On this special episode of the Sales Gravy Podcast, Sales Gravy Senior Master Sales Trainer Brad Adams and bestselling author of Coffee’s for Closers, Tony Morris, dive into the art of great discovery, how to ask questions that build rapport and create engagement, and why better questions set the groundwork for better results.

Podcast Takeaways

  • The ability to listen actively and conduct effective discovery is the most important skill for salespeople.
  • Authentic engagement is a direct result of great discovery, which is not possible without deep and active listening.
  • Autopilot is the reason why many salespeople struggle to ask the right questions during the discovery call.
  • Before every discovery call, salespeople should establish a clear desired outcome, create a list of criteria to frame questions, and prepare to lead prospects through the process.
  • There are five questions that salespeople should ask in every discovery call, including tag on questions, statement questions, replay questions, clarification questions, and future questions.
  • By seeing the world through customers’ eyes, salespeople can achieve authentic engagement and effective discovery.

Great Discovery Is A Sales Superpower

The two biggest priorities for salespeople are building pipeline through prospecting and discovery. Not expert negotiation, perfect presentation skills, or even closing.

Those steps are integral to the sales process, but not as fundamentally critical as getting in front of as many potential clients as possible, and authentically engaging with as many of them as you can.

Authentic engagement is the result of great discovery, and you can’t conduct bulletproof discovery without deep and active listening.

The Biggest Mistake You Can Make In Sales

Listening is one of the most vital skills that a salesperson can hone and develop.

Failure to really listen to your prospect, especially on a discovery call, only sets you up to make more mistakes later on in the sales process, causing you to risk jeopardizing the opportunity.

In discovery conversations, if you’re talking more than your prospect, you are reducing your likelihood of effectively connecting with and engaging them.

Don’t just listen to respond, listen to learn.

Additionally, it’s difficult to do effective discovery without the right questions, and without listening to your prospect, you will ask terrible questions.

If there’s one thing that will doom an opportunity before it even picks up speed is wasting your and your prospect’s time on the wrong questions.

Derailing the focus of the conversation with surface level questions, or misinterpreting your prospect’s answers because you’re too busy thinking of a response to actually listen, will only make your job harder and your prospect feel ignored.

Autopilot Is Killing Your Discovery Process

One of the reasons that many salespeople struggle to ask the right questions during the discovery call is that they run on autopilot.

This is a serious problem because instead of approaching the discovery call with proper preparation, confidence, and awareness, they ask questions without thinking about what they’re asking.

And as we know, asking bad questions will reap poor results.

Luckily, the solution to this is preparing before every discovery call. Here are three steps you can take before your next conversation to ensure that you are ready to conduct great discovery.

Establish a clear desired outcome.

What are you aiming towards? Is it to set up a demo, meeting, presentation, or is it to make a sale? Have a clear, defined outcome for the conversation, before you even get started. This will help you to get the most value out of the conversation while staying on the right track.

Create a list of criteria to frame your questions.

What are the key criteria you need to know by the end of the conversation in order to set the deal up for success? Before a call, determine the right questions to ask to get the information you need.

For example, you might want to know how many stakeholders are involved in the purchasing decision. Prepare questions in advance that will help you to specifically get to that answer.

Prepare to lead them through the process.

Every call discovery call should entail different information, but follow a similar path. You, as the salesperson, are in control of where you take the prospect during your conversation. It’s the salesperson’s job to lead, educate, and take them along the established process. 

The Five Discovery Questions

As you lead your prospect through the discovery process, take the time to really listen, and use the resources you’ve prepared in advance to guide your conversation, here are five questions you should be weaving into every discovery call.

Tag On Question

This one is very simple— when your prospect asks a question or shares some information, question them back or ask them about the information they provided. Tag on to what they’ve said to immerse yourself in the conversation and go deeper with them about what matters most.

Statement Question

When your prospect provides you with information related to their business or the problems they are facing, use a statement to imply an area of interest or curiosity. This will prompt them to share some details or context, and takes the interrogative pressure off of your end of the conversation.

For example, they may share some information around a certain market trend they’re seeing. To which you could reply,

“That’s interesting, I haven’t done a lot of research on that. Tell me what impact that’s had on your business.”

Replay Question

As you listen to their responses or the information they provide during your conversation, take note of a few details and circle back to them.

This show that you’re not only listening to them, but what they’re saying is important enough for you to pay attention, make note, remember, and seek more information about the subject. It’s an amazing technique for bridging the connection between you and your prospect.

Clarification Question

Prospects will often say things like, “Look, we need this fixed quickly.” This is where you would ask a clarifying question like, “What does quickly mean to you in this case?”

Or, they might say something along the lines of, “We are just looking for an easy to use software.”

You might reply, “So I can understand a little bit more, what does easy to use look like in your world?”

This allows you to get to the heart of what matters to them, why it matters, so you can demonstrate true value.

Future Question

Instead of asking what immediate outcome they want to see by using your solution, ask them a question like this one:

“Let’s fast forward a year from today. How do you know my product/service has been successful for you?” 

Why? Because it’s thought provoking and it’s a disruption. When you get your prospect thinking differently about their desired future state, you are forcing them to open up and be honest as opposed to firing off a canned response to a question that they already anticipated.

See The World Through Your Customer’s Eyes

99% of salespeople see the world through their own eyes. The top 1% see it through their customer’s lens. The easiest way to connect with your prospect is to simply make them comfortable, match their tone, and use terms and language that they have previously referenced.

Over the telephone, 83% of communication is how you sound. Listen to their tone, their pace, their timber, and their volume. Be a chameleon. Use those clues to inform how you speak and what information is most important to them.

When you frame the conversation and mirror their tone, you show your prospect that you’re listening, you care, you’re like them, and you understand them.

The more you do that, the more connected your prospect will be and the more likely they are to buy from you.


Sales Gravy University features the world’s most sought after sales & leadership trainers, authors, and thought leaders. Brad Adams and Tony Morris are instructors on Sales Gravy University where you can take their courses on prospecting, communication skills, closing, negotiation and more.


About the author

Brad Adams

Brad Adams is a dynamic and engaging trainer, speaker, and coach. He developed his acumen…

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