy selling.

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