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Are You Guilty Of Conducting “Non-Discovery?”

by David Brock on January 22nd, 2019

We all know the importance of conducting discovery calls. In principle, a discovery call is to help us learn more about the customer, their needs, problems, dreams, and goals.

Once we “discover” these, we can determine whether the customer has a need that we can address, we can assess the urgency and interest the customer might have in addressing those needs.

But there’s something lacking in the majority of the discovery calls I see. There are the standard questions, to which there are always the standard answers: “Of course I’m interested in growing my business and revenue, of course I’m interested in increasing the profitability of my company and improving results, of course I’m interested in getting more leads or visibility to my target customers [replace this with whatever your function/job is], of course I’m interested in beating my competition…..”

“Yes, I’d like to spend less time on admin and overhead tasks; Yes, I want to improve my personal productivity/performance, as well as that of my people…..”

Every once in a while, just for kicks, when someone asks me if I want to drive more business growth, I respond, “Not really, we have to much business, do you know someone I can give some business to….” It’s so much fun doing that, it really screws with a sales person’s mind. (Yes, I know I’m a bad person, but it’s not my fault you are asking me brain dead questions.)

Usually, that’s where discovery ends, because the sales person says, “Oh we can help you with those problems. We help companies grow their revenue, we help companies…. Let me tell you how we do this, can I invite you to a demo?”

Or sometimes, there’s the question list. It’s very focused on eliciting certain responses. Sales people go through that list, mechanistically, listening for the response that enables them to stop discovering and start pitching. After all, for these people, discovery is only a route to pitching.

But what has the sales person discovered? They have simply discovered the obvious, but they haven’t learned about the customer, what they are trying to do, why, what’s holding them back, whether they even want help (even if they may need it).

There’s so much more we can learn, just a few: We can understand how they currently do things, the problems that creates. We can begin to quantify the impact of their current challenges and how it limits their ability to achieve their goals. We can probe to learn why they haven’t take action on these issues. We can also learn who it impacts, who might be involved in making a buying decision, how they organize themselves to make a decision, how they would get funding and resources to make a change. We can learn what other alternatives they are considering.

We can help them learn through our discovery questions, “Have you ever thought of doing this….., What would the impact be if you made this change…, How would doing this impact the results you produce…, What happens if you choose to do nothing….?”

We might consider that while we are conducting our discovery, the customer may be going through the same process, conducting discovery of their own. The customer is learning about the issues, what they should be considering in their buying process, even what they don’t know, but need to.

But of course there are some challenges with doing this type of discovery, we have to know something about the customer – both the individual, their function within the enterprise, and their enterprise. We have to understand how these people work, what typically stands in their way, why those are problems. We have to understand how to co-discover the impact of these issues with the customer.

We have to engage in a two way conversation enabling us to learn from the customer, while they learn from us. We have to guide the customer through both their discovery and our discovery.

This takes time, it takes work, deep understanding of how the types of problems we solve and how they are manifested in the customer environment.

Discovery is powerful, both for us and for the customer. Discovery is actually where you win the sale. It’s where you and the customer discover what they should be doing, the potential impact, and why it’s so important to take action. It’s where the customer discovers not only what they should buy but how to buy.

Are you conducting discovery or non-discovery?

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3 Comments
  1. Joel Lyles permalink

    | We might consider that while we are conducting our discovery, the
    | customer may be going through the same process, conducting discovery
    | of their own. The customer is learning about the issues, what they should
    | be considering in their buying process, even what they don’t know, but
    | need to.

    Dave, I wonder if this is why a lot of companies are convinced that blind ‘pitching’ to people who are already in their ICP works as well as it does. The customer isn’t really buying into that particular product so much as buying into the idea they need to change — and a lot of companies seem to think these are the same thing, but they’re very much not. This is more apparent with longer sales cycles.

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