Average SaaS Salespeople Ask Leads 6 or Less Questions. Top Performers Ask 11-14: Why Discovery Call Questions Are Essential

Published on Apr 12, 2021

In a previous post, I mentioned that 88% of today’s leads are only willing to buy when they see the salesperson as a trusted advisor. I also pointed out that hyper-aggressive sales tactics often turn leads off and can be potential deal-breakers. 

One of the best ways to assume the role of trusted advisor is for SaaS salespeople to ask plenty of questions during the discovery call. And this number is higher than you may think. 

Here’s what you need to know to equip your reps for success. 

Top Performers Ask 11-14 Discovery Call Questions

Revenue intelligence software,, has built an amazing reputation for their original research. They’ve conducted a ton of in-depth studies to pinpoint the exact reasons why salespeople succeed or fail. 

One particular study I found fascinating was this one on discovery calls

“We analyzed 519,000 recorded discovery calls with AI to understand what drives successful outcomes,” explains Chris Orlob, director of sales at “These discovery calls were recorded on web conferencing platforms with, transcribed, and analyzed with unsupervised machine learning to identify the discovery call questions and techniques that drive revenue.”

In this study, they examined the number of target questions SaaS salespeople aimed for per discovery call and found:

  • Reps that only asked 1-6 discovery call questions had a 46% success rate (the lowest by far)
  • Reps that asked 7-10 questions had a 66% success rate
  • Reps that asked 15-18 questions had a 67% success rate

But here’s the kicker. Reps that asked 11-14 discovery call questions had a 74% success rate — considerably higher than the other reps that asked fewer or more questions. This graph illustrates this trend perfectly. 

Finding the Sweet Spot

According to this study, the trick is to ask enough questions so SaaS salespeople can figure out a lead’s precise pain points, needs, goals, and so on. This is what allows reps to not only optimize their offerings so they’re perfectly tailored to each lead, but also helps them build trust and rapport along the way. But at the same time, SaaS salespeople don’t want to ask too many questions because that can create friction as well. 

Looking at this data, it’s clear that 11-14 questions is the sweet spot. 

“Less than that and your discovery call may not be robust enough,” writes Orlob. “More than that, and it will likely start to feel like an interrogation, rather than a natural conversation.”

Asking the Right Discovery Call Questions

But there’s something very important I need to point out. Having successful discovery calls isn’t just about asking 11-14 questions. It’s about SaaS salespeople asking the right questions. 

Or as Orlob puts it, “Asking a generic line of questioning is likely to get you kicked in the teeth. Your best bet for discovery call success is asking questions about key business problems or goals the customer is trying to solve.”

Specificity is critical here. And as I mentioned earlier, the questions a rep asks need to focus on a lead’s unique needs, pain points, challenges, and goals. 

Here are some examples of questions one of our reps might ask at HireDNA when attempting to identify the needs of a lead who needs help with their technology sales recruiting:

  • What are some areas you’re currently struggling at with your recruiting?
  • What are some of the core competencies you look at when hiring reps?
  • What percentage of reps currently hit their sales quota? What number would you like to be at?
  • What’s your current salesperson retention rate? How much higher would you like that to be?

Notice how all of these questions are designed to instantly get the ball rolling so we can identify key business problems/goals and gain a solid understanding of the lead. This brings me to my final point. 

Getting Leads Talking

There’s one final piece of the puzzle I need to mention. You want your reps to get leads talking and encourage them to give long responses — not merely yes or no answers. Why?

Getting leads to talk interrupted for a long period correlates to a thorough response. That way SaaS salespeople can really wrap their head around the situation, which ultimately means they can optimize their offerings and increase their chances of closing the deal. 

Orlob mentions some specific ways to phrase questions to encourage a long response:

  • “Can you help me understand…”
  • “Can you walk me through…”
  • “Talk to me about…”

Let’s Recap

These days leads aren’t receptive to pushy, aggressive sales tactics. Rather, they prefer dealing with reps that take the role of a trusted advisor and base their offerings on the lead’s unique needs, pain points, and goals. 

In other words, SaaS salespeople need to be adept at creating meaningful dialogue, which is illustrated by this graph that highlights the question frequency used by top performers versus average ones. 

One of the best ways to do this is by asking the right number of questions during discovery calls — 11-14 to be exact, as this is considered the sweet spot and what yields the highest success rate. 

Besides hitting the right number of questions, reps also need to ask the right questions involving key business problems or goals the lead is trying to solve and using phrases to get leads talking. By following this formula, it helps reps fire on cylinders, allowing them to quickly establish trust, figure out what solutions to offer, and ultimately convert. 

Looking to assemble a team of ultra talented SaaS salespeople? Find out how HireDNA can help you do this by using cutting-edge technology to source top talent using intelligent matching and science-based assessments. HireDNA can cut your hiring time in half and eliminate 96% of hiring mistakes. 

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