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How to get customers to answer the toughest questions in the discovery phase

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“How much money do you make?”
“What is the number to your personal mobile phone?”

Would you feel comfortable responding to any of these questions if they were asked of you by a complete stranger?

Likely not.

However, in sales, we require our representatives to go out and interrogate our consumers with questions that are just as contentious, and we do this all in the name of advancing our transactions.

“How much money do you have set aside for this project?”
“Can you describe the steps involved in the approval process?”
“Who exactly is your superior?”

When it comes to disclosure, trust—or the lack thereof—plays a significant part; yet, one of the primary reasons customers withhold information from sellers during discovery is straightforward: they are unsure how you intend to use the information you are asking for!

Consider the fact that as soon as you ask a buyer what their spending limit is, they immediately become defensive. Their mind begins to race with questions such as “Why are they asking?” and “Who are they going to share that information with?” and “I should probably low-ball so they don’t try to upsell me.”

But the good news is that when it comes to asking the essential and often contentious questions we need answered, there is a super simple remedy that can make the client feel comfortable answering such questions! In point of fact, this is without a doubt the strategy that gets the most attention throughout my discovery training sessions.

As soon as you’ve finished asking the controversial question, follow it up with what I’ll refer to as this straightforward line of reasoning:

“I only inquire as a result of the fact that…”

After that, explain to them the reason behind your inquiry. That wraps it up!

This strategy is extremely effective for the following three reasons:

It is simple, and the execution of it does not call for any particular expertise or dexterity.
It demonstrates empathy since you are showing your client that you have a great sense of self-awareness by making sure that your inquiry and the rationale behind it are fully understood and appreciated by them.
It’s supported by evidence from scientific research: as I’ve mentioned in the past, the word “because” possesses magical powers when it comes to the study of the psychology of persuasion.


The following are the top three most common applications of this strategy:


1. While Engaging in the Process of Posing a Discovery Question

This is the traditional application of the strategy, and it is also the most common. Follow up the contentious question you just asked with the rationale you have for asking it nearly immediately (in the same sentence, if possible). As an illustration, you may say something like, “I was just wondering if you had a budget in mind for this project. The reason I inquire about this is because…

…many of my customers do not have funds set aside for something like this, and it is perfectly fine if you don’t either! We are able to lend a hand to our clients in the process of locating or developing budgets for their respective enterprises.

…clients frequently have a tendency to either overestimate or underestimate the amount of money that they require for this kind of solution, so I’m simply wondering to get a sense of what you were thinking about.

…with the timetable that you’ve outlined for when you want to have a solution in place, it would be beneficial to have money already set aside.”


2. When You Were Dissatisfied With The Response You Obtained

When salespeople ask discovery questions, we typically have a good idea of the kind of response we’re looking for and can prepare ourselves accordingly. However, this does not imply that the aim is comprehended in the same manner by each of our clients. As a direct consequence of this, we run the risk of receiving an answer that is of little use to us or that causes us to veer off course. In this spot, you can follow up with a straightforward reasoning phrase to provide further clarity into why you’re asking in order to elicit more insightful responses. Take, for instance:

The seller asked, “On average, how long does it take to acquire approval for a project of this nature in your organization?”

The client responded, “I’m not sure. It depends.”

Seller: “I understand. Because you said hoping to get started on the project in roughly six weeks, the reason I ask is because of that. We are aware that in order to have the necessary paperwork in place, it usually takes approximately three weeks for most organizations, so I just wanted to make sure that we would be able to accommodate your timeframe.

The client responds, “That makes perfect sense. Since the pace of work at our organization is normally a little bit slower than that of most others, I will begin organizing things this week to guarantee that we can remain on track.


3. Providing a Rebuttal to an Objection

Discovery questions aren’t limited to just being asked during conversations about discovery! Discovery can take place during virtually every kind of sales transaction, including the ones in which a consumer raises an objection. In situations like this, you should employ the phrase “basic reasoning” to acquire extra clarity by assisting the consumer in focusing their response. Take, for instance:

A customer stated that although it appears that you sell a quality product, the price was too high.

“If you don’t mind my asking, what do you mean when you say ‘it’s too expensive?'” the salesperson said. The reason I ask is because when customers express concern about the price, it’s often for one of three reasons: either they don’t have enough money in their budget to cover it, it’s not a high enough priority for them, or they don’t believe the product offers enough value. I’m wondering if one of those could be the explanation for why.

As salespeople, it is our job to find solutions that are not only obvious but also beneficial to the queries that we pose to our consumers. In order to accomplish this, we need to make sure that the questions we pose to them leave as little room for ambiguity and contention as possible. Because of this, the phrase “basic logic” can be your best friend when it comes to clarifying and focusing our mind on something specific.