In the inbound marketing world, sales calls are out – discovery calls are in.
Discovery calls are calls you schedule with prospects to learn about them and start hammering out a solution to their problems. Sales talk comes only once you’ve determined a) they’re qualified and b) you’re qualified to meet their needs.
In a world where authenticity and a genuine connection are more important than ever, a discovery call is easiest for everybody. A great call gives you a chance to put ego aside and build real rapport using your active listening skills.
Done right, they also give you all the information you need to hit a home run.
Of course, your prospects are busy. Especially in the B2B world, they are probably in a time crunch. They are facing big decisions that involve more stakeholders than ever, and they’ve probably already put in a fair bit of research.
They don’t have time to play 20 questions – so it’s vital to make each one count.
Deploy these questions at your next discovery call and see the difference:
1. Tell Me a Little Bit About Your Company.
Ok, so question one isn't technically a question, but starting with this open-ended statement can usually encourage the prospect to open up right from the get-go.
And, given the chance, most prospects love to talk about themselves. A "question" like this gets you off on the right foot by putting their needs front and center. Plus, this is a great jumping off point to learn the prospect’s thought process and let them guide the conversation.
2. What Problem Are You Trying to Solve?
With a qualified prospect, you probably already get the basic outlines of the problem. Still, it is vital to avoid coming in looking like a “know it all.”
When you get the problem statement from the horse’s own mouth, you are also helping your prospect think creatively about it. Plus, you can determine within five minutes if your solutions are likely to be a good fit.
3. How Would Solving for Problem XYZ Help Your Business?
Once you learn about the struggles the company is having, find out the positive implications of solving their problem.
What impact can it have on their business? By understanding this, you'll get a better idea of the motivation behind overcoming their challenge and how you might be able to help them in the future. Speaking of motivation...
4. What Caused You to Address This Problem Today?
Full disclosure: We first started to hear this at the local chiropractor’s office.
Like the first-time patient at the chiro’s bench, your prospect probably suffered with this problem for a while before deciding it’s time to make a change. Understanding the motivation – like market changes or executive strategy – can help you key in on potential partnerships.
5. What Metrics Are You Responsible For?
While there are lots of variations on this question, some of them are a little too broad. “Tell me about your role,” for example, is likely to leave prospects feeling like you haven’t done much research.
On the other hand, asking specifically about metrics can be a light bulb moment. Each business has their own, and you can relate your solution to bottom line results.
6. What Do You Think Could Be a Potential Solution? Why?
This is the mirror image of the popular discovery call question, “What solutions have you tried so far?”
The problem with that question?
First, the answer could be none. Second, picking at the shortcomings of previous solutions is a long way to go to get the information you really want. With this question, you can align your responses to what the prospect feels is most important.
7. What Would a Successful Outcome Look Like?
While you try to decipher whether the prospect is right for you, you should also be wondering whether you’re right for him or her.
Listen carefully to this answer, and think back to the other clients you’ve worked with. Is the desired outcome really plausible? If not, letting the prospect down gently is preferable to having them turn mean when they’re unsatisfied in six months!
8. Do You Have Written Decision Criteria for Choosing a Vendor?
Written criteria helps you and the prospect in countless ways. The obvious reason is that you can line up your features and benefits with the criteria.
As useful as that is, though, it’s only part of the story.
Written criteria shows the enterprise as a whole is more serious about the choice. The sales cycle is likely to be shorter and more professional because making a decision is an urgent priority.
9. (If Yes to Question 8) Who Compiled These Criteria?
Criteria doesn’t always come from experts, especially if this is the first time the business has done this kind of purchase. Criteria can come from the wrong part of the business or an executive sponsor whose bird’s-eye view omits critical details.
One example: Criteria for an HRIS system might come from IT because it’s cloud-based even though the principal stakeholder should be HR.
If your discovery calls uncover a mismatch between the criteria and the reality, you have a big job ahead of you. You can position yourself as a trusted adviser by helping your contact see what the shortcomings and pitfalls of their approach might be – but it takes longer. If it happens frequently, consult with marketing to be sure you’re attracting the right prospects.
10. Have You Ever Made a Purchase Like This Before?
If your prospect has no formal criteria, consider the possibility that this is a new endeavor for them.
Many prospects will be upfront about this, but some may not even realize it’s helpful information. As with number nine above, this puts you in the situation of building trust on the long term by helping your prospect fashion worthwhile decision criteria.
11. In the Past, How Are Decisions Like This Made Internally?
You might not always be talking directly to the decision maker during a discovery call – it could very easily be a liaison just gathering information to bring back to them.
Because of this, it's always important to understand the path you'll need to take to get in front of the right decision makers. That way, you'll know how to make an impression and even elicit responses from a prominent authority figure.
12. What Made You Jump On the Line Today?
Clearly they need some sort of help or information, so find out what convinced them to hop on a call with you. It's best not to infer based on their answers to your other questions alone, so be sure to ask them up front: Why are you here?
Based on their response, you can gather more insight into the solutions you might have for them.
13. How Can I Help Make This Easy?
When all is said and done, a good discovery call hinges on the idea you genuinely care about your prospect’s success.
Kindling one little spark of sincere personal connection may be all it takes to make you a preferred vendor – if not this time, next time. Use this question to give your prospects permission to lay it all on the line and be honest about their concerns.
Done right, a discovery call is exciting for you and the prospect: You both get to take concrete steps toward your goals. Use these questions to position yourself as an expert who truly cares.