Provoking Questions vs Discovery Questions: How to Get Your Customer to Think and Self-Reflect

My friend and sales “gansta” Dave Brock posted this great piece on the importance of questions and where the real value in questions is. Dave nailed it with this;

Effective questions get the customer to think of things differently, to consider other options, to shift their point of view.  The whole tone of a sales call changes when the customer says, “I’ve never considered that before,” or “I’ve never thought about that,” or “I didn’t realize that was possible,” or “No one has ever asked me that before.”

There are two types of questions, discovery questions and provoking questions.

Discovery Questions

Discovery questions focus on “WHAT.”  Discovery questions are designed to identify existing needs, problems, customer pain points, customer’s goals etc. Discovery questions are designed to get to the known, to ferret out what the customer knows about their enviroment?


  • What are you challenged with?
  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • What happens when you miss XYZ?
  • How will you be measuring success?
  • What have been the results to date?
  • Are you happy with your current environment
  • What tools are you using?
  • etc.

Discovery questions target the known.  Our goal is to “discover” what is happening at the client in an effort to understand their world and offer a solution to their problem.  Discovery questions are great questions that provide the context we need to begin formulating a solution. Normally, however, not the best solution. Why? Because discovery questions don’t go far enough.

Provoking Questions 

Provoking questions take questioning to the next level. Provoking questions are designed to challenge the customer to get them thinking in ways they hadn’t thought. Provoking questions are questions designed to get into the thinking processes and the logic behind their choices. Provoking questions target what is and was behind the decisions of your customers and prospects. It provides insight into what the customer or prospect knows, what they don’t know and what they prioritized to make their decisions. Provoking questions help you and your customer or prospect evaluate what they are doing and why.


  • Where you aware that . . . ?
  • Did you know . . . ?
  • Have you considered . . . ?
  • Can I ask why you . . . ?
  • Have you seen . . . ?
  • Would you . . . ?
  • What was the motive behind . . . ?
  • etc.

Provoking questions get the customer or prospect to think. As Dave says in his post;

Effective questioning enables the customer to put unambiguous definition and great clarity around the issues and opportunities they are trying to address.  To be able to respond to great questions from the sales person, the customer has to put structure, definition, and priorities around what they are trying to achieve.

. . . Great questions can help the customer think about how they will make the decision.


Ask provoking questions AND discovery questions.  Go deep, get to what and why. Challenge your customer or prospects to self-evaluate. The more YOU get them thinking about their choices and why they are doing what they are doing, the more they’re going to come to you for direction and guidance.

Be your customers shrink and get them thinking about them!


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