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Is Sales Discovery Passé?


We blame Alec Baldwin for this one. While he delivers a compelling scene in Glengarry Glen Ross, his advice to “always be closing” has ruined several generations of salespeople. Now, they may want to skip over one of the most important parts of the sales process: discovering the needs and traits of each prospect to help you sell better.

Many sellers now happen to think this discovery-based approach is old-fashioned. They complain that the client doesn’t have the time, that it doesn’t really help, or that it has nothing to do with closing a deal.

In truth, the new approaches that attempt to tell sales discovery to “hit the bricks” are all just prizing convenience over effectiveness. And, like many fads, they’ll likely fade into obscurity while the proven classic methods come back and stick around. So, reps should still take the time to conduct discovery to determine the needs of the client so they know what parts of their solution will fit. Otherwise, they are wasting both their and their leads’ time by talking about things that are irrelevant.

Good Selling Is Uncovering the Pain, and Painting a Picture of the Future State.

A prospect only “needs” your solution if they actually need it. Your job is to determine why they need it by getting to know them first.  One thing to keep in mind is find the pain but don’t repeat it back, deliver the other side or in other words, the glass is half full.  A pain of inefficient processes = “imagine if your process was automated”.  Your future state!

When you familiarize yourself with a client, you get to know what makes their organization tick. You understand the problems that are holding them back from smooth operations, which in turn can cause them to make less money.

In other words, discovering as much as possible about your prospect allows you to make meaningful, truthful sales pitches rather than shallow ones. If you can understand how a pain point is costing them, literally, while making everyone in the organization less happy, then you can point out the concrete value you are offering them.

So, instead of saying something vague and insincere like “our solution will help you become an industry leader,” you can say something more convincing, like “every moment you spend struggling with report generation is time that could be spent learning more about capturing market share from competitor X.”

Statements like these help close deals. You end up speaking to the truth of the matter, rather than coming across as a smarmy, self-serving type bragging about the sticker price of their car or watch.

Sales Discovery Prepares You for the Biggest Objections

One of the biggest crimes in skipping past discovery is how sales reps have become like pick-up artists any time an objection is raised. Instead of trying to manipulate your prospect and make them feel guilty, you could be meaningfully explaining why their objection is not the case or why the positives outweigh the negatives.

So, if someone balks at the price you quote them, you can know with precision how much money they are losing without your solution, and you can explain these losses to them by line-item.

If someone says they have to wait for approval from their boss, you could have already discovered the role their boss plays in the decision-making process and gotten them involved as a stakeholder. In fact, revealing who the key decision-makers are is one of the reasons discovery ensures you aren’t wasting your own time.

Benefits like these are why discovery will make a comeback. People said that records are dead, but now Sony is gearing up for a new record factory in Japan. They said bookstores are dead, but independent bookstores are growing. One of the hardest products to get last Christmas was a replica console packing 30 year old games.

Sales discovery isn’t dead. Anyone who tells you that isn’t doing you any favors.

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