Provocative Questions – Starting Discovery

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Using provocative questions is a great way to start conversations and move a discussion into Discovery. A good provocative question causes your customer to:

– Rapidly qualify himself in or out as a reasonable prospect
– Agree that there is a problem to solve
– Open up to further questions

For example, imagine you sell sales process management/automation software and are at a conference with piles of prospects present. You join a table for lunch with 8 other people and everyone introduces themselves briefly. Someone asks you, “What do you do?” Your response can range from boring to intriguing:

Boring: “We sell sales process automation software.” (Yawn…)
Typical: “We help sales teams improve their processes.” (OK thanks, next…)
Intriguing: “Have you ever seen a sales team document their opportunities consistently?” Hmmmm, interesting…!)

For the intriguing option, a “No” response (often accompanied by a wry smile or wince) tells you that the prospect has that problem – and the prospect may immediately volunteer more information, “No, in fact our sales people “sandbag” on deals they are confident about and have “happy ears” on far too many opportunities that never close…!” At this point, you can comfortably launch into Discovery questions about the team, sales cycles, current process, etc.

The key to formulating strong provocative questions is to take a key indicator or qualitative measurement of what you do and rephrase in the form of a question.

For example, in the world of demos, I love to ask, “Have you ever seen a bad software demo?” If the response is yes (and it often is…), we are off and rolling comfortably into a Discovery conversation.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Peter Cohan
Have you ever seen a bad software demonstration? Peter Cohan is the founder and principal of Great Demo!, focused on helping software organizations improve the success rates of their demos. He authored Great Demo! - how to prepare and deliver surprisingly compelling software demonstrations. Peter has experience as an individual contributor, manager and senior management in marketing, sales, and business development. He has also been, and continues to be, a customer.

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