4 Steps to Asking Better Sales Discovery Call Questions

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Prospecting discovery is drastically different from pipeline discovery. If you’re selling something new and you’re leading with the standard exploratory questions that everyone else already Googled, you’re probably not getting through #5 on your list of top ten questions. Stop getting shut down on your BDR, SDR, AE, ISR, Acquisition (really, any new prospect) calls!

The key is to stop focusing on the benefits of your solution and start thinking about what motivates human beings. Because nobody likes change for change’s sake. We NEED motivation!

If my cell phone provider called me right now with a better plan or phone that cost nothing more, I wouldn’t change. Why? Because changing phones or plans is a thorn in my side. Changing your grocery store sucks, new apps frustrate me, even changing lanes is a hassle. How often do you change the route you drive for fun? Bought Toyota for decades? On your third Labradoodle? Human beings resist change. It’s a fact. 

Just because you have something awesome, it doesn’t mean I’ll lift a finger to get it. That includes listening to you, learning more, attending a demo, or giving you five more minutes.

So what will motivate someone not expecting your call to consider giving you their most precious resource (time) to learn about something they haven’t thought once about in the past month? 

PAIN motivates change.

Only, not the pain everyone else is talking about. Discomfort or dissatisfaction is just one of four ways to get the meeting. And it isn’t the most successful. Let’s dig in.

  1. Problem: they have a challenge you can solve (normal pain)
  2. Avoiding disaster: there’s a challenge coming and you can prevent it (top motivator)
  3. Improve life: Your solution makes their life easier, better, or gives that appearance
  4. Newness: It’s all about the FOMO with these folks

Let’s take a look at each for a moment. Join me in thinking about PAIN in a whole new way! 

Problem: We all have business challenges and goals, but we don’t start actively looking for solutions until it really hurts or someone has given us a deadline. Sure, I could save on electricity costs with an AC tune-up, but it doesn’t HURT until the unit is broken, I get an outrageous bill, or my spouse tells me to get it fixed or sleep outside. So, the seller’s job when it comes to a problem is to:

  1. Make it hurt more
  2. Sell the relief
  3. Push a deadline
  4. Show pending disaster (check out A: Avoiding disaster)

We do this with smart discovery questions about costs, timelines, potential disasters, and a better life on the other side. Find the root and push on it a bit. For example, if I spend $200 / month on electricity and a new unit could save me 10%, I’m not terribly motivated by a mythical $20. But if you find out my highest bill, and make it an annual number, I am wasting over $600 a year! Maybe I’d love to not worry about cranking it down a few extra degrees this summer and not spending a dime more. What if my unit is already twelve years old and the average only lasts ten? What happens to my pets, my kids, my candles, and my marriage when we spend a week without AC in July? Find the right path and venture down it one question at a time.

Avoiding Disaster: Penalties, losses, or threats are widely cited as human beings’ biggest motivator. (Really, the threat of losing $1000 beats the chance of winning $1000 every time). So how can we do that in sales? Our questions uncover the plan for the future and help prospects see the very real threat of loss. Most units go out in July and August, what’s the high temp in my area? Have I had any experience with this in the past? Maybe a horror story or two? Any kids or pets to worry about? Surely a fifteen-minute appointment or other low-cost tune-up is worth avoiding the serious health threats and expense of a unit that quits during the Memorial Day BBQ…

Improve Life: This is my #1 winner. I’m a working mom desperate to save some time or make things easier. Maybe you can help me make more money? Help me look good to my boss? Enjoy my commute? Love coming to work? Sell it, sister, how do you make me happier? If you’re a student of Factor 8’s SWIIFT, nearly all the business values play here. Smart sellers ask questions about the current state, what I like, what I don’t, and how it could be better. They paint pictures of the future utopia and help me see an immediate and big benefit in exchange for a short meeting. 

Newness: These seekers are easy. They just can’t help but kick some tires on new technology. I think they’re looking for what’s newer while standing in line at the Apple store. So use your questions to find out if they’re a bleeding edger or late adopter and dangle some newness. It’s as easy as, “Have you seen the new ______?” You’ll know when they jump on the line.

Remember, the goal of a prospect call is to find one raised corner on an otherwise smooth surface. Just enough of an edge that you can use questions to pry up the corner a little and get the meeting. If you’re leading with your product benefits, you’re banking to close only the people literally searching for your product right now. Every few hundred calls and you’ll get one. Quadruple your chances by also looking for the rest of the PAIN with the folks avoiding disaster, seeking improvement, or loving newness. 

Want to improve your discovery calls?

Check out our Sales Call Discovery Masterclass!
Masterclass is a 2-month virtual sales rep training program.


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