<img alt="" src="https://secure.hook6vein.com/218453.png" style="display:none;">
Skip to content

Discovery questions that create momentum

The discovery call is your first opportunity to boost your chances of closing the deal, so make the most of it. Let’s find out more. 




Discovery is probably the most critical part of the sales process. It’s where you collect the information that you’ll need further down the line as you make the sale; it’s where you plant the seed in your prospect’s mind that you are the solution to their problem. It’s also where you set the tone for everything else that happens in your relationship with the prospect.

So, the question is, why do so many people get it wrong?

In this article, I’m going to show you how salespeople get their discovery calls wrong. After that, I’ll show you what you need to work on. Finally, I’ll give you some examples of helpful questions to ask next time you’re doing discovery. Let’s go.


Common mistakes

At SalesWorks, we’ve trained and coached hundreds of reps on discovery calls and more. Here are the top 5 discovery mistakes we see:


  • 1 - Combining discovery with a demo. We see this all the time when reps are rushed for time and keen to show off the product.  When you do this, you dilute the effects of both your discovery and your later demo.


  • 2 - They have a weak upfront agreement with the prospect, or worse, no agreement at all. No mutual understanding on time, commitment or outcome. It’s a recipe for disaster.


  • 3 - Reps allowing their prospects to put a ‘hard stop’ on the call at the start. Prospects often tell you they can’t talk even if they can. Quick tip – try asking ‘how are you for time today?’ instead.


  • 4 - Reps giving away control of the conversation. They uncover the pain but then put the ball back in the prospect’s court by asking them what they’d like to do next. I mean, when you go to see the doctor and they’ve told you what’s wrong, you don’t expect them to ask you what you’d like to do next, do you?!


  • 5 - Not drilling deep enough. An example would be when you hear a pain nugget like ‘it’s time-consuming’, and you are happy discovering surface level pain, but you don’t go any further.


Do you recognise any of those mistakes in your discovery technique?

The solution

Here’s what you need to know.

Discovery should be just that. Discovery.

You should ask high impact questions – quality over quantity – to uncover pain points in detail. You don’t use it to demo your product – your demo is where you show what you learned during discovery.


Yes, you’re going to be pushed for time. When talking to C-levels, you only get the chance to ask a few questions before success rates tend to drop. But, if you use well-framed, open-ended questions, a few questions is enough to uncover needs.


The time in the conversation where you ask questions is also important. Top reps will spread questions out evenly. If you front-load your call with questions, it sounds like an interrogation and puts your prospect on the defensive from the start.

Prepare for success

Bearing all of this in mind, construct a framework for your discovery call. Plan it out. Think about the problems your prospect is likely to be dealing with. Anticipate the objections they may bring up – if you aren’t ready for objections you’ll sound defensive when they inevitably come. Think about others with similar problems who you have helped. Sketch out how you will get to the outcome you want.


Right now, your prospects could be facing problems like long ramp times, remote onboarding and struggling to bounce back. Budget will be an objection, given COVID. So, I would be looking to learn more about their team structure, their KPIs and sales process. As an outcome, I’d like an intro to the team manager. Once I’ve sketched all that out, suddenly I feel a lot better prepared.

The anatomy of a great discovery call

Once I get on the call, my priority is to unearth pain. I want to bring areas of opportunity to the surface, which I will do by asking questions.

Next comes the part most reps miss out – intensifying the pain. I want to uncover the depth of the pain, as well as its consequences. I also want the prospect to understand the intensity of the problem. It could be something they’ve never said out loud before!

Finally on the call, I’m going to build a vision. I want to steer the conversation away from the frustration and show that there is a solution. I’ll do this using social proof and storytelling. When you tell a story, you allow the prospect to visualise the problem, making it more relatable.

Questions that encourage answers

Lastly, I’m going to tell you about some of my favourite questions to ask during a discovery call.

First up is: ‘What happens if nothing changes?’

This is great for revealing how much of a priority the problem that you solve is in your prospect’s mind. The ideal response is when they describe an outcome that they don’t want to happen. The reply you don’t want is ‘nothing’. But even then, it’s all valuable information.

Next, I love to ask: ‘If we fixed that, what would that mean?’

This gets the prospect talking about the value of your solution in their own words. It helps them clarify the bright future that’s ahead of them when they work with you.

This one is straightforward: ‘Tell me more about that.’

When your prospect starts talking about their pain, don’t just tick the box and move on. Get them to go into more detail. You’ll gather more essential information that will help you further down the line.

Finally, another one to assess how much of a priority your solution is on your prospect’s to-do list:

‘What has stopped you from solving this previously?’

The problem is unlikely to be new. This question helps you understand why they’re talking to you now and where it is on the priority list.

When you ask the right questions at the right time, your sales call becomes a conversation. It creates its own momentum. And you, and your prospect, get the outcome you want.