The Importance of Discovery Questions

I recently started working with a new client on improving their lead to close ratio. Deals in the client’s pipeline kept stalling, and it was up to me to explore the cause:

  • Was my client too shy about asking for the sale?
  • Were the prospective customers just “kicking tires”?
  • Was my client talking to the right prospective customers in the first place?

After talking with my client’s sales team, I quickly determined they were not asking proper discovery questions on their initial calls with prospective customers.

I developed a list of 20 discovery questions for my client’s sales team to utilize during their initial calls with leads. I explained to the client’s sales team that this is not a list to go straight down in an interview format, but the questions should be addressed via a conversation with the prospective customer.

For example, Instead of asking five different questions about the prospect’s buying and approval process – you can just start a conversation with prompts like “tell me about the last time you bought similar software or any software.”  The goal is to make the call as conversational as possible.

There are a ton of great resources on the web that list discovery questions and suggestions for managing discovery calls, so I’m not going to go into details in this post, but I do want to make it clear what the output is of a successful discovery call – BANT. BANT stands for:

B – Budget – Prospective customers budget parameters

A – Authority – Does the person or people the salesperson is talking to have the authority to make a decision and sign off on the product or service. If they don’t, then who in their organization should the salesperson talk to?

N – Needs – Does the product or service fit a need the prospect has? How are they managing that need now? If they don’t buy this product or service how will the prospect’s organization manage that need in the future?

T – Timing – Are they ready to buy now? Is this a next year item or a next time a similar project comes around item?

Why is BANT so important?

  1. A salesperson has to ensure that they’re not wasting time on a deal that will never close because it’s not the right fit.  This way they prioritize the right deals so they can hit their sales targets.
  2. Executives need to make accurate internal and external projections to effectively run the company, set stakeholder expectations, and raise capital.

It is also important to note the goal of BANT is not necessarily to filter out prospects. In some situations that will be the case, but the goal of BANT is to allow salespeople to prioritize and project deals. A salesperson’s greatest enemy is time and that precious time needs to be spent on the right deals.

Mike Wienick