Discovery questions help you learn important information about your prospect’s pain point and needs. 

You can then use that information to guide the conversation and personalize your meetings in the best way possible.

Most of these questions will be best on a call where your prospect has time to open up and elaborate on their answers, but you can even try using them in a cold email follow-up if a prospect isn’t ready to book a call.

In this article, we’ll look at questions that cover all scenarios, from learning about your prospect’s budget to finding out who will make the final buying decision.

Let’s dive in and take a look at the questions.

What are Sales Discovery Questions?

Sales discovery questions are questions you ask to uncover specific information about your prospects and leads.

For example:

  • What is your buyer’s budget?

  • Which decision-makers are involved?

  • Do they have a timeline for finalizing the purchase?

If you can ask the right discovery questions at the right time, you’ll always have the key information you need to help qualify and disqualify prospects. This ensures that every person you have a conversation with has the best outcome from the interaction.

Inbound vs. Outbound Discovery Questions

Your sales discovery questions need to match the prospect’s stage in their buying journey.

Some prospects will have arrived at your company via inbound channels such as SEO, and others via outbound channels like cold email or LinkedIn outreach.

It wouldn’t make sense to ask anyone who came to you via an outbound email a question like: “How did you find out about our company?”

On the other hand, it would make complete sense to ask that to an inbound prospect, as they might end up telling you that they were researching a competitor and found that they didn’t offer a specific feature they needed, which meant they came to you instead.

That’s why it’s always important to treat your list of discovery questions as something adaptable to each call.

Use the discovery questions to improve your understanding of your lead and guide the direction of the conversation.

Using the BANT Framework to Ask The Most Relevant Discovery Questions

A common sales qualification framework is BANT: Budget, Authority, Need, and Time. 

These are four areas that you can question your lead on to find out key information. You can use the answers they give to guide the conversation and sales process in the right direction. 

Here’s why each type of question matters:

  • Budget: Questions related to budget will help you evaluate if your lead has enough to spend on your solution. You don’t want to spend weeks nurturing a lead only to find out they aren’t ready to spend any money with you.

  • Authority: This part of your discovery question framework will help ensure you’re speaking to the right people at a company. Ideally, you always want to talk to someone with authority to make the final buying decision.

  • Need: This line of questions will help you find out if your prospect really needs your solution. If it’s clear that they have a pain point that your product or service can alleviate, you know the sales process is going to run smoothly.

  • Time: Time-related questions are there to find out how long it will be until your prospect is ready to buy. This will help you determine how long you wait between follow-ups, how often you encourage them to take the next step, and how you prioritize them compared to other leads in your pipeline.

There are no strict rules for the questions you need to ask prospects. However, you’ll find that in most situations you’ll end up talking about BANT-related topics with your prospects, so it can be helpful to frame the questions you’re asking into these categories.

How Many Discovery Questions Do You Need to Ask Your Prospect?

In most cases, asking between 8-12 discovery questions per call will be enough to learn all of the information you need at that stage of the sales process.

Rather than focusing on asking as many questions as you can, focus on asking questions that let your prospect open up.

Research from Gong found that the length of your customer story after asking a question is positively correlated with sales success rates.

With that in mind, make sure you’re regularly asking open-ended questions that seek to uncover the pain points and needs of your prospect. The more you can let them talk about their problems in their own words, the better you can personalize your sales process to them.

The Best Discovery Questions for Uncovering a Prospect’s Needs

1. What’s going on in your business at the moment?

This discovery question helps you gain clarity into your prospect’s business situation.

It’s open-ended, so prospects will be able to open up and bring up the pain points and situations they want to talk about with you.

They might also let you know information like:

  • Whether they’re aggressively pursuing growth or have hit any roadblocks

  • If they’re bringing on new team members or using software or agency help to scale

  • What their plans for the upcoming months are

A question like this is going to help you guide the call and will act as a springboard to ask more questions from. 

2. What would solving this problem look like for your company?

This discovery question will get your prospect to open up about the best-case scenario after becoming your customer. 

It’ll help you identify what a prospect cares about most.

For example, if they say that when they solve their current problem they’ll be in a better financial situation, you know you can bring up benefits related to cost savings, growth, or the return on investment potential of using your product/service.

This question is also effective at moving your prospect into a positive mindset at the start of your discovery call. They’ll be envisioning their company in a situation where their problems are solved and will want to see how you can help them do that.

4. When did you notice that this was a problem?

This sales discovery question helps you uncover how serious the problem is for your prospect. You’ll often be able to hear some backstory on the origins of the problem for them as well, which is going to give you more insight into their situation and help you ask more relevant questions throughout the rest of the call.

It can also help you understand their urgency to solve the problem.

If they tell you they’ve had the problem for six months, and have had multiple conversations with vendors but still haven’t solved the issue, you know that you have a good shot at closing them if you’re positioned to solve their problem perfectly.

On the other hand, if they tell you the problem only came up last week, you know that they might still need time to learn more about their problem before committing to a vendor. If that’s the case, you can help educate them on their problem and show why you’re positioned to help them solve it.

5. What’s the alternative to using our product/service?

This question is going to help you understand what they’ve already tried and how urgent their need for your product/service is.

For example, if you run an agency selling Facebook Ad services, your prospect might tell you that the alternative is that they’ll use their investment in a channel that already works for them.

You then have a chance to educate them on the benefits of channel diversification and why Facebook Ads specifically will work for their business.

You can use this question to get someone talking about how they’re currently dealing with a difficult situation in their company and it’ll give you an understanding of how they’re feeling about it.

Discovery Questions for Learning about Budget

1. What’s the ROI of solving this problem for you?

Asking directly about your prospect’s budget can backfire. If they tell you they have a low budget, it can be hard to recover from that and convince them why they need to spend more.

One of the best ways to approach budget-related questions is by asking them about the ROI of solving the problem.

If they tell you that they’re expecting a high ROI, you know that there’s a strong chance they’re a good-fit customer and will keep using your solution for a long time because they’re expecting a significant positive impact on their business. 

Alternatively, if they tell you they’re not expecting high ROI but it’ll be a nice-to-have solution, you know it might be hard to sell an expensive contract to them as they’re viewing it primarily as an expense.

2. What budget do you have allocated to this?

This is a straightforward discovery question but it’s important to ask it before you’ve spent weeks of back-and-forth emails with a potential client only to find out they can’t pay for your product/service. 

Most serious buyers will be happy to let you know their budget, whether it’s flexible or not, and what they’re expecting in return for it.

As well as understanding how much they have allocated to solving their problem, this question gives you a chance to educate your prospect about what they can expect to get from the investment they’re prepared to make and how quickly they can expect ROI from their budget.

3. Which department’s budget will you be using for this?

Knowing this will ensure you position your product or service correctly in your discovery call.

For example, if they tell you the budget is coming from their marketing department, you know you can look to emphasize the benefits of your product/service for their marketing team.

You can also use this as a way to gauge what other investments that department is making and what your solution is being compared against. 

You can ask your prospect what other services their marketing budget is going into, then use their answers to give them details on what makes your product/service a better place to spend their budget.

Discovery Questions to Learn Who Has the Decision-Making Authority

1. Is there anyone else we should bring to the next call?

Talking to the right decision-maker is vital to the success of any deal. At the start of the sales process, this might not be the person with the power to make the final purchase decision.

For example, let’s say you’re selling an email marketing tool and you receive a demo booking from a prospective customer.

In the first call, you might have one or two of the prospect company’s marketing team on the call to see if the tool has all of the features they need to do their day-to-day work. 

If you then ask this qualifying question near the end of the call, they’ll be inclined to let you know that on the next call, they’re going to bring the Head of Marketing or CEO to the call where you can get into more details about moving the deal forwards.

You don’t want to waste your time or your prospect’s time if they don’t have the go-ahead from the main decision-maker at the company.

2. Who will be the primary people using this?

This question helps you understand who is going to be using your product/service the most.

You’ll be able to get those people onto the next call or involved in the buying process and ensure everything runs smoothly once they become a customer.

If you skip this question and the people who will be using your product/service aren’t in on the buying process, there’s a risk that once you close them as a customer, those people don’t feel involved and don’t use your product/service to its full potential.

On the other hand, if you made sure they were involved in the buying process from the start, they’ll be bought into the product/service and do their best to make it work for their needs.

3. What information do you need to make a final decision?

This discovery question is designed to get your prospect to tell you exactly what they need from you in order to make a decision.

You might hear answers like:

  • We’ll need a full breakdown of costs

  • We’ll need to see your software’s security and data protection certifications

  • I’ll need a timeline for how soon work will start after we pay the first invoice

You’ll then be able to send the information to your prospect and ensure they have everything they need to make a decision.

This question can sound quite upfront, so don’t ask it too early on in your call. Wait until you’ve built up a good rapport with your prospect.

Most prospects will appreciate that you’re trying to find out what they need, as it’ll make their job easier. When they go back to their boss or team, they can make a full case for why it’s worth using your product/service.

Discovery Questions to Learn About Their Timeline

1. How can I help you move this forward?

This question will help your prospect open up about what they really need from you to make a buying decision.

This opens the door to answers like:

  • We’ll need to schedule a call with the CEO to discuss it

  • I’ll need to review our budget for Q4

  • Can you follow up with me at the start of next week?

You can then make the next steps of your sales process more personalized based on what they’ve told you.

It also puts you in the position of a trusted advisor, rather than someone who is just going to tell them all about your product/service and be all about selling to them. 

2. Do you have a deadline for this decision?

This discovery question helps you set a deadline on a lead’s decision-making process.

If they tell you their deadline to make a buying decision is in two weeks, it gives you permission to actively reach out and help them during that two-week period.

You can also ask them similar questions, such as: “Is Monday a good day to follow up with you on this?”. 

Being specific with time estimates is going to help you move leads through your pipeline in a structured, predictable way, as well as ensure you always know when to follow up.

3. Is solving [pain point] a priority for you this quarter?

You’ll often have leads book an introductory call with you, but they won’t be ready to make a purchase decision yet.

Asking this question will give you clarity into the type of information you need to be sharing, and the questions you should be asking your prospect.

If they tell you that solving this pain point is a high priority, you know you can move faster and work to find out what they need to make the final purchase decision.

However, if they tell you that it’s not a priority but they’re exploring options before investing in six months' time, you can spend more time educating them on the problem and walking them through the benefits of solving it. You can then schedule a follow-up with them in a couple of weeks to check in and see how they are progressing with their decision.

Wrapping Up

Your sales discovery questions are important parts of your overall sales process.

They’ll uncover key information from your prospects and personalize your interactions in the best way possible for each individual prospect.

In every call you have, you need to be asking questions that are tailored to match your prospect’s situation.

Ideally, the questions will be open-ended and help your prospect open up about the pain point they’re trying to solve and ensure that working together will be a win for all parties involved.

If you ask these discovery questions effectively, you’ll have no trouble building rapport with prospects and closing more deals.

If you want to book more meetings with good-fit prospects, QuickMail’s cold email software can help. Click here to try it with your free 14-day trial.