We all know the importance of Discovery, there is an entire chapter in “Demonstrating to Win!” dedicated to the subject. In Bob Riefstahl’s and Dan Conway’s new book Rule of 24: The Future of B2B Client Engagement, I searched the term “Discovery” and there were 155 instances. Why? Because a good discovery sets up your team to be able to align your solution to your client needs and deliver a targeted demo or sales presentation. Most tech sellers will agree it’s an important step in the sales process. Here’s the problem: prospects, customers, sales reps, technical reps, client success, everyone… are getting discovery fatigue.
- The “old school” discovery – I can remember when discovery was the process of understanding what a prospect does. This was typically in the early stage of discovery as we worked our way up to what the prospect needs. If you are still using a prospects time to understand what they do, then you are performing the “old school” discovery. Why, well there is this cool thing on your computer called the internet [sarcasm]. Performing a digital discovery before your client meeting is key. Not only can you uncover a tremendous amount of information on the prospect from their website, 10-K filing or 8–K filing but you can also understand a considerable amount of info on the person you are about to meet, with social media tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. According to CEB, your customer has reached 57% of their purchase decision before they even meet you. So, in other words, they already know you, you need to know them before that first meeting.
- The “shallow” discovery – this is when you or someone on your team is interviewing a client and is asking mundane and insignificant questions that have no depth and are not getting to client outcomes — in other words, asking questions for the sake of asking questions. We encounter companies that have mandated discover as part of the sales process, “no discovery, no demo” says a pre-sale leader. The problem is that having discovery as a mandated part of the sales process with no process around the discovery itself you end up with the shallow discovery. Provide your team with a framework they can follow. We provide our clients with something called C/D/I/M, current, desired, impact and metrics. If you get the answers to these four questions, you get the ammunition you need for a targeted and client-focused demo or sales presentation.
- The “Déjà vu” discovery – One client told me that their prospect was complaining about the fact that four people in the sale process asked the SAME EXACT questions in each meeting the prospect participated in. It started with the Business Development Rep (BDR) that do the initial discovery, the prospect then gets passed on to the Account Exec (AE) who askss the same questions again, then the Solutions Consultant (SE) asks the same questions and the customer finally ends up with the Client Success Rep (CSR) and boom, same questions. That is the Déjà vu discovery. How does your team avoid this, simple, by implementing a process. An agreed-upon discovery framework across the organization with a central depository of the client discussion (your CRM for example) so that each customer facing rep in the engagement process can access the information discussed. Your team can then focus on delivering insights that build on what the previous team members documented.
- The “way too technical” discovery – Given that the majority of our customer base sell complex products, it’s no surprise that discovery can often end up in a rabbit hole of technical information. It’s often thought that if detailed technical client data can be gathered, it will help the team better prepare for the product demonstration or sales presentation. However, this often ends up creating a highly complex discovery as well as a highly complex demo or presentation. By focusing on client outcomes (we call impact and metrics) you can better connect your solution to the client need. The purchase decision is based on the outcomes, the “why”, don’t spend so much time on preparing your demonstration to show the “how”. The how is a training function that happens AFTER the deal is signed.
- The great “non-selling selling” event – This is the real hidden gem of discovery, Bob Riefstahl talks about this in the book, “Demonstrating to Win”. If I were to ask you: what is your intent or purpose of performing discovery? Your brain may already be going to areas such as, I need to have a good representation of client data, and I need to secure client outcomes (as mentioned above), but if I were to prioritize the intent of a client discovery I would put rapport at the top of the list. Discovery allows you to build rapport and account penetration before you even get to the demonstration or sales presentation or meeting. In Bob’s book, he talks about the discovery being positioned as “I’m not here to sell. I’m here to understand your business.” If you are a fan of the Pareto Principle (I’m a huge believer), then think about shifting your sales process. Instead of 20% discovery and 80% demo, selling, negotiation, and closing, flip it. Moving the discovery to a higher percentage make the steps that follow in the sales process that much smoother.
Bottom line: discovery is where the relationship begins. It’s where a prospect start to like, and trust you. If you invest in this first step, you will reap the rewards as you progress to the close. Good luck and good selling!