9 Powerful Sales Discovery Questions (And 12 Essential Follow-ups)

We all know the stereotype of the dodgy used car salesman. But contrary to popular belief, sales isn't about tricking people into buying. Instead, it's about giving customers the solution to their problem (whether they know they have the problem or not).

The tricky part for salespeople is finding out if their solution is a good fit for their buyer's needs.

Is that buyer actually struggling with a problem you can solve? Do their needs align with what you can provide? Are they equipped with the resources to use your solution correctly? Discovery calls are designed to provide this invaluable information and more.

With this discovery info, you can better qualify leads, craft the perfect sales pitch and close more deals.

This guide will help you uncover your buyer's actual needs and home in on their underlying business problem with a simple step-by-step sales process. We'll be looking at nine open-ended discovery questions along with 12 powerful follow-up questions.

What Are Discovery Questions?

Discovery questions are the questions you ask sales leads during a discovery call. Of course, you've likely already learned a bit about the prospect before jumping on the phone. But your discovery call will help you fill in the details about their situation and create a clearer picture of their needs.

The answers to your discovery questions let you determine several things.

  1. If your product offering can solve the needs of a sales lead.
  2. If you can deliver your product within the buyer's constraints (i.e., timeline, budget, etc.).
  3. The best way to pitch your product.

If the prospect's answers line up well during your discovery call, then they'll move on to the next phase of the sales process. If not, you can redirect them through another nurturing campaign. Or they'll drop out from your sales funnel entirely.

So, what makes a sales discovery question effective at uncovering your sales lead's genuine business problems?

Principles of Great Sales Discovery Questions

The types of discovery questions (and how you ask them) determine the quality of the information you extract on your call. With the right discovery call questions, you can get to the heart of your prospect's needs. The wrong one? You may lose the buyer's trust and sink the deal entirely.

So, what do great sales discovery calls look like?

9 Qualifying Discovery Questions for Sales

Asking the right discovery call questions is key to uncovering the information you need to create an irresistible sales pitch.

So lets get practical. Below are nine discovery questions you should always use on your discovery calls. You'll also find 12 follow-up questions you can use to extract even more valuable info.

1. “Tell Me About Your Company & Your Role”

Once you've broken the ice, it's time for some sales discovery. This question lets the potential buyer take the lead and ease into the conversation at their own pace. Best of all, people love talking about themselves. So they'll often be excited to share.

Besides building rapport, you'll also be uncovering hints about the prospective buyer. Hints like do they have decision-making power in this deal? What areas of the business do they oversee? And what difficulties have they been hitting recently?

Great Follow-Up Question:

  • “What specific metrics are you responsible for?” – Perfect for aligning your pitch to what's specifically essential to their role. Plus, it may help uncover their decision-making power along the way.

2. “Tell Me About Your Upcoming Goals”

This question is an excellent lead-in to get more information specifically related to the prospects business needs. It's a fundamental discovery call question. For example, are they looking for a way to save on costs? Streamline their processes? Boost their customer satisfaction?

Plus, the open-endedness of it keeps the conversation moving forward without sounding pushy.

Great Follow-Up Question: 

  • “What is your timeline for achieving those goals?” – The buyer's answer to this question lets you determine if the implementation for your product matches up with their timeline needs.


3. “What's Keeping You From Achieving These Goals?”

It may be vague. But by keeping things general, you'll be able to extract which problems are the most pressing for the decision maker. Along the way, you can determine if they're struggling in areas related to your product offerings.

This question also leads the buyer into a “challenge-oriented” state of mind. The more concrete those challenges become in their heads, the more valuable your product will seem if it can solve them and the more likely you'll be to move forward in the sales process.

Great Follow-Up Question: 

  • “Why are you having those problems?” – The answer here helps identify if their current solution is working and if yours can help.

4. “What Happens if These Problems Go Unresolved?”

Setting up the “what if” scenario should be a go-to in your sales toolbox when talking with the decision maker. It solidifies the risks involved in letting this problem go. It underscores the challenges the prospect is facing. And if the consequences are dire, it makes your solution to their problem that much more appealing.

Beyond that, this question also lets you gauge the buyer's urgency, whether you need to increase that urgency in your final pitch and their real pain points.

Great Follow-Up Question: 

  • “What would success look like exactly?” – This follow-up helps you determine if their expectations are realistic and if you can help—both vital for deciding whether to qualify or disqualify.

5. “Who Else Is Involved in Choosing a Solution?”

One of the essential aspects of any qualification framework is determining the authority of your contact. Do they have decision-making power? Or are they just the gatekeeper who reports back to the actual authority?

Rather than asking, “Who's really in charge here?” this question lets you uncover that information without eroding the rapport with your current contact.

Great Follow-Up Questions: 

  • “Do you already have specific criteria crafted for choosing a solution” – The holy grail of qualifying and disqualifying information. Some buyers won't give up these criteria willingly. But if you've built up a great rapport, you may be able to get access.
  • “Who created those criteria?” – A subtle hint at who the decision-makers are.

6. “If We Can Find the Right Solution for Your Problem, What Will It Take To Implement The Solution?”

The point of this question is three-fold.

First, this question gives you a clearer idea of the process ahead. What steps will we need to go through to get the deal approved? Which departments will it have to pass through beforehand? The info here will help you nail down a timeline and hint at their authority.

Second, it further connects your product to the idea of solving their underlying problem. And that makes it easier for them to get to “yes.”

And lastly, using the vital “we” language puts you and the buyer on the same team and boosts rapport.

Great Follow-Up Questions: 

  • “What are the main hurdles you see for a smooth implementation?” – This further clarifies the last question and gives you an idea of the potential challenges involved ahead, not just the decision-making process.
  • “What are your other options for solving this problem?” – This question reveals your competitors or whether the buyer is considering putting the project off. Either way, it'll give you specifics to leverage in your pitch.

7. “What Is Your Implementation Timeline?”

Now we're a bit more in the nitty-gritty. And by this point, you'll have built up a strong rapport, so tackling these details should be acceptable. How much time do we really have here? And is it even feasible?

Here you'll want to be checking for realistic expectations and disqualifying information, too. If the prospects current solution isn't driving some serious pain points, then now is the time to end the discovery call and move on.

Great Follow-Up Question: 

  • “Are you ready to begin solving this today?” – How urgently are they ready to fix this problem? Ideally, you'll want them to be excited about the solution. And if they aren't, it's your job to build that excitement.

8. “What Is Your Approximate Budget?”

Discussing monetary terms can always be tricky. So be sure to leave this question for later in the discovery conversation. Keeping figures ballpark is a great way to soften the blow, too.

That being said, enquiring about the budget is a necessity. If they can't afford the project, then this deal is a non-starter.

Great Follow-Up Question: 

  • “Is the budget owner an ‘executive sponsor'?” – Are there any senior-level employees directly involved? If so, will you be speaking with them too?

9. “How Will This Make Your Life Better?”

Last but not least, it's essential to wrap up your conversations by helping your sales lead envision their future specifically. Will they have more time on their hands? Can they finally start attracting their ideal audience? Will their department be able to boost their efficiency and meet lofty goals?

Get the buyer to think about those benefits. Doing so makes your solution more appealing. It also motivates your sales lead to sell your product more passionately to other stakeholders.

Great Follow-Up Question: 

  • “How can I help make this easy?” – This final question lets the buyer ask you questions and request more information if needed. Plus, it's a great way to continue building rapport.

Learn To Ask the Right Questions

A strategic discovery call does more than just let you see if a sales lead is a good fit for your business. It also allows you to uncover valuable information that can be used to deliver a spot-on sales pitch. For you, that means higher close rates and better commissions.

If you're getting on plenty of sales calls with leads but still struggling to understand what their business problems are, asking these nine discovery questions will help.

Table of contents
Get your free book today:
Selling Made Simple
Find and close more sales, like clockwork, using 15 proven, step-by-step frameworks.
100% Free sales skill quiz:
Do you have the 15 traits of high performing sellers?
Learn your strengths and weaknesses in an instant. Don't get left behind.
illustration-web-4 1
Do you have the 15 traits of high performing sales people?
Learn your strengths and weaknesses in an instant. Taken by over 10,000+ of your competitors. Don't get left behind.