Paul dives into this critical element of sales: the discovery sales call.
Do not be seller focused. You’re there to learn about the customer’s needs.
Suspend your assumptions and go in with curiosity about the customer’s needs.
Don’t interview the customer. You want to have a dialogue that will help you and the customer discover something new.
Are you asking the right questions to promote dialogue? Listen to this episode for some great questions to use in your discovery sales call.
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How do I prepare for the discovery sales call?
(Transcribed from podcast)
On this episode, we’re going to talk about customer discovery and what that really means. So the question is, “How do I prepare for the discovery sales call?” Such an important topic—such a critical element of sales—and I’m looking forward to diving into it with you.
Now, before we do that, a quick shout-out to Andrea over at The Creative Impostor Studios. Just the other day, I saw one of my clients actually started a podcast within their company. And this is something I’ve noticed more and more, that companies are creating internal podcasts to connect with their employees. Podcasting continues to grow. So if you’re thinking of starting a podcast, if you want to start one within your company, whatever you want to do, if you need help, Andrea is your go-to resource. We’re going to have a link over to Andrea’s website and her company, The Creative Impostor Studios, on this episode’s webpage. So check it out.
Also, Selling Through Tough Times is now available. It’s available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, wherever you get your books. You can download it on your Kindle, you can use the Audible app on Amazon to listen to it, you can read the book (which is always my preferred method), but hey, it’s available. In fact, we have a whole chapter dedicated to Discovery in the book, and I’m going to share a couple of insights and ideas from the book, so pick it up. It’s there; it’s available for you. It’s going to help you sell more profitably during these tough times.
So let’s answer that question: How do I prepare for the discovery sales call? So, let’s get some basic terms down to begin with. When we say a discovery sales call, this is the initial meeting with your customer or prospect where you are trying to discover their needs. And we use that word discover intentionally, because your goal is to not come in and try to find things that you already knew, you’re trying to discover something new. You’re trying to help your customers discover something new. We intentionally use that word discovery.
Now, the challenge with most discovery meetings, the seller will come in seller focused versus customer focused. They come in with the intent to sell versus the intent to learn. Discovery is all about learning and uncovering something new. So make sure that when you enter the conversation, you are entering it focused on the customer and their needs, and trying to figure out and learn something new. So I’m going to provide you three tips, and within one of those tips, I’m going to give you a few questions that can help generate good discussion.
The first tip: when you are preparing for the discovery call—this one’s important—we want to suspend our assumptions. Suspend your assumptions. We don’t want to walk into an opportunity or do a discovery meeting thinking that we know what the customer’s needs are. And the reason why is simple. If we believe that their strongest need is—I don’t know—say quality, for example, then everything we hear from the customer is going to funnel back towards that assumption that we’re making: that quality is the most important thing. And that creates a problem because we could—, we become biased. We end up focusing just on that one element and we could miss other things that are important to that customer. So, we want to suspend our assumptions before going into that discovery meeting.
And we can do that with a simple exercise. I think a mental affirmation—just saying to yourself, “Okay. I know a little bit about this customer. I’m familiar with some of the common problems and challenges that they’re facing. But I will not assume that those are the only problems and challenges they’re facing. I am going to enter this conversation with an open mind so I can listen and perhaps discover something new.” We have to suspend our assumptions before going in.
Now, on this show, I have repeatedly said that pre-call planning is important. It’s the breakfast, lunch and dinner of sales champions. We are always going to go in there prepared for the meeting. But in addition to pre-call planning, there’s also a benefit to not knowing very much about a specific company or an industry. Granted, we’re always going to do a little bit of research, but the less we know, the more curious we become. And so, there’s a benefit there as well. It’s kind of paradoxical. We want to plan and prepare, but we also want to keep our mind fresh and not create any assumptions. And sometimes knowing very little can be a great benefit because we ask more questions. Either way, tip number one: you’ve got to suspend your assumptions.
Tip number two: we are not trying to interview our customer. That’s not what we’re trying to do. We don’t want to have an interview with our customers. An interview is like a ping-pong, back-and-forth of questions. Instead, what we’re looking to do is enter into a general dialogue with our customers. And dialogue is a little bit different than just having an interview or a conversation. Dialogue is about the free flow of meaning throughout 2, 3, 4, 5 individuals. It’s a free flow of meaning within a group. And Peter Senge wrote about this in his book, The Fifth Discipline. He talks about the art of dialogue in his book. And it’s a great description, and he highlights that free flow of meaning where, together as a group, you develop insights that maybe you wouldn’t have developed otherwise. And we can only do that if we walk into the room with the understanding that we are suspending our assumptions. We’re looking to discover something new. So that’s the goal is we get in there and we generate dialogue. Yeah, you’re going to have a few questions to help get the conversation started, but once you start talking and the customer starts talking and you’re listening and they’re listening, you want it to turn into a dialogue where you’re just having a free flow of conversation, where you’re learning and perhaps discovering something new. So keep that piece in mind. We want to go for that dialogue.
Now, tip number three: you want to prepare a list of questions. And in my new book—in Selling Through Tough Times—I’ve got so many questions that will create value for you as the reader. In fact, you’ve got to check it out. In our Discovery chapter of the book, there’s probably 40 or 50 questions that are going to be game changers to your customer discovery. So check that out.
But here are a few of my favorite questions that can generate good dialogue. The first one: when we’re talking to our customers, we want to ask questions that cause them to think long-term. So when we’re talking to them, we ask that question, “Long term, what are your specific goals for this project?” Another way of saying that is, “Hey, when we look back on this project a year or two from now, what would cause you to say that you’re really glad you partnered with us? What outcomes would you have to achieve in order to say that?”
See, this question, it gets them thinking into the future. During tough times, the present can be a little too overwhelming. We don’t want our customers in that present-mind state. We want them to be in a better-future place. So, transport them to the future by asking that long-term question.
The next thing we want to do is focus on questions based on what they would improve or enhance about what they’re currently doing. And so, ask that customer, “You know, based on what you’re currently doing, your current process, (your current procedure, whatever it may be, your current solution), what is one thing you would change about what you’re currently doing and why?” What a great question. This is going to get right into what they dislike—their pain point—and then, also explaining the why behind it is the impact piece. For example, if we say, “What would you change?” And they say, “Well, if we could improve the connectivity with our other systems in place, that would be ideal. The reason that would be ideal is because, wow, that would help us create natural synergy.” (There [were] a lot of buzzwords in that example, by the way.) “But that would create a lot of natural synergies, maybe enhanced profitability.” So that’s about understanding what they would change, and then the impact of experiencing that change.
And then the last one—drum roll (drum-roll sound). This is one of my favorites, and the reason why, this is what I call a self-discovery question. In customer discovery, you want your customers to almost come up with the ideas on their own. And the reason why people are more likely to change when that change emanates from within than from within you. So you want to get them to change, and that change needs to start inside of them. And so, here’s the question: “In your opinion, what is the best way to solve this problem?” Or “What are your thoughts on how to make this happen?” “If you were creating this solution, what would it be?” These questions create that “a-ha” moment. And that’s when the customer tells you, “Hey, here’s how I would change it.” They’re telling you, “Here’s how you need to sell me. This is what I want to do.” It’s that self-discovery that is absolutely critical to persuasion, especially when we’re going through tough times. During tough times, your customers need a deeper sense of commitment to make change. In order for that change to happen—they need to discover that need from within. And that’s why the self-discovery questions are so critical.
All right, folks. Well, that, that is the episode for today. Thank you for tuning in. Just a reminder, when you are out there conducting those discovery calls, number one—suspend your assumptions. Number two—generate dialogue, not just a back-and-forth interview. And number three—prepare a list of questions. And I gave you a few of my favorite questions just to help spark some thought and idea.
Make it a big day.