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Discovery, It Isn’t All About Us

by David Brock on September 29th, 2022

Continuing my series on selling skills we thought we knew but really don’t understand, I’m want to focus on Discovery. It’s a natural follow on to qualifying–actually it’s a complement, qualifying and discovery go hand in hand.

Some misunderstanding we have about discovery. We tend to think of it as a “stage” in our selling process. We prospect, qualify, discover, propose, close….. So we do discovery at certain stage, check that off, go onto the next stage.

Another fundamental misunderstanding is that discovery is for us. We ask the customer lots of questions about their needs and requirements. We try to understand what they want to do, so that we can present our solution, saying, “Have we met all your needs and requirements?” If they nod their heads, “Yes,” we move on to close. Too often, there is an implicit bias or agenda in how we ask our discovery questions. We are trying to discover the needs that support what our offerings do. “Do you want the product in red or blue?” Since those are the only colors we sell, we are trying to get them to respond to one of those. If we asked the question, “What color are you looking for,” they might respond green or yellow.

Sometimes our discovery process is to help the customer think about needs that favor us and our offerings. “Are you looking to do business with a company whose sales people are charming, witty, and have stunning good looks…..” OK, that’s wishful thinking on my part, I would never use that question, they would always choose the competitor.

We’ve been taught all the wrong thing about discovery, the least important part of discovery is what we get out of it.

Discovery is for the customer!

It’s for them to think about and understand what they are trying to do, why, why it’s important, what are the risks, what are the things they need to think about in addressing the problem, what are the things they need to think about in making the change, how does it impact each of them and their jobs, what are others doing and what can the customer learn from them? What are they missing, what don’t they know that might be critical to their success?

Discovery, inevitably, is a lot about the change process they are going through. Are we aligned in our view of what we must accomplish and our goals, do we know how to work with each other in accomplishing our goal, do we understand how to resolved differences and maintain consensus through the project, do we have a project plan/are we tracking to it, what support do we need, how do we get buy in from the organization and management?

At some point, discovery becomes about a selection, what alternatives should we consider, what should we look for, how are we going to make a choice? But often, this is the smaller part of the overall change management and problem solving process. And this is what we focus on!

What we have, traditionally, been taught about discovery is wrong. We focus only on what we need to know to address the customer needs, and we focus on the smallest part of what the customer needs to “discover.”

The problem is, the customer struggles with their discovery. They do this rarely, if ever. They don’t know what they should be doing, how they should be doing, what they should be assessing. They don’t know what they don’t know. So they need help!

What if we were to shift our focus on discovery from what we need to know to helping the customer and what they need to know and do?

As you might be guessing, now, discovery is an ongoing process for the customer. It starts with them considering a change, recognizing there might be a better way to doing something. It continues through their entire problem solving process and implementation. Discovery is not a “stage” in the process. It’s not something they and we do, then check off an go onto the next step.

But what about we sellers? We need to know a bunch of stuff, we need the customer to know a bunch of stuff. How do we get that done? The reality is through helping the customer with their discovery process, we understand and learn everything we need to learn. We understand their problem, we understand the urgency, we understand who is involved, how they will make a decision, we understand…..

And even more, by working with the customer, helping them with their discovery, we create great value with them. We differentiate ourselves from the sales people focused on their traditional discovery process.

Try doing this with your customer. You might discover how to increase your and their success.

Afterword, I’m writing a series of posts on “Basic Selling Skills,” just to remind us what/why we do what we do. The link will take you to that collection.

From → Transformation

One Comment
  1. Brian MacIver permalink

    Looking forward to your sequel:
    Now we have ‘discovered’ let’s DEVELOP. ;-D

    Great series, for many NOT back to basics
    but LEARNING for the first time.

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