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We’ve Got The Discovery Process All Wrong!

by David Brock on August 1st, 2022

Too often, we fail in our initial engagements with our customers. In our prospecting and discovery calls, we focus on their need for a solution–our solution. Our questions have an agenda, we want to get to talking about our solutions as quickly as possible.

We may start in the right place, trying to understand the customer needs or problems, but we steer our follow up to our products as quickly as possible.

For example, we might ask, “How are you doing this…..” “Do you have this problem….” “Have you seen this….”

For each of these, we are trained to move quickly to the solution. With the “How are you doing this….” question, we follow up with, “We help our customers do that better, here’s how we do it….”

For the “do you have this problem…,” we follow up with, “We help people with these problems….”

And for the, “have you seen this….,” we respond, “Many of our customers have seen this, as well, and this is how we help them solve it….”

The problem of asking questions with an agenda, is we cheat both ourselves and the customer of really understanding the issues, problems, or needs. We don’t understand what problems these create. We don’t understand how big the impact of the problem. We don’t even understand if they care about solving the problem.

Discovery is just that–it’s our and our customers’ time to discover, to understand, to learn. We may help our customers realize they have a problem. But then we have to drill down, collaboratively understanding how that problem impacts them, what that impact means to what they are trying to achieve, whether they need to address it, what might be the consequences of not addressing it. We need to understand how they feel about the problem, how these issues impact others–in their organization, or outside their organization.

This process is not just for us. It’s not for us to learn about the problem, to qualify it, to understand the impact so we can better justify our solution. Perhaps the most important part of the process is for the customer.

While they may recognize they have a problem, they may not know how to characterize it, what they should be looking for in really understanding the problem. I know my golf swing sucks, but I don’t know how badly, I don’t know the issues I should be looking at to even understand why it is so bad. I may not understand how to evaluate alternative solutions to solve my problem. In the store, a salesperson wants to sell me new golf clubs. An infomercial might sell me a video. A golf pro might want to see me try to hit the ball. But I don’t know enough about the problem to even start to understand and evaluate solutions.

We are tempted, in this process to jump to solutions–because we are driven to solve the customer problem. Until the customer understands the problem, until they can characterize the problem and impacts, until they determine they must change, they aren’t prepared to begin to understand how to solve the problem.

We cannot present our solution until the customer says, “What can I do about this?” “How do I fix this?” “How are others addressing this?” “Can you help me?”

Until the customer gets to this point, they are still in the discovery process, they aren’t in the solving process, learning about solutions is meaningless.

Discovery is important to us and to our customer. The discovery process is our opportunity to collaborate, learning together. Doing this effectively enables us to move, with the customer into the exploration of solutions.

From → Performance

One Comment
  1. Joël van Beelen permalink

    ‘Until the customer understands the problem, until they can characterize the problem and impacts, until they determine they must change, they aren’t prepared to begin to understand how to solve the problem.’

    Sellers (that includes many marketers whose homepages celebrate some technology but leave you in the dark about what problem they actually solve), often make buying harder instead of easier. This study shows how decisionmakers operate under complexity:

    ‘The researchers present a model of choice in which each option has both a true value and some degree of complexity. Decision-makers have some skill in assessing each option’s value, perhaps from intelligence or experience. They can accurately assess the value of options with complexity up to their skill level, but they only estimate with error the value of options whose complexity exceeds their skill.

    Decision-makers then follow a process called “satisficing.” Rather than estimating the value of all options and then choosing the highest one, satisficers set an aspiration level, or minimum value they would like to find, and accept the first option whose estimated value exceeds it.’

    Unfortunately for a lot of salesdepartments choice-architecture comes down to the discount(s) and nothing else.



    PS. Buyers gloing for the first fit they find is a process very similar to how recruiters select a handful of new hires for their hiring manager.

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