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There are two fundamentals to maximizing your ability to win a deal–unfortunately, both tend to be executed very poorly. The first is Qualification, or as I like to call it, Disqualification. This focuses us on pursuing the right deals with customers that are committed to changing.

The second is the Discovery Process.

Too often, sales people skip right over this, going straight to pitching their products/solutions. We see day in sales people’s clumsy outreach to us. Whether in an email or a bad prospecting call, most skip over qualifying and understanding what our needs/interests might be–immediately pitching their products.

The other mistake, more “sophisticated” sales people do is “selective discovery.” They ask questions about problems, goals, needs, but selectively–only looking for something that enables them to immediately jump to presenting their product. It goes something like:

Salesperson: “What are your needs? (Actually a terrible question, demonstrating no knowledge of the customer, the potential areas they might be interested in, but not surprisingly the first need identification question sales people ask?)”

Customer: “We want a robust system that all our people can use and will support our growth for the forseeable future.”

Salesperson: “Let me tell you about our product…….”

In their needs identification the sales person is listening to that cue that enables him to launch into talking what he wants to talk about, rather than trying to understand the customer.

Each area we identify with the customer enables us to dive deeply into a more complete understanding. Taking the example, from above, the customer wanting a robust system, an astute sales person might ask:

  • What do you mean by a “robust system?”
  • How is your current system failing you?
  • What is the impact of that on your business?
  • How will you know you have chosen a robust system?
  • What do your expect to achieve with that robust system?
  • How would you measure your ability to achieve those goals?

One could go on an on in probing the customer to understand what they are trying to achieve, why it is a problem, why it is important to them, and what the impact might be.

Discovery helps you understand people’s attitudes, opinions, hopes, dreams, fears, goals, what’s important to them, and why.

Discovery helps you understand what they know, how well they may understand the area they are looking at, how well they may understand alternative solutions.

Discovery helps you understand how they will buy, who will be involved, the criteria they will use in selecting a solution, their priorities, the process they will use to buy.

Discovery helps you understand what they don’t know but need to learn and understand to achieve what they are trying to do.

Discovery helps you understand where they are at currently, what/why they need to change, how committed they are to change, what they want to achieve and when.

Discovery helps you understand what they need to do on their side to get approval for the change, how they will get support, how they will actually implement the solution and drive the change.

Properly done, in the discovery process, the customer will tell you everything you need to do to earn their business. All you have to do is respond!

But there’s another important aspect to Discovery.

The customer is going through their own Discovery process.

This is our opportunity to teach them, to help them learn.

Maybe they don’t understand the problems at a deep enough level. Or they don’t understand what they can achieve.

Perhaps they don’t know what they should be looking for and why. Or they have overlooked some critical things, or they are missing some opportunities.

Perhaps they don’t know how to organize themselves and make a decision, or critical activities they should consider in buying. How should the evaluate the alternatives? Should they do a POC? What could they learn from people that are already implementing solutions? How can they more effectively justify the investment to their management, getting approval? What’s it take to implement the solution, where are the risks, how do they avoid/mitigate them?

Often customers through the normal pressure of day to day business or through lack of experience in buying rush through their own discovery process missing critical things.

The customers’ discovery processes are our opportunity to teach them how to buy and how to achieve their goals most effectively.

Imagine taking the time to do this well yourself and helping the customer take the time so they can do this well.

This process, in itself, enables you to create tremendous value with the customer. It enables you to differentiate your self from your competition–remember all of them are rushing to the pitch.

Once you have a properly qualified opportunity–the Discovery Process is where you win or lose the deal.