I said that in an interview not too long ago. And looking at it now, it might be the best advice I’ve ever given.
When you build sales qualification into your processes, you’re setting yourself up for success.
Because qualified leads are:
- More likely to buy
- Less likely to waste your time
- More likely to send you a referral
- Less likely to question your recommendation
- More likely to spend more with your business
Simply put, qualified leads are better leads. In fact, they’re the only leads you should be focusing on.
And the best way to nail the sales qualification process is by running your discovery calls like… a doctor.
In this guide, I’ll be showing you my proven sales qualification framework. I’ll also show you why sales qualification is so important, give your real-life discovery call questions to use, and explain why thinking like a doctor is the best way to take your qualification game to the next level.
Ready? Let’s go.
Why Diagnose At All?
First off, what is a discovery call?
A discovery call is your chance to put a lead through your sales qualification process. It’s an opportunity to diagnose your lead so you can offer the proper solution.
You’re going to understand your prospect’s pain points and understand if they’re a real sales opportunity and worth another follow up call.
So, what’s the point of going through this “lead diagnosis” stuff anyway? Don’t you want to work with any lead to maximize your chances of closing a sale?
Well, not necessarily…
Here’s why it’s so important to spend a bit more time on diagnosis during your discovery call.
A) Qualify Your Leads
Priority number one for your discovery call should be sales qualification.
Is this lead a good fit for your solution? Are their expectations on par with what you can deliver? And duh, can they even afford it?
Your sales discovery call is a big deal. Unqualified leads mean more time spent closing and more time wasted on deals that eventually fall apart.
Here are some stats to give you a better idea of how important lead qualification really is for sales teams.
- 67% of lost sales are as a result of sales reps not properly qualifying their potential customers before taking them through the full sales process (Clover Mortgage).
- Only 5% of salespeople said the leads they received from marketing were of high quality (HubSpot).
- More than one-third (34%) of reps said prospecting and sales qualification were the biggest challenges they faced (Pipedrive).
When you learn how to effectively qualify a lead on a sales call, you’re also saving yourself from tons of wasted hours down the road. And that means you can focus on the leads that are more likely to buy.
B) Gather More Intel
Diagnosing your lead is about more than just better leads. A successful discovery call is the perfect place to start refining your sales strategy.
Because a discovery call is the best place to gather more intel on the buyer, the problem they’re facing, and how to position your product as the solution to that problem.
When it comes to B2B sales, closing a deal isn’t about charm. It isn’t about sneaky persuasion techniques. And it isn’t about duping a buyer into purchasing.
Instead, it’s about offering real value.
And the more you know about the lead and the problem they’re facing, the more value you’ll be able to provide.
C) Positions You As An Authority
Last but not least, a proper sales discovery process will also position you as a trusted authority in the eyes of your buyer.
When you can confidently (and competently) diagnose your prospect issues and follow up with a solution that effectively solves their problems, you’re not a “pesky salesperson” anymore. Instead, you evolve into a valued consultant in an instant.
And being seen as a value-giver rather than a value-taker comes with some very real benefits.
- No More Games – Zero callbacks, bargain hunting, hardball negotiating, feet dragging—all these games become a thing of the past when your buyers take you seriously. And that leads to massive time savings and far less teeth grinding for you.
- Faster Closing – When you’re an authority in the eyes of the buyer, they’re more willing to trust you, rely on your expertise, and jump into contract signing sooner. And we all know faster deal closing translates to more commissions.
Becoming a Doctor
Now, to diagnose your lead like a doctor, you’ve got to think like a doctor. So, how do you get in the right mindset for qualification of your sales leads?
1) Zero Judgment – A doctor doesn’t judge their patients. They don’t wag their finger and look down their nose. Instead, they accept the facts as they are so they can provide the most evidence-driven solution they can.
Discovery Call Pro Tip: Try being a bit (but only a bit) detached after asking leads for their info. You don’t have to make comments or offer opinions. But instead, take the facts as they come.
2) Patient-First Approach – If a doctor can help, they will. But if they can’t, they’ll refer the patient to a specialist that can (at least that’s the way it’s supposed to work). If you’re not a fit for the buyer, don’t force it. Doing so will just lead to more work in the end.
Sales Qualification Pro Tip: Get comfortable referring more leads to other reps, departments, or even solution providers. Not only are you removing unqualified leads from your pipeline. But you’re also strengthening your relationship with your colleagues at the same time.
3) Keep It Real – If a patient is in trouble, a doctor doesn’t mince their words or pull punches. They explain the severity of the problem and the pain of the solution clearly and directly.
Discovery Call Pro Tip: Dancing around the topic and speaking vaguely creates distrust. But being upfront and direct builds rapport. If you have something to say, say it.
4) Be In Control – You are the doctor, not them. And that means you are the one in control. If a patient is playing up or not giving truthful responses, a doctor doesn’t battle with them. They ask them to leave. And the same should be said about your discovery calls.
Sales Qualification Pro Tip: Start the diagnosis call with, “OK, so the way these calls usually go is I’ll ask a few questions and if we can help, I’ll explain how. Then you can decide to work with us or not.” If the prospect starts trying to take control of the conversation, start again with, “OK, so the way these…” Take control!
The Sales Diagnosis Framework
Paging Doctor Rep… Doctor Sales Rep…
So now that you know how to get in the right sales qualification mindset, it’s time to go over how to qualify your leads on a discovery call.
And the best way to do that is with The Sales Diagnosis Framework.
There are eight topics in general you should be concerned with throughout this sales qualification framework as you make a great discovery call:
As a sales doctor, your very first responsibility is to assess whether or not the patient is actually in pain.
Is their issue actually a problem? And most importantly, is the buyer in “pain” because of that problem?
The buyers you want to work with are feeling the hurt from this problem. And as a result, they’re going to be highly motivated to find the right solution.
Don’t be like most sales professionals and start throwing your pitch down the throat of your prospect as soon as they mention a small pain they have. Keep on diagnosing in this first conversation before you make your move.
Discovery Call Questions
Try using these discovery call questions to determine if the prospect is actually in “pain” right now.
- “You booked this call with me today, what lead to getting this call booked in?” – This question gets to the heart of the issue. What is the main reason they’re talking with you right now? In some cases, you may have to do a little more digging. But with this question, you at least get to uncover a kernel of truth, even in the most tight-lipped buyers.
- “What’s stopping you from solving this issue yourself?” – An essential follow-up to the previous question. Not only does this question uncover any roadblocks to implementation you may hit down the road. But it also gives you a clearer idea of how big this problem really is. After all, if it’s dire, the buyer should have been working to solve it themselves.
Unfortunately, not all problem and solution timelines are going to line up—both in medicine and in sales. One of your primary concerns when qualifying prospects is what their timeline is for when they need their problem solved.
Are they thinking today? This quarter? Or in the next few years?
The right answer for your industry will depend entirely on your unique business and solution. But in general, you shouldn’t be working with buyers that aren’t interested in solving the problem soon.
If your buyer doesn’t have urgency, they won’t be compelled to act. And as a result, you’ll likely encounter plenty of feet dragging and time-wasting along the way. Best instead to say you’re not a fit early on.
Discovery Call Questions
Use the question below to better understand what type of timeline your “patient” is dealing with.
- “When do you want to solve this pain?” – Pretty straightforward, right? This question doesn’t mince words. And as a result, the answer gives you a clear, no-bullshit timeline that the buyer is hoping to solve their problem. With this info in mind, you can assess whether it’s realistic and whether you can meet it. If the answer to both is no, then it’s time to cut them loose.
As the doctor in this selling scenario, it’s important to ask yourself, “Can I really fix this patient’s problem?”
Now, to some reps in the industry, this question is equivalent to blasphemy. “Of course my solution is right for the buyer! It’s right for everyone! It just depends how well I sell it.” But the truth of the matter is there’s no perfect product or service for everyone. And saying otherwise is just playing into the public’s idea of sales reps being con men.
Instead, it’s your job to think of yourself as someone who offers value. Not all doctors have the drugs, surgery skills, or psychiatry training to heal every patient. And when they run into one they can’t fix, they refer them to another care provider.
Think of yourself the same way. And don’t waste time with someone who doesn’t need what you’re selling.
Discovery Call Questions
Rather than asking the buyer questions here, it’s time for a bit of introspection. Ask yourself the questions below to determine if this patient’s problem is a good fit.
- “Do I have the solution for this buyer’s problem?” – Once you’ve learned about the buyer’s pain point and their desired timeline, you can figure out if you offer the right solution to solve that problem. Honesty is crucial here. A good doctor doesn’t oversell their capabilities. And in the same way, you need to think long and hard about whether your solution will really make the buyer’s problem a thing of the past.
- “Do they really need this solution?” – As much as it may pain you to say it, the buyer may be sitting on the perfect solution already—and one they can implement on their own. Time to get honest again. Is your solution (or one like it) really necessary? If not and the sale goes through, the buyer will likely resent you once they find out they could have easily solved the problem themselves with the flip of a switch. And that means negative reviews, zero loyalty, and no earned referrals.
Every treatment has its ups and downs. Side effects, recovery time, medication contraindications—no matter what the solution to the problem is, there’s going to be at least a touch of discomfort involved.
Same goes with sales. Buyers need to change vendors, hire new staff, train on novel systems, or fight for a change to the budget.
The question is, is the value your solution provides worth that discomfort?
How much will they have to change to accommodate it? And when all is said and done, will they look back on the investment as a good purchase or one that ate up too many resources?
Going through this calculation upfront is a must during qualification of sales leads.
Discovery Call Questions
Want to find out if a buyer is worth it for the return they’ll get? Try asking these three questions.
- “How would things be different if we solved this for you?” – What will actually change for the buyer once they implement your solution? Is it a simple quality of life difference? Or does the switch lead to real change for the business on a fundamental level? This one’s key because no matter how well you think you understand the industry, every business is different. And asking the buyer outright will give you better insight into the real value your solution offers.
- “What is your motivation to make this happen?” – On its surface, this question seems similar to the previous one. But asking it also helps uncover the subtler strings pulling the buyer. Do they need to hit a certain quota before the quarter’s end? Are they getting complaints from their team? Or maybe their customers? This is all valuable info you can use to determine if this buyer is a good fit.
- “If we took your business from $X to $X, how would that change things?” – Last but not least, let’s talk about the numbers. If your solution provides as much value as it has with past customers, will that lead to a tangible difference with the buyer? Would they appreciate that change? And would it be a step in the direction the buyer is looking to take? If not, they may not be the best lead to sink your hard-earned time into.
A doctor has a certain process that patients must adhere to. Some do house calls, others don’t. Some only accept UnitedHealth Group, while others only work with Humana Insurance. The point is, a patient needs to adhere to a doctor’s process in order to work with them.
And as a sales doctor, you should only see buyers who do the same.
Be sure your buyer is willing to adapt to your process before working with you. Check to see if they’re willing to stop working with current vendors, put in the necessary time for training, and whatever other “musts” need to be done to get maximum value from your solution.
Just like a doctor’s office, buyers who won’t adapt to your processes should be turned away.
Discovery Call Questions
To get a better idea of the process involved, ask the following discovery call question.
- “When your organization has done similar projects in the past, what paperwork process needed to happen?” – This question gives you a clearer idea of what lies ahead should the buyer be a reasonable fit. How much work will they have to put in to overhaul their system? How much work will you have to put in training and getting their team up to speed? Basically, is the work required reasonable or out of line?
Health services cost money, whether it’s you footing the bill or the insurance company.
The same is true for sales. And as touchy of a subject as budget can be, it’s absolutely essential that you get a feel for your buyer’s budget before you start working with them.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to lead the discovery call with questions about money. And in fact, doing so may turn off the prospect from the outset, sinking any hopes of a deal.
Instead, lead up to budgetary questions. Handle the subject professionally and use direct communication. Think of it as just another aspect of the qualification process.
And use the questions below to get the necessary details without scaring off the buyer.
Discovery Call Questions
When it comes to money, ask the following questions to get a better sense of the buyer’s budget.
- “How are projects like this funded?” – Not all projects fall under a clean and uniform budget. Sometimes they’re spread over multiple teams and departments instead. With this open-ended question, you’re getting a better idea of how many hoops your buyer will have to jump through to get proper funding. On top of that, you’ll have a better idea if they’re the final decision-maker or if they’ll have to loop in other department heads before settling on yes or no.
- “Is a project like this in this year’s budget?” – Straight to the point here. Does your buyer have funds allocated for your solution in the current fiscal year? If so, then full steam ahead. But if not, you may be twiddling your thumbs waiting for your buyer to secure the proper funding. And depending on your priorities, that may mean this lead isn’t a good fit.
- “What financial scope do you have to solve this issue?” – Another question that doesn’t pull any punches. How much are you willing to pay for this? Is it in line with the price point of your solution or too low?
No man (or woman) is an island. And when it comes to undergoing serious medical care, most patients are going to consult with friends and loved ones about what options they should take.
With sales, your buyer’s decision is often going to be influenced by other individuals in the business. It could be heads of other departments, higher-ups in the C-suite, or even influential team members below them.
That’s why it’s important to figure out who these other individuals (“champions”) are before you decide the buyer’s a fit.
Doing so clues you in to whether the buyer is the final decision maker and if there’s someone else you should be talking to instead.
Discovery Call Questions
To figure out who the champion in the department may be, try asking the following question.
- “Who is the person that people look up to within your department on projects like this?” – Without asking the question directly, this subtler approach will help you uncover any other decision-makers that may influence the passing of the deal. The question has the added benefit of getting a bit more background on other solutions the buyer has used to solve the problem before.
A doctor is with a patient. They talk about symptoms the patient is experiencing, recent changes that may be the cause of the problem, possible treatment options. And finally, after hours of investigation, they land upon a suitable solution.
And just before the doctor is about to start treatment, the patient decides they’re going to think about it and get back to them in a year or two. And oh yeah, they didn’t pay.
As a sales doctor, it’s up to you to get your buyer’s verbal commitment on the call. Otherwise, they’re liable to walk away after days or even weeks of your hard work, just like in the example above.
So when you’ve determined that a buyer is a solid lead, don’t hang up the phone before asking the discovery call question below.
Discovery Call Questions
To lock the buyer into the deal, use the following strategic question.
- “You’re a good fit to work with us. If we can solve X, will you commit to Y?” – This time-tested formula has it all—validation, a hint of flattery, results anchoring. By asking this question, you’re tying your solution to a specific result. And equally importantly, you’re influencing the buyer to commit to that solution, provided you can achieve the results you promise. After that, the only thing left to do is nail down the specifics and sign the papers.
Sales qualification is one of the most difficult and most important parts of being a successful rep.
With quality leads, you can close deals more quickly, build greater rapport (and boost chances of referrals), and ultimately earn more while stressing less. And with bad leads, the exact opposite is true.
Your discovery call is hands down the best place to qualify leads by diagnosing their problem.
All it takes is using The Sales Diagnosis Framework and treating the call like a doctor by focusing on:
Remember, stay cool and collected. And always approach each patient with the intent of solving the problem, not necessarily getting them to buy your solution.
And when you do that, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to close (and earn!) when you’re only dealing with qualified leads.