In this episode, Paul explains the different elements of a discovery sales call.
It’s a discovery call for a reason. You’re exploring the customer’s needs, wants, and concerns trying to discover something new.
“There are three things that get in the way of a good discovery call…”
“Pitching your solution before discovering the buyer’s needs. That’s the equivalent of a doctor prescribing before diagnosing the disease.”
Too many leading questions will serve the seller, not the buyer. Remember to be customer-focused.
Some sellers believe that they already know the buyer’s needs. They are walking in with that assumption, limiting their ability to discover anything new.
Send the buyer a couple of talking points before the meeting, and be sure to ask a few through-provoking questions.
The best discovery is self-discovery. Help the buyer discover something new.
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What is a discovery sales call?
(Transcribed from podcast)
On today’s episode, we’re going to answer a question regarding customer discovery: What is a discovery sales call? That’s the question. This question stems from just a recent virtual meeting when I was working with a sales group. And they were talking about that all-important initial meeting with a customer or prospect when you’re going to discuss their needs. This is commonly referred to as a discovery call. So, that’s what we’re going to focus on in today’s show
Before we get into the question, a quick shout-out to our sponsor, Andrea, over at The Creative Impostor Studios. The podcast continues to break records of downloads every single month. We’re having record-setting months—downloaded in over 53 countries now—and a lot of credit goes to Andrea and her team. When it comes to either editing, launching a podcast, if you just have questions and you want a consultation, Andrea has graciously offered a complimentary session for any listeners of the show. So make sure you visit TheQandASalespodcast.com. On this episode’s webpage, we’re going to have a link where you can sign up and get more information on that complimentary session.
Also, pick up your copy of Value-Added Selling. In the book, we talk about the needs-analysis stage. And a lot of the things we talk about today, on the podcast episode, are going to be available in the book when we talk about asking the right questions to generate a good information exchange. So, pick up your latest copy. It’s available on Amazon or wherever you get your books.
Let’s get back to that question: What is a discovery sales call? Discovery sales call is exactly what it sounds like. You and the customer together are looking to discover their needs, discover a new set of insights, discover a way to solve a problem. The key is discovering. You’re finding something new, maybe something unexpected. And when I think about that term discovery also, I can’t help but think of the legal meaning of that: discovery. That’s the phase of the legal proceedings where both parties, I guess the defendant and the prosecutor, they have to share their information with each other so there are no surprises. They provide each other the evidence. They do all that good stuff. Good stuff, right? It’s a real legal term there, I think. But anyway, it’s an exchange of information as well. And the same is true for a discovery-type of sales call.
Think about it. You have two parties as well. You have the seller, you have the buyer. And the goal in a discovery call is just to have a good information exchange, to have a deeper understanding of how that customer defines value—what’s important to them, problems and challenges that they are facing. It sounds pretty simple and straightforward, but there are a few things that get in the way of a good discovery call.
The first one is going to be the salesperson who shows up and just wants to start pitching their product. When they want to start presenting their ideas and just go in and just immediately—before asking a question, before uncovering any sort of needs—they start presenting their solution. That gets in the way of a good discovery, because you’re walking in there— You’re demonstrating no concern whatsoever about what that customer really needs. And in fact, you think about it, to use an analogy, a doctor analogy. What if a doctor came in and they just started presenting a new pill, a new drug to you, and they said, “Hey, this is a miracle drug. It works wonders (and this and that),” but they have yet to even ask you any questions to see if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms associated with a disease that is cured by this drug. It wouldn’t happen. They call that malpractice. A lot of salespeople are also guilty of sales malpractice, where they go in and they just prescribe without diagnosing. So that gets in the way.
The other thing that gets in the way is when salespeople come in and they ask too many self-serving questions, too many leading questions that are more focused on selling something versus really understanding something. For example, let’s say you’re talking to a prospect or customer and lead with a question like this: “How would you like to improve efficiency by 150 percent?” Or, “Does profit really matter to you? Does saving time on labor matter to your company?”
Sometimes those leading questions, they will lead directly to a product feature or benefit that is unique to your company. And I get the idea here. If, for example, let’s say your company offers a ten-year extended warranty and the competitor only offers a five-year extended warranty. So you would ask a question like, “Tell me about your current solution’s ten-year warranty.” And then it’s like, “Well, we don’t have a ten-year warranty.” “Oh, great. Let me tell you about our warranty. We have a ten-year warranty. It does X Y Z, all this stuff.” You asked the question, so you could basically pitch your solution. So, that gets in the way we have a good discovery call.
The other thing is sometimes salespeople believe they already know the customer’s needs. And this happens, especially with experienced salespeople. Experienced salespeople will go into a sales call and they’ll say I’ve met with a customer like this hundreds of times. I have a lot of experience in their industry. I know what’s going on. I know the trends. I know what solution they need. A salesperson that walks in with that mindset, they’re really limiting themselves. They’re limiting themselves because they’re only going to focus on what they already know. And when they shut their mind off to anything new, it really— It’s going to be a bad discovery call. So we want to make sure that we have a good discovery call with a good information exchange.
Now, in order to do this, we need to do a couple of things. Number one, before we go in there and meet with our prospect or customer, we need to suspend our assumptions. And when I say suspend our assumptions, it means that we take all those things we think we know about a customer— For example, “Oh, I know customers like this usually need this type of product.” Take all of those assertions, all the things that you’re assuming, and suspend them. Just write them down on a piece of paper and then wad up that piece of paper and throw it away.
The reason we’re doing this is the act of physically writing something down, it gets the thought out of your head, metaphorically speaking, of course. But, by writing it down and then throwing it away, it’s a symbolic way to say, “You know what? I’m going to check my own thinking. I’m going to make sure that I don’t walk in there prescribing something before I even diagnose it.” That’s what we mean by suspending those assumptions.
Another thing we want to do is, we want to prepare our customers for good information exchange. That means that we will send them some information ahead of time letting them know what we’re going to be talking about. We can set up the meeting by sending an email saying, something like “Mr. Customer, I’m looking forward to our meeting here in just a couple of days. I look forward to just a good information exchange, really understand your industry and your company and where you’re headed so I can share some ideas. Here are some areas we’ll probably talk about.” You can talk about their competitive posture, trends in their industry, their company’s vision, where they’re headed, some of their long-term goals; whatever talking points would be appropriate for the level of decision maker you’re meeting with, and also, for the industry that they are in. We want to give them a heads up because once we’re there, hopefully, they’ve prepared themselves. If they know you’re going to ask about a few of those things, maybe they spent 15, 20 minutes thinking about some topics or conversation pieces around those talking points. So send that ahead.
And then finally, you also want to develop a list of thought-provoking questions; the key word being thought-provoking. Remember, this is an information exchange where you are going to share some information. The buyer is going to share some information as well. You’re going to ask them questions. They’re going to ask some questions. Your questions should force them to dig a little bit deeper into their mind, to fully understand their needs. Questions like this, “Mr. Customer, if you were in our industry, what would you offer customers like yourself that nobody else is offering?” Or, “What’s missing from the market right now?” Or, “What are some of the biggest problems and challenges that your company is facing over the next couple of years and how are those impacting your business today?” These are some thought-provoking questions—questions that will get the buyer to think. The deeper they think, the more they’re going to reveal to you.
Your goal with all these questions and then the conversation, again, is of course, to get information and have a good exchange with the buyer. But there’s a, there is a secondary reason we call it a discovery meeting and that is because of self discovery. And in the process of asking all of these questions and all these talking points, there hopefully will be an A-ha moment where you ask a question that really triggers a thought from the buyer. Maybe they think of a new insight or a new idea, or a new way of approaching or solving a problem. And then, they start sharing that information with you. Now you have a customer or a prospect that is giving you information based on what the ideal solution will be. That’s good information to have. And what we know about psychology, if someone can self-discover an idea on their own, we know that they’re going to love that idea. Everyone loves their own ideas. And so by doing that, we’ve created a good information exchange and the buyer’s already told us what information that they’re looking for.
So, best of luck out there as you go there and conduct those discovery meetings. Remember, when you are there, suspend your assumptions. Try not to go walk in there thinking you know everything. And also, don’t walk in and just start pitching the product. Make sure that you enter the conversation with no bias whatsoever. Have a list of talking points ready for them. Ask some thought provoking questions. Then, of course, help the buyer attain some self-discovery along the way.
Make it a big day.