In real estate, it’s a commonly used phrase that the three most important words are location, location, location. In sales, I would argue the three most important words are preparation, preparation, preparation.
One of the most overlooked components of many sales methodologies is the importance of discovery. It’s extremely difficult to align your solution with your prospects biggest business challenges if you aren’t able to effectively uncover what those pain points are. The key to effective discovery is PREPARATION.
How to Prepare for a Valuable Sales Discovery Session
Know Where You’re Going. Understand Where You’ve Been.
If you want to truly understand how you can help your client, you need to assess what you know. A call with someone you’ve never met before is very different than one where you have some background. This may seem like an elementary point, but I’ve seen way too many salespeople approach all their discovery calls the same way. As a result, they miss opportunities to change their conversation in a way that connects them to buyer value drivers. The prep is critical for many reasons, and it starts with two simple questions:
Where am I in the account?
Where am I not?
Remember the "Who"
Effective preparation doesn’t end there. A lot of salespeople make the mistake by only asking those questions. They focus their discovery only on the account white space, or if it’s a new account, where they think they have the biggest chance of making a sale. That information is important, but you need to consider the “who.”
Research from CSO Insights shows that three or more individuals are involved in the final B2B buying decision. Your challenge as a salesperson is to articulate your solution’s value and differentiation in a way that shows the business impact to each of these decision makers. You won’t be successful in showing your business impact to this key group if you don’t follow an effective discovery process.
When I was in the trenches as a sales person, I always started my discovery by determining the account white space. Then I mapped it to the “who.” Who are you meeting with and how does that person play a role in the sales process?
Consider these questions:
Is this a technical buyer and therefore should the discovery call be technically focused?
Is this person at a level that they can discuss business issues, and if not, how can I ensure that this meeting helps lead me to that person?
Are you meeting with someone who can give you the larger business perspective and how would that affect your questioning?
What are the value drivers for this type of buyer?
How Do You Add Value to Each Member of the Buying Team?
After you discover the traits of the person with whom you’re speaking, ask yourself how their value drivers and the information they will share matches with the account white space. Once you map out that information, you’ll understand where you need to take your discovery call.
Typically, different types of buyers come in at different stages of the sales cycle. The economic buyer has heavy influence early and late in the sales cycle. They help set the priorities for the purchase early and they get involved later in the opportunity to ensure successful execution. You’ll likely be talking to your technical buyers in the middle of the sales cycle.
Every conversation with a stakeholder is a new discovery session. You need to approach each conversation as another opportunity to further understand the compelling factors that move your opportunity to a closed-won deal. Depending on whom you are talking to, the required capabilities and PBOs may take on different importance in the sales cycle. The buyer’s needs, costs, options, and risks take on different levels of importance throughout the cycle.
Remember, there are multiple entry points to any sales conversation, but no matter where you enter you MUST consider all players. Understanding the “who” allows you to understand how you are going to draft into solving the biggest business problem in your prospect organization.