“Tell me more about that.”
“When you say you need more patients, how many are you currently seeing per day?”
“What else have you tried to address that issue?”
How often do you ask your prospects and buyers responsive questions like these?
If you aren't asking responsive (follow-up) questions like these, you're most likely making the most common mistake in discovery: assuming you know what they mean in their vague statements, and not drilling any deeper.
If you’re not sure, observe yourself in your next sales meeting and notice the questions you ask (or don’t ask).
Are you taking the time to conduct a proper discovery to understand their business problems, and what's causing them? Or have you made assumptions about their problems and how you can help?
Are you drilling down to ask follow-up questions rather than rushing in with a response or proposed solution? It’s human nature to assume we know exactly what someone means when they make a statement, but we have to resist that urge.
Instead, replace your assumptions with curiosity. Get curious about the challenges your prospect is currently facing. Get curious about the statements and observations they share with you.
For example, if your prospect says, "I'm interested in your product because I think it can help me get more customers," - RESIST the temptation to confirm and describe how you can help them. You don't have all the facts yet!
Instead, ask them: "When you say you'd like more customers, how many do you have currently? How many did you have last year? The year before? What's the value of each customer? What target have you set for next year?"
Do you see how many questions you can ask rather than launching into your product pitch?
Note! Ask one question at a time. Listen carefully to the answer. Then keep drilling down until you can quantify and qualify the gap between where they are currently, and where they want to be in the future.
By conducting a proper discovery and asking follow-up questions, you show your prospect that:
You want to know more
You’re not assuming you have all the facts
You will only talk about your product when you fully understand their situation
The benefit of avoiding assumptions
When you assume, you risk taking the conversation down a path that is irrelevant to the prospect. Even worse, they may not want to speak to you ever again (yikes!)
Your prospect wants to know that you truly understand their issue. In order to do that, you need to dig deeper.
Once you can reflect back to your prospect what you’ve understood, they will be much more open to hearing what you have to say.
Anticipating vs. assuming
When it comes to assumptions, an important distinction needs to be made. It’s perfectly good and advisable to anticipate the problems your prospect might be experiencing.
Anticipating is part of your pre-call work in qualifying your prospects. When you’ve done your research well, you can anticipate what they might need, and you’re showing up for your meeting with a possible solution.
One of my clients was a sommelier before she got into sales. As a sommelier in the hospitality industry, she excelled at anticipating what people might need, but she never made assumptions. She brought this same skill into her sales work by being prepared with possible solutions while still leading in-depth discovery calls to achieve a deeper understanding of her prospects’ needs.
What if you were to borrow from my client’s experience, and approach your sales meetings in the spirit of service and hospitality? Could you prep for your sales calls by anticipating what your prospects need, but then ask thoughtful follow-up questions during the calls so you avoid assuming you know what they need and want?
When you anticipate without assuming, your buyers will know you’re on their side. They’ll thank you for taking the time to understand them, and they’ll lean into the solutions you offer.
For more on discovery calls and sample questions to ask in your sales meetings, read my book Heart-Powered Sales: Grow Your Sales Exponentially with Emotional Intelligence and Intuition.