After Qualifying, I believe the Discovery Phase of the sales process is the single most important part of the entire process. If executed well, it is where the customer lays out the road map for how the sales person can win the deal. Yet too often, sales people lose this opportunity, choosing to race through the process so they can get to Proposing and Closing–after all isn’t that what sales people are supposed to do–pitch and the famous, “always be closing.”
Too often sales people use the Discovery Phase as just the part of the sales cycle where they understand the customer’s needs and requirements. These sales people shape their questions in a way that helps them specify the solution— we need two of these, we need to have this throughput, we need these features and functions, we want this level of performance. and we want this price……… These sales people are so focused on pitching their solution, their questions only give them the information they need to pitch the solution. They fail to learn anything about how to win the business.
But there’s so much more to discover in the Discvoery process than needs and resquirements. Just a short list might include:
- Understanding what the customer is trying to achieve and how this project relates to the attainment of their goals.
- Understand what is driving the customer to change, to consider something new, why they are buying.
- Understand what impact the issues have on the customer—both their business and the personal impact on each individual.
- Understand who their competition is, what other alternatives they are considering, why they are considering them, what they think about each of them—oh, by the way, what they think about us.
- Understand how they are going to make a decision–who’s involved, what their roles are, what each of their needs, issues, and priorities are.
- To help them organize themselves to make a decision, to coach them how to buy—if they aren’t buying your category of products every week, they may not know how to buy.
- Understand the impact of doing nothing.
- Understand how they hope to justify the implementation or the purchase and where they will get the funding.
- Understand what each customer involved in the decision expects and how we might meet their expectations.
There are many more, but I’ve made my point. By taking the time to question, probe, and learn, the customer gives us all the clues of what it takes to win—they give us the road map to success. Taking the time to help the customer assess alternative approaches and to explore, helps the customer discover new things that may be critical to their decision. Once we have guided the customer and ourselves through the process of discovery, selling becomes very simple –we just follow the roadmap!
Too many sales people miss this. Instead, in their rush to proposing, they know what product they have to propose, but they don’t have any of the other information to position their solution show why the customer should select them. Since they haven’t “discovered” everything about what the customer is seeking to do, they never address these issues, consequently it’s up to the customer to figure it out — unless the competition has helped them figure everything out because the took the tiem to truly discover.
As you develop your sales strategies, do you know what you are trying to discover? Are you trying to figure out what to sell or how to win?
(As a side note, understanding how your customers will make a decision is one of the most important things to understand in the discovery process. We’ve just published a Free eBook on Understanding How Your Customers Make Decisions. Just email me at email@example.com to get your free copy!)