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Creating Discovery Questions for Your Sales Team 

Sales questionsMarketing teams and sales teams perform different, yet related, functions that, truthfully, amount to means to an end: A profitable, growing company. Cutting through the sales v. marketing noise and working to enable one another with the necessary tools and insight to increase performance, then, benefits everyone. In the past, I’ve covered two key points I’ll build upon here: Sales teams should not be doing their own prospecting, and marketers should not be afraid to pick up the phone and make calls to help qualify leads instead of throwing them over the wall to sales. Let’s explore another topic that’s especially relevant as we face a new year with new prospects: Why are discovery questions so important, and how can you help create them for your sales team?

Discovery Questions: The Difference Between Talking ‘At’ and Talking ‘With’ a Prospect

In business, the right tools mean everything. If you’re a B2B marketer, it’s best to have the right content creation and marketing automation tools to do your job well. If you’re a CIO, you might be looking at integration of people and processes through the lens of ITaaS. The scenario is no different for salespeople: To effectively move leads through the funnel to conversion, they need more than just a phone number to place a cold call.

In this digital landscape where customers have more choices and are more empowered than ever before, the preparedness of the sales team and relevancy of their message at the beginning of the process is key. I recently sat through a painful presentation that demonstrates what happens when this immediacy is overlooked. Although the pitch was limited to 15 minutes, the bulk of the presentation material was about the company, the product, and the founders—nothing about my company or my needs. See more of my experience here:

Here’s the point: Even if presentation content is phenomenal and salespeople are equipped with the most marketing-approved stats and collateral, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t matter to the prospect. That’s where discovery questions come in.

Examples of Discovery Questions

Marketers can help salespeople compose questions that provide something invaluable in a presentation or even phone scenario: Context. Instead of the first three or four slides of a sales presentation being company-centric, for example, consider equipping sales with open-ended discovery questions based on customer personas and target audience data. Let’s explore the three main goals of discovery questions and provide examples that accomplish each one.

Discovery Question Goal 1: Understand the goals of the company, the department, and the point of contact (POC). As industry leader Stu Schmidt wrote in a concerns-based selling series for us here at The Marketing Scope, “Even if you’re in the B2B marketplace, you’re still selling to people, not just companies. Of course you should still leverage insight and tech to move your business forward, but you mustn’t do it with blinders on.” Stu’s right. Although it can be easy to get caught up in the land of features and benefits, it’s imperative to remember even B2B companies are comprised of humans with human needs. Help your sales team compose open-ended questions that get to the heart of company and even POC goals, like the following:

  • Can you tell me about your company’s 2017 plan?
  • What are your top three goals for the year?
  • What’s your current strategy for meeting those goals?

Discovery Question Goal 2: Identify needs and challenges. After getting a big-picture idea of goals, empower your sales team to dig deeper into challenges their prospects face by providing them with targeted questions, like the following:

  • What about your current strategy is most frustrating, from both a department and personal perspective?
  • Have you tried to solve the problem before? If so, why didn’t it work?
  • Why is now the right time to make a change?

Discovery Question Goal 3: Determine authority. It’s easier to bring home a conversion when your sales team knows who has the true buying power within a company. Empower your sales team with discovery questions that can help determine the identities and priorities of the final decision makers. While a bit more difficult to do at the beginning of the lead qualification stage, questions like the following should still be worked in as early in the process as possible:

  • Are there other stakeholders in your company facing similar challenges?
  • What is your typical purchasing process?
  • Are you the decision maker or is their a selection committee?

What’s Next?

Targeted, open-ended discovery questions can help move prospects through the pipeline more efficiency by turning a standard presentation into a value-packed conversation—a goal both marketing and sales teams can get behind.

If you’re a pro at discovery questions, leave your tips in the comments. If you’re new to the concept, what else can I answer for you? I’m happy to help.

Photo Credit: vanhuynguyen Flickr via Compfight cc

Eric Vidal
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Eric Vidal

Chief Content Officer at The Marketing Scope
Eric is the Chief Content Officer of The Marketing Scope and Editor at Converge, both BMG properties. He is also the acting SVP of Marketing at BMG and has ran marketing for companies of all sizes. He has extensive experience working to achieve measurable business results for organizations like IBM, Cisco, WebEx, Canon USA, Capgemini, adidas, Subaru, SAP and more. Connect with Eric on LinkedIn
Eric Vidal
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