3 Tips to help you ask better discovery questions

We have all done it. Asking the customer questions that are answered with a yes or no.

Do you protect your network from malicious attacks? Do you get any rewards for making business purchases?

These are examples for closed questions that force the customer to answer with a simple yes or no. And if your customer isn’t very chatty in the first place you will have a hard time to keep the conversation going and, if you do, it sounds more like an interrogation rather than a conversation!

What you really want to do is listening, learn about customer’s business challenges and build rapport.

Tip #1: Ask open questions It’s ok to ask a closed question occasionally and especially if you want to confirm something or need to make a point. The majority of your discovery questions can be asked as open questions. There are a few ways to transform your closed question into an open one.

You can start the question with:

  • Tell me …
  • How …
  • Describe …
  • Explain …

The two examples above would transform into:

How do you protect your network from malicious attacks? Describe to me the way you pay for business purchases?

Open questions allow for a natural flow of information and help you discover additional details that will be very relevant to the customer specific value proposition that you are trying to establish.

Tip #2: Research the customer’s industry and competitors to design relevant discovery questions This is very important because you need to understand their economic environment and business drivers in order to select the best discovery questions. Relevancy is the key.

E.g. let’s say you are selling a financial product that improves cash flow and provides some form of rewards for business spend but your customer is cash-rich. Your customer won’t see much value in cash flow benefits. Your discovery needs to look at payment rewards and discounts instead.

Tip #3: Provide insight by asking two-sided questions Your discovery questions should lead to learning something new about the customer as well as the customer learning something through the questions asked. This is the whole point of a consultative approach to selling.

Let’s look at the IT security example. The customer describes how they currently protect their network. Then you follow up with a statement and question:

“Many security breaches start with a malicious email. How do you deal with malicious emails in particular?”

Here you are providing some insight into attack vectors. You can even substantiate this by using specific data from the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report:


Action: The next time you prepare for your first customer meeting or call check your prepared discovery questions against the above three tips.

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