Let’s start with “how valuable is the Discovery process”? No matter what you sell and who you sell to, the discovery Process is the MOST critical stage of your sales process. WHY? Because it will help you uncover the unknowns so you tailor your “Value Proposition” and it will help you build your Action Plan / Roadmap to close your sale.
Just a reminder, before I dive into the details of the discovery process, about the fundamental traits a sales professional needs to possess as a foundation in order to be successful. Use those fundamental traits (Structure, Result-oriented, Goal-driven, Confidence …) to drive your discovery process as you’re going to need them.
What do you do during a discovery session? It is critical, during discovery, to “ASK BEFORE YOU TELL”. Asking is the actual discovery part and telling is when you present your tailored “Value Proposition” to your future Customer. During the discovery process, it is ALL about your future Customer and NOT about you or your product / service so LISTEN very well. Do NOT talk about the product / service you are selling during the discovery process, unless you’re asked but keep in mind NOT to dive into a lot of details and rather focus only on answering specific questions.
Now, let’s talk about Timing! So when do you ask your future Customer to hold a discovery session? It is really driven by the stage you’re at with the opportunity so you might hold the discovery session when the opportunity becomes a lead, or post an RFI (Request for Information), or through an RFP (Request for Proposal), etc. It is important though if you could hold the discovery session post qualifying your lead which means, as early as possible. But, there is nothing wrong with asking and pushing for a discovery session, at ANY time in the sales process, WHY? Because it is important to present a tailored “VALUE Proposition” to address your prospect’s specific needs and not shoot in the dark and provide a “one-size-fit-all” presentation. At times, I asked my prospects to hold a discovery post RFP / shortlist and I got rejections while other times, I got pretty much good acceptance from prospects because they wanted to capitalize on the best value possible (time, value, etc.) Use your confidence to ask for a discovery session as the worst they could do say is “NO” if it is too late in the process but at least you try, so don’t be shy or think it is inappropriate.
In order to be successful and achieve the desired results in your discovery process, your discovery questions must focus on two specific areas:
- Product and/or Services you are selling – “Value Proposition”
- Roadmap for your sales success
Keep in mind that discovery is NOT about identifying the Knowns like:
- System in use
- How long it’s been used
- What interfaces needs to be built
- How many departments will be using your software
- How many users and their job function …
The above items are known and could be discovered through other means including your market analysis and understanding, some research, etc. The intent behind the discovery process is very simple:
- Uncover the “unknown” so you could differentiate yourself from the competition
- Build a Trust relationship – Consultative Selling
- Show that your Company is professional, structured, and prepared and willing to invest valuable time that is important to both parties
- Position your product / service as the best option to your future Customer
- Tailor your “Value Proposition” based on the collected answers
BTW, I am assuming all along, when talking about discovery, that your “Value Message” is fully defined and you know how to pitch it very well. So have your “Value Message” drive some of your discovery questions and based on the answers provided by your prospect, you can tailor your “Value Proposition” accordingly.
Now, what type of questions do you need to ask so you can uncover the unknown? Definitely “open ended” & “provoking” questions as Keenan provided some examples of open ended and provoking questions. Here’s another sample of discovery questions, provided by Kelley Robertson, and there are many more questions out there, but at the end make them yours. Even though you use Structure to drive your discovery process, the order of using your questions needs to be dynamic so you could challenge your prospect and make him/her think when they provide a response to your questions – Always think of your “Value Message”. These types of questions could help your prospect realize the impact of decision / action / “status quo” is having on their business. These types of questions make the prospect feel the pains he/she is experiencing with their current system or business processes.
Time to talk about your Audience! Do you drive your Value Proposition to IT only or do you drive it to End Users only? Your Value Proposition must cater to ALL levels of stakeholders (IT, End Users, Supervisors, Managers, and Executives) and definitely to those that have impact on the purchasing decision process.
Once you guide your prospect through the discovery process, things become CLEAR to both of you and through Clarity, you can succeed. The discovery outcome is your roadmap to a successful sale so make the best out of it to position your product and/or services as the best option for your future customer.
Do NOT let your competition discover their way to your prospects – Get ahead of them.