Read the previous installment:
Discovering Your Customer’s Motivation Part 1: Building Trust, Uncovering Needs

The discovery process is one of the most important aspects of selling because it helps you discover your prospect’s wants, needs, desires and ability to pay. There are basically 5 questions that help us gain the information we need to lead a prospect to the best product for them:

  1. What do you have now?
  2. What do you like most about it?
  3. If you could change or improve anything about it, what would it be?
  4. Who, other than yourself, will be involved in making a final decision?
  5. What timeframe are you looking at for making this investment?

Remember: When you ask these discovery and qualification questions, be sure to add the word “specifically” when appropriate. This helps the customer focus in on what their pain or issue is. For instance, we've all dealt with customers before who have told us lots about what's going on, but not really about the specifics of what they need or want. “What specifically,” or “where specifically,” or “who specifically,” or “when specifically,” or “which specifically,” or “how specifically” — those types of questions will help the customer narrow their answers to help both of you find what they are looking for.

The questions you ask will allow your customer to help you present them with the right solution that they would be willing to buy. At this point in the selling process, you become like a detective, hunting for facts that will help you solve the crime, or in this case, close the sale.

The first kind of question I encourage salespeople to ask is, “Are you considering buying new to replace what you have or looking to add to what you already have? Or, is this the first one that you are considering investing in?” These initial questions will set up my next series of questions and give me the ability to do a presentation and a walk-around that focuses specifically on what they will be ultimately willing to purchase.

Gaining Insights


Let’s break those questions down so that you understand exactly what I am trying to accomplish. By asking if they are replacing or adding to what they have, I can follow up with questions that give me important insight into what they like or dislike about the product and what they would change or improve about the product. Every bit of information will add to my ability to lead them to the right product, at the right price point, and help me close the sale faster.

You will notice on the third part of my initial questions, I asked, “Is this the first one you are considering investing in?” I purposely avoided the word “buying” and instead used the word “investing,” because when people think about buying something, they focus more on price than on value. If I focus them on investing in a new unit, they begin to think more long-term and price becomes less of a factor. It also allows me to begin the setup of selling an extended service package or program with the product to help improve my margins.

So, for this example, let’s assume that conversation goes like this: You as the salesperson asks, “Are you looking to replace the equipment you have, add another one to what you already have or getting one for the first time?

The prospect responds by saying, “We are thinking of upgrading from the one we have.”

You then follow that up with the next question by asking, “That’s great. What do you have now?”

The prospect says, “We have an XYZ.”

You then say and ask, “I’m familiar with those. What have you liked about the unit?”

The prospect might say, “We initially purchased it because fit our budget.”

You would then say and ask, “Making sure that what you invest in is a good value is important, isn’t it? As you are looking at making a change, what feature are you hoping to find that is different or improved on over the XYZ?”

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The prospect might say, “We were disappointed in the service we received from the dealership, found out that the ride was not very good, and as we rode at different altitudes, we just were not getting the performance that the salesperson told us we would get. Quite frankly, it’s just underpowered.”

Based upon this short dialogue, you have discovered some great information so far. You know what they have purchased in the past, about what they probably spent in the past, have an idea of what they might be willing to spend going forward, and some specific things they will want in a new product.

Improving their Experience

As you continue your discovery process, you will want to ask the next question regarding what they would like to change or improve if they had the chance to start over. So, it might make sense to ask, “If you were to change or improve anything, what would you do?”

Now the prospect might say, “We have some friends who purchased an ‘ABC’ from you that they just love. We think that having extra power, a better more comfortable ride and the better lights for night-time will make it easier and more fun to operate. Plus, they really like the way your dealership takes care of them.”

Think about what you have just discovered. First and foremost, you know that a customer of yours has referred this prospect to you. They like your customer, your customer trusts you and so, in the prospect’s mind, they can trust you, too.

What about the ride comfort? Now, during the walk-around, you can point out all the aspects that relate to operator comfort. You have a road map for your walk-around that has a high probability of leading you to close a sale with a very happy customer.

The best approach to selling is asking good questions and then listening intently to the answers. Selling is not about talking well and saying the right things. It’s about having the ability to gather good information, consolidate it and provide a helpful solution.

Never forget: Customers who are comfortable with you and who trust you will want to talk. They want to tell you about their “world,” their “unique” problems, and themselves! Even if you’ve heard it a million times before and you know what they are going to say, let them talk. Customers buy from you based more on how well you listen than on how well you talk. Continue to ask discovery questions to find out how often they ride, where they ride, and who is normally driving. Any information you discover will be helpful as you move them through the walk-around and to the final close.

Qualifying the Customer

Once you have discovered their wants, needs and desires, you then move into the qualification part of process. At this important stage you will want to ask about decision-makers, timeframes for making a decision and even the amount they would be comfortable investing. There is absolutely no reason to spend time doing a complete walk-around if the person is not the decision-maker or at least the final decision-maker. If they don’t have the ability to secure financing or if they are not going to be in the market for another 12 months, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t treat them with respect and give them some of your time, but you can’t spend an hour on a prospect that is not actually a prospect.

Let’s start off with the best way to qualify regarding decision-making. First, don’t ask, “Can you make the decision to buy this product?” Even if they can’t, most people won’t say “No.” Instead, think about asking, “Who, other than yourself, would be involved in making a decision on this investment? Now, they may say, “Well my wife is going to want to see it also, but I will be making the decision.” We all know that in most cases the wife will have a big impact on the decision, so your goal is to do a mini walk-around, enough to convince the husband to bring his wife in to the dealership. Then ask, “When would be a good time for both you and your wife to stop by so you can show her what you like about this particular unit?”

You also need to ask the qualification question regarding finance. I don’t want you to say, “So, do you think you can afford this?” Instead, I would like for you to ask, “If you decide to move forward with this, we have some great financing options, would you like to hear more about them?” or “Did you have a monthly investment level in mind?” If they say that they want to trade in their unit and pay cash for the difference, we know that we can most likely work through the financing.

If they want the dealership to finance the equipment, take another step before you spend time on the walk-around. Suggest something like this, “In most cases, the best thing to do is look at the financing options to give us both a better idea of what will be available. Why don’t we take a moment and do that first, fair enough?” If you have a business department at your dealership, it might be a good time to introduce your business manager.

While most salespeople do this at the end, professionals do it up front. It’s much easier for both you and the prospect. If you find out their credit is great and they could get $20,000 if needed, you have a lot of upselling you can do as you do the walk-around. If you find that the most they could get is $2,000 less than they need for what they are wanting, then your goal is to sell them down to the product that will fit into the financing. Why show them something they can’t afford to own? It just makes more sense to know up front and position yourself for the best possible opportunity to make a sale.

The discovery and qualification processes are critically important to closing more sales. During the process, you will find out what your prospects are specifically looking for, while helping them clarify what is important and why it’s important.

Average sales people tend to short-cut this part of the selling process because they don’t understand how much faster and how much more they can sell if it is done well. Make a decision to work on perfecting your discovery and qualification process and watch your sales grow.