The purpose of the discovery meeting in the sales process is not to talk about possible solutions, rather to learn what the problems are so you can come back to the prospect with solutions. Discovery is an opportunity to ask a lot of questions to fully understand the issue the prospect is having and how your solution may help them.
Are You Asking The Right Questions During This Step in The Deal?
Not all companies ask a lot of upfront questions in order to determine the scope of any project. But if they do, the discovery phase of any sales process is a critical step. This will allow you to intelligently discuss the problem at hand. This includes doing the appropriate research before your meeting and asking the right questions during your meeting.
Importance of Discovery
Discovery in the sales process sets the stage to temper your prospect’s expectations. There are no surprises later. You’ll have issues if the problem is described in detail, yet your solution is way off base. Also, there may be instances where an opportunity to work with an organization may be beyond your company’s current bandwidth or capability. Understanding this earlier on in the sales process will help the prospect find the right fit. Even if that fit is not with your organization, the prospect will likely appreciate you telling them earlier in the sales process.
I have been in situations where the solution I was offering wasn’t what the prospect had in mind and because we discovered this early on, they were able to look in other directions. It saved everyone a lot of time and money and because we were honest about our capabilities, they respected that and even referred us to other organizations whom were a good fit and later became clients.
Discovery allows you to fine tune a solution that solves the prospect’s problem. When you have concluded your discovery meeting you take the answers to your questions and draft a number of strategies that solve the problem. In the long run this saves everyone time and money because you got the solution right the first time.
Really good sales discovery questions, can help filter out less desirable opportunities and those prospects that are looking for a “free lunch”. Over the years, I have interacted with a lot of “tire kickers”. I would attend vendor shows, and people would come to the booth acting interested but really they wanted the free coozie or handfuls of Hershey’s Kisses. Asking up front questions helps you to better understand their budget situation or their willingness to continue to discuss solutions.
By asking to go through a thorough discovery session, it demonstrates your preparedness and that you have the experience with a number of customers over the years. Practice makes perfect right? The more detailed the questions the less room for screw up later. How many of us asked the wrong questions or assumed what the problem was only later to learn that your solution was way off the mark?
Before you send out your sales discovery meeting agenda, you should consider asking someone from your accounts management team to sit in on the discussions. This will provide them an opportunity to ask different questions than ones the sales rep might ask. The prospect may develop a rapport and that goes a long way in determining which firm they want to move forward with. Most account reps I’ve worked with are much more thorough in their note taking than I am and that has been crucial later on in the project.
Some Advantages of Discovery
- Discovery phase differentiate yourself from your competitors
- Demonstrates the value of your solution
- Demonstrates that your company is equipped to handle the scope of the project
- Shows your prospect that the company is prepared and professional
- Discovery provides opportunity to build a trust with the prospect
It is a Productive Use of Time
After discovery you should have enough answers to formulate a couple of solutions. You may need to ask additional questions, so let your prospects know you may need to ask them more. If they’re serious and looking forward they will be fine with providing additional information. You really want to get it right the first time with the right solution. What’s that old saying, you never get a second chance to make a first impression…
Discovery encourages collaboration and teamwork. This helps to build a bond among members of your own team as well as help the prospect work more closely among their internal team to define the problem. Brainstorming encourages the teamwork. PRO TIP: Discovery should give you a really good indicator of what it will be like to work with the prospect if the project is a green light. You may discover, that the prospect is very disorganized, cannot work as a team, or if someone on their team is a very difficult personality.
Passing along discovery notes also gives your team a heads up about future projects that may come their way. This allows them to move around resources and allocate time for the project. The more discoveries performed, the easier it is to spec out solutions and assign costs. In the past, I have worked for a technology company that got really good at identifying the prospect’s problems and determining costs. This helped me with the sale, and demonstrated we knew what we are doing. Now that I am with SA Interactive we use a similar methodology.
So what sales discovery questions are you asking? Do you think this is an important step in the sales process? I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a line if you ever want to further discuss.