Discover New Business Opportunities with Informative Questions

The ‘Discovery’ phase of a typical sales process is, in my opinion, the most important stage. This is when you can really start to understand what challenges the prospect or customer is facing and how or if you can help them. There’s no point in going in for the kill with your pitch on the phone – or in a meeting for that matter – when there isn’t really a requirement for the solution you’re offering. Or even worse; using up valuable time and resources on a presentation or demo, only to find out afterwards that you misunderstood their requirements.

This can be especially frustrating when you’re a freelancer or running a small business with other projects and deadlines that you need to be focusing on, and when you don’t have a designated sales team. As is often the case, your time is precious. Following on from my post yesterday, Business Development Tips: Opening Calls with Prospective Clients, in today’s post we’ll take a quick look at a questioning technique that will steer your discovery conversations and will help you to determine which new business leads are a priority and deserve your attention. 

Woman about to answer the phone

Give something first to get something in return

A good tactic to help create common ground and to encourage your prospect to divulge some information is to share a nugget of insightful information with them first. You can then ask them to describe their experience of said topic. It also helps keep your questioning feel conversational and less like they’re participating in a survey. You’re inviting them to join in rather than putting them on the spot. Here’s an example:

  • We hear from a lot of our customers that despite a healthy amount of followers on social media, less than 5% actually interact with the content they post. What kind of engagement do you get from your social media followers? 

Questions like this help you gain an understanding of how the prospect is currently being affected by
a particular area and common challenge. A challenge, that is, which is related to the solution you want to propose. If they are willing to talk it will help you identify how effective or ineffective their current methods are for dealing with that challenge. These types of questions set the stage for your pitch, which we’ll cover in a post next week. Let’s do another example:

  • A lot of our clients tell us that finding the time to focus on creating compelling content for their website is an ongoing challenge. How much of a priority do you place on keeping your online platforms up to date and relevant?

You’re scratching the surface. You’re finding a way in. You can only effectively position your offerings as a business once you clearly understand how relevant your solution is in relation to the prospect’s current situation, challenges and needs. And this is not only applicable during phone conversations of course. Exactly the same applies in any form of conversation with prospective clients and customers.

Man and woman talking

Identify their challenges

In the following two examples we’ll try and guide the prospect towards a particular area in order to work out what their respective challenges are:

  • When it comes to your recent digital marketing and lead generation initiatives, what has been your biggest headache?

  • If you were to name one main obstacle you’ve faced across your various social media campaigns, what would it be?

You do need to be careful with the ‘W
hat problems do you currently have’-type question, because some people might feel that it’s a bit intrusive. And of course, most people don’t like to think that they have been doing anything wrong. In my experience, using less negative terminology helps a lot. As well as the ‘headache’ and ‘obstacle’ examples above you could use ‘In an ideal world, what would you change?’ or ‘Which couple of areas do you think could be fine-tuned?’. Any of these will help keep the tone more friendly, to avoid making the prospect feel like they’re being personally criticised. 

Although I’ve used digital marketing as the example topic in this post, you can apply the same kind of approach about your business to your own conversations, if you haven’t been doing already. Next week I will provide some tips and advice on how to concisely and effectively pitch your business or freelance services within 60 seconds.


The article Photo of author - Joe Ogdenwas written by Joe Ogden.
Joe is a copywriter and sales professional with a background in business development and technology sales. He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs, freelancers and small companies reach a wider audience and grow their business. Read more at Joe’s website.


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