The One Word You Need to Teach Your Sales Teams for Effective Discovery

The One Word You Need to Teach Your Sales Teams for Effective Discovery

Categories: Sales Discovery Process

Do you find yourself consistently frustrated with deals coming across your desk that:

  • give away too much margin;
  • aren't tied to the biggest business issue;
  • have limited access to the economic buyer?

Then, it's likely your sales reps aren't spending enough time in discovery and they need help digging deep and broad in prospective accounts. In our trainings, we often teach the word HOLD. John Kaplan started using it as a way to teach reps to hold off on talking about themselves, making the prospect stand in the moment of pain. It's a Braveheart reference.

If you want a team of reps that are connected to a business issue with the largest impact, they need to execute a great sales discovery process. They need to know how to ask solid questions, if they want to effectively map your solution's value to high-level business issues. Asking those questions however, isn’t always easy. The challenge with discovery is you have to have discipline. You can’t go too fast and you have to stay in it until you have the right information. Thus, the "HOLD" concept.

The challenge is that it's not easy asking the hard questions, especially when you are trying to build a relationship with a potential customer. When you are solving a problem and you are talking to someone who owns the problem, you risk making that person look bad. Teach your reps instead to ask questions with empathy. Phrases like, "I've talked to several other customers who are in that same situation....", "That must be really hard to...", etc.... This concept can be particularly challenging for greener reps who are calling on senior executives.

The right question flow can give your reps confidence to tackle these conversations in a way that advances the sales process. Here are a few of our tips for executing a solid line of questioning that uncovers pain. Share them with your teams.

1. Start Broad, Not Generic

Earn the right to ask the questions that uncover the business pain. Don’t just go into the conversation with the hard-hitting, “what are you going to do if…” type question. Your prospect will shut down. Start with general, warm up questions or statements that get your prospect talking about the area that’s relevant to your solution.

  • Walk me through the process for X.
  • How do you handle X right now?
  • Describe for me how your organization executes X.

2. Go Positive

Once you understand the process, then ask what’s working well. Asking the positive earns you the right to then pivot to the challenges the prospect may be experiencing

  • When this process works well, what does that look like?
  • What outcomes do you achieve?

3. Pivot to the Negative

With the information of what’s working well, you create a natural turning point in the conversation to ask what happens when it doesn’t. Here are a few questions to help you make that shift and dig deep on the problem:

  • When it’s not working well, what does that look like?
  • What are the typical bottlenecks in that process?
  • What are the impacts on: the team, your department, your position, the lines of business that you support?
  • What do you have in place to address this?
  • What are the results to the business if this doesn’t get addressed well?

These questions also take the focus off the individual who owns the problem and focuses on the situation that's causing the challenge.

4. Tie It To Other Individuals

  • Who else has a stake in this?
  • How would we get their perspective on the problem so that we can make sure that anything we talk about takes into account what they care about?

These questions help the salesperson get beyond the current prospect and expand the business implications beyond just one department, uncovering potential more value for the proposed solution. Remember, you rarely get everything you need in a single conversation with a single stakeholder. You want to leverage your initial discovery to identify potential key players and other roles in the buying process like:

  • Champions
  • Coaches
  • Economic Buyers
  • Champions of the competition
  • Technical buyers, such as Enablement, Sales Operations, L&D, etc.

Get a wider purview of the problems that you can address, by getting engaged with additional key stakeholders.

Take the time necessary to enable your reps to execute great discovery. Teach them to HOLD. Uncover the negative consequences. It will be hard to meet your revenue numbers without it and you'll continue to be faced with deals that give away too much margin and don't deliver broad value to your organization and your customer's.

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