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10 discovery questions for new leads

The sales discovery process differs for every independent. No matter what your business is, these are the discovery questions you must ask.

Woman makes a discovery call to a client.

Discovery means different things to different independent business owners. For one, it could be the process where a prospect qualifies themselves through a well-thought-out contact form on your website. For another, it might mean scheduling a phone call to ensure your offerings will best meet the prospective client’s needs. 

Either way, response time is key. According to a study by Hubspot, 82% of leads expect a response within 10 minutes of inquiry. That means, no matter what your lead collection process is, the pressure is on!

By streamlining your lead response method, you’ll alleviate the stress of missing that optimal 10-minute window. The best way we’ve found to mitigate missing the sweet spot is with automated lead responses.

Whatever your understanding of the discovery phase, one thing holds true for all independent business owners. This is the phase that makes or breaks a prospect’s interest and helps them make a purchase decision. It also gives you enough information to understand your prospects and what they need.

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What to get out of your discovery calls 

When you ask discovery questions is entirely up to you and the cadence of your clientflow. Some people view discovery questions as an opportunity for a paid consultation, and others vet clients over the phone. For either situation, there are a few questions that will give you insight into your client’s needs, wants, and qualifications. 

Listening is key for a strong discovery meeting

It’s great to be prepared with a list of questions to ask your prospect. Preparation will help shape how you want to guide your call. Do not, however, let this cloud your ability to listen to your prospect’s pain points and needs. The more you can address specific areas of concern with thoughtfulness, the more your prospect will feel heard.

Start your inquiries out on a high note (see questions one through four) then ask about funding, then end with some light-hearted, more fun discovery questions. Make sure they’re serious, then make sure they’re 100% qualified, then leave them feeling good.

While there are a number of universal discovery questions, business-to-business and business-to-customer needs diverge. Here we discuss both B2B and B2C customer needs.

Universal discovery questions

When a strong prospect enters your clientflow, some questions are universal for understanding who they are and why they’re inquiring about your services. . With every new lead, you’ll also want to be certain that they’re a strong prospect you can sell your services to. Questions that evaluate whether your client is a match can help you differentiate between a good lead and a great lead.

1. What brought you to my inbox?

This question may seem overly simple, but it actually covers considerable ground. Specifically, you’ll learn

  • Where they first saw your services online
  • Why they searched for services in the first place, and
  • What they’re hoping to accomplish in an independent business owner-client relationship with you.

You may even learn a bit about what attracts people to your brand. If the person’s answer is satisfactory (i.e., they submit more than a few words on why they’re interested in working with you or elaborate points on a call), this is a green light for a great client-vendor relationship. 

This is also a great open-ended question to get a feel for their needs, in their own words. You’ll have more information to tailor a great discovery call based on what they say. 

2. What is your ideal timeline for this project?

You’re busy. We’re busy. Everyone is busy! Say someone sends an inquiry and then lets you know they need the service in 48 hours. If you’re headed to a soccer game, then a piano recital, and you’ve got another client booked the entire next day, then you and your prospect may be at an impasse. It’s best to find out earlier than later when a client expects something delivered. That way, a client doesn’t feel like their expectations weren’t met and you don’t spend the whole recital on your laptop.

3. What is your goal for your project?

Here’s where we step into the nitty gritty. You want to know about overarching goals for the inquiry because it’s important to provide a service that satisfies the big picture for the client. I’m not just talking to photographers, here! Even if you complete the service to the specifications of the client, if it doesn’t satisfy their goal, you’ve missed the mark.

4. Do you have any experience working with [insert your business offerings here]?

When you ask a prospect about their experience working with independent businesses like yours it opens up a few opportunities for learning. Firstly, if they have worked with one or more independent businesses that offer similar services to yours, it begs the question: why didn’t you return to them? What inspired you to find someone else? This will lend insight into how the client will handle payment, and expectations on important aspects of the business-client relationship, like communication.

This may also be a red flag for you. It’s possible this potential client is difficult to work with. Or, you may not want to start a project with a client who needs more education than you’re used to providing. If you’re a business consultant, for example, you may want to work with clients who already have a sense of their goals and strategy. 

5. What’s your budget?

If a client can’t afford you, they simply can’t afford you. Putting this question in the middle of your discovery questions will help you suss out qualified leads that can also pay. Budgeting and money are all about positioning. 

6. What are your biggest pain points? Challenges?

Aside from their overt interest in your specific services, find out the biggest challenges your prospective client is working through. When used in combination with their goals, you can position your service to solve their pain points and meet their goals.

Discovery questions for B2B sales

Here’s where we diverge from the one-size-fits-all model. Business clients have different needs than individual clients in terms of how they’ll use your services. If you’re a brand photographer or business consultant, for example, you’ll want to ask more questions about their goals and overall vision for the project. Here are some business-specific discovery questions. 

7. What’s your business mission statement?

A business mission statement gives your client the opportunity to open up about their business mission and why they have their own business period. Cater your service to the mission statement of the business so that your goals and offerings meet both the specific parameters of the service inquiry and the overall goals and vibe of the business.

8. What are your business objectives this year?

Some businesses may not want to disclose a detailed account of their business objectives, but a broad overview should suffice. By learning about company objectives, when delivering the final service you can speak to how your final product supports each one—directly and/or indirectly.

Discovery questions for B2C sales

9. What are your expectations for a successful project?

Individual clients won’t have KPIs and objectives like business clients will have, but you still want to understand their idea of a successful project. The answer to this question can help you structure the project and your priorities. 

10. What’s your communication style?

You might be a proactive, analytical communicator but that doesn’t mean that resonates with your client. Use a guiding article like this one (link it in your email or contact form) to help them determine how they prefer communication. Are they into frequent check-ups or do they what service updates just once a week? Knowing what they expect will help you help them feel like they’re in the loop.  

What to do after the discovery conversation

Send a follow-up thank you email

After you’ve made the call, exchanged emails, or had a Zoom meeting, send a follow-up thank you. Send a summary of the conversation, and if the prospect is a good fit, the next steps. This is your chance to show your prospect that you were listening and are dedicated to them and their project. Send some recommendations you believe would soothe pain points.

Send a booking file

With HoneyBook, `sending booking information, an invoice, and a contract in one action is easy. Using our templates and automation, send a secure email to get everything you need to and from your client without sending back of forth emails. 

You’ll be notified once the client opens the email, signs the contract, and books your services. 

An optimal discovery process means business flows your way

With HoneyBook, you can automate your response to leads. Send client discovery questions and booking options to funnel leads directly to your calendar with all of the information you need to get started. Then they’re in your clientflow, and you can rest easy knowing you’ve closed the deal with as little lift as possible. 

No matter where you generate the most leads, once a lead is interested in your services, it’s prudent to respond as soon as possible. This allows you to qualify them quickly with your lead discovery questions.

Using a clientflow management platform like HoneyBook means fewer emails, less customer confusion, and less wasted time. The discovery phase of your clientflow is one of the most important moments for you and your prospects. Make first-touch communication, discovery questions, and onboarding easy with HoneyBook’s automated responses.

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