By Zen Newman, Marketing Analyst at PipelineDeals
Most salespeople are indoctrinated from early on in their sales training to focus on perfecting techniques related to the beginning and end of the sales call. Namely, the opening and the close. After these priorities comes the presentation. Bringing up the rear for most salespeople is the discovery process.
In many successful sales, the discovery is the unsung hero of the deal. Over the course of the sale, the right question got asked in the right way. It gave the salesperson valuable insight into the needs of the account. And it resonated with the customer. The discovery changed the trajectory of the sale and gave the interaction value to the buyer.
The reality is the closes and opens are easy to focus on and refine. The result of always looking at these two parts of the process though are increasingly marginal returns. The key to unlocking ongoing gains and a sustained performance boost to the sales process is to put in the hard effort to master the discovery process.
Done wrong, discovery is a list of questions that a prospect gets drilled with. Many salespeople don’t even get to the point of doing it wrong, instead skipping it all together or moving on after a few cursory questions. The key to digging into the customer’s needs is to make it a value added process.
Conversely, asking the prospect too many questions can be equally damaging. On one hand, you need the information. On the other, it is often perceived as providing value to the sales person, but not to the prospect. This perception needs managing if it’s to be successful. Instead of hammering down a list of questions, successful salespeople use the opportunity to engage prospects in a discussion about their situation and its implications. This discussion should be mutually educational.
Many people in the business of selling will read this and roll their eyes. Admittedly, it sounds wishy-washy, and far too easy. The truth is that digging into a value added discovery is immensely challenging. Some customers will want you to cut to the chase. Many won’t see the value of the journey on which they’re being led. Still others will distrust you and the information you’re trying to uncover with them.
Sometimes, this can’t be helped, but like everything in sales, the navigating the discovery process is a skill that can be developed. To be successful, salespeople need to plan ahead. Know what information you need to find in advance. In the conversation, control the process and steer its direction. For many sales, this discovery isn’t something that is started and finished in one call. Rather, it unfolds over the course of the sales process. At this point in the call, the salesperson isn’t the expert; they’re the facilitator.
Even for experts on this process, success will never be 100%. When you get an account that is hungry for all the information that you can provide, all the effort becomes worth it. Value unfolds in the conversation long before any discussion of the product begins. Trust deepens, and a relationship starts to develop. These interactions are the bedrock of a sale that measures its success by the value being created and the development of a customer relationship that will last.