They’ve been saying for decades and yet sales managers and coaches still find new ways to beat the dead horse: ask open ended questions. But new data confirms that on a discovery call it’s less about how open ended the question is and more about asking the right number of relevant questions.

We at Gong.io analyzed over half a million B2B sales calls and the results show a strong correlation between the number of questions asked and call success. Reps who asked more questions during a discovery call saw a higher probability to close a deal than those who under-asked.

Interestingly, this same data shows there is not only a correlation of questions asked and success, but there is also a point of diminishing returns (around 13.5 questions) where more asking questions didn’t increase discovery call success.

So, if you want to get more sales reps to presidents club, train them to ask 11- 14 relevant questions. Too many and their wasting time and hurting their chances, too few and their cutting that probability short.

Remember, correlation ≠ causation.

Obviously there is more to this equation than merely asking more questions. They have to be the right kinds of questions. The more powerful and relevant questions you ask, not only are you more likely to get quality feedback from your prospect, but you’re less likely to need follow up questions, reserving your question asking quota for the right moment.

In this same analysis of sales calls, we identified the types of questions being asked, notably, questions about the customer’s business issues, pain points, goals, and relevant concerns. Reps who stayed close to these kinds of questions were significantly more likely to win new business and bring in new deals than the average sales rep.

Simply put: reps that go to club have a common trait of asking a lot of highly targeted, relevant, and insightful questions. They didn’t burn their question asking capital on things they could learn by researching their prospect prior to the call.

These same club-going reps have also mastered conversational question asking. They peppered their questions throughout the call in a natural, balanced, colloquial way where their average performing counterparts tended to front-load the call with discovery questions as if they were running through a check-list.

Anyone who has been on the receiving end of a call knows that one of the most frustrating aspects of a discovery call is feeling like it’s an interrogation. They also know that being asked relevant questions makes them feel heard and understood. It might even help the prospect understand their own business better.

Good question asking helps both the asker and the answerer learn something. It puts data, ideas, and other aspects of the call into context and conclusions otherwise not drawn.

Successful reps and the average prospect hate sales-pitches. They prefer dialogue. They want a back and forth.

While there are a lot of aspects to conversationally speaking about your product and understanding your customers pains, data shows that you’re far more likely to get reps to club when they ask a sufficient number of targeted and relevant questions than just running through the list and ticking off boxes.

TO SUMMARIZE:

  1. Ask more questions — between 11–14
  2. Don’t ask too many questions — over 14 and you hurt your chances
  3. Ask more relevant questions — business challenge related, not about their business in general
  4. Ask conversational questions — don’t front-load calls

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About the Author Chris Orlob

Chris Orlob is Senior Director, Product Marketing at Gong.io -- the #1 B2B sales conversation intelligence platform. Gong automatically records your sales team's conference calls and uses AI and NLP technology to help you analyze what's happening in the sales conversations across your team. Learn more at Gong.io.

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