To put it simply, everything. The first 10 to 15 minutes of conversation with a prospect can be the most difficult because you’re talking to a stranger. If you’ve done your homework, you already know what content you’re going to use to get your prospect’s attention and interest in those first few minutes. But, what comes next?
The quality of your meeting moving forward does not come from your sales pitch or your ability to regurgitate a solution to a problem you’re assuming the prospect has. The outcome of the meeting from that moment forward is dictated by the quality of your questions. The prospect isn’t going to simply sit with you and tell you about all the challenges they face. Thus, the Art of Discovery comes into play. Use these three tips to optimize your discovery strategy and improve your sales approach.
#1 Write your questions down in advance.
Make sure they start with a bigger picture view, then get down to the details. You must be prepared to lead the conversation with questions that, when answered, will provide insight into what your next question should be and will uncover the pain points you can solve. If you don’t write your questions down, the following mistakes can be made:
- Giving away too much information or more than is necessary to make the sale
- Giving the wrong information, based on the prospect’s needs, wants, desires or problems
- Giving information that could sabotage your success either in the short or long-term
Start by asking questions about the prospective company’s current state. Take the time to learn about how they’ve succeeded and understand what their biggest challenges have been. Only 13% of customers believe a salesperson can understand their needs – so clearly, asking the right, relevant questions is crucial. Do not offer a solution to each question. When the qualifying questions have gone well, and you know they know it’s a good fit, it’s tempting to make your pitch, but don’t. Be patient, your time to consult will come.
“When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few, if any of us, can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools.” – Michael Leboeuf
#2 Purposely move from their current state to their desired state.
Good transitions are a crucial skill in a salesperson’s conversational arsenal. Understand what enhancements they need to meet their future goals. One of the most critical but overlooked topics to cover is who is driving the change within the company. Changes driven by CFO’s are typically about the bottom line while decisions made by a COO are driven by efficiencies. Here are some examples of those different roles:
The Access Owner: This person is prepared to talk to you and give you inside information and access to the other decision makers.
Key question for you: Are you a credible solution provider?
Takeaway: Be trustworthy. Act and sound like a consultant who adds value, as opposed to a talking brochure.
Key question for you: Will the solution fix my problem?
Takeaway: Play the role of such a great consultant that the prospect will feel as if he should be paying for the sales call.
The Budget Owner: This person has control of the money the problem owner needs to purchase your solution.
Key question for you: What’s the return on investment (ROI)?
Takeaway: Make financial sense. Stress the potential ROI impact of an agreement, and express this impact in multiple, valid ways.
#3 Make sure you understand what kind of time frame the prospect wants to implement change.
Momentum can be linked to a lot of buying. It’s important to discover those “real” reasons or circumstances as to why a prospect would implement change now, later or never. Once you have discovered this, you can mold your efforts to those specific needs and goals.
Some examples of tailoring that strategy:
- Make sure you have appropriate paths for them to follow to answer their questions and move them forward in the cycle.
- Recognize that a large portion of them won’t be ready to buy just yet. Instead, capture their information, and develop a quality nurture process to help move them through their buying cycle.
- Understand what could trigger them to move forward.
The Art of Discovery is the foundation for success in sales, and it’s a two-way street. You want to identify issues, goals and make a decision to move forward or not. For your prospect, the discovery aspect lies in wanting to learn about you, your products, process and pricing. Understanding this concept will benefit you and your prospects greatly. What other tips do you have for the beginning stages of the sales process?