The most important step in every sales process is running a thorough Needs Analysis. A great Discovery call is the difference between a consultative solution and just shoving product in the face of the customer.
Imagine you walked into a doctor’s office and said, “Hey Doc, skip all the tests and stuff. I’ve got heartburn and I need Zantac. Can you prescribe me some?” The doctor would be sued for malpractice if they listened to you. Instead, any good doctor will patiently explain that they have to do tests to determine what the exact problem is, determine the right course of treatment, and get you healthy.
The exact same concept applies to sales. You are the expert in your product suite. You alone know which product (if any) will be a good fit for your customer’s pains. But just as no doctor can prescribe medicine without testing and conversations, you also can’t determine that by yourself. Instead, you’ll need to understand exactly what problems the customer is facing so you can make an expert determination.
Welcome to the X-Rays and Blood Tests of Sales: Discovery.
Your job as a sales professional is to understand what problems the customer is currently facing, determine if your product can help (and to what extent), then make a recommendation to the customer. Doing so requires you to do the following 3 things:
Let’s break each one down so we can get you your Sales Ph.D 😊.
1. Building Rapport
Picking up our doctor’s office analogy, notice how every doctor attempts to build rapport right at the beginning of a visit. They knock before they enter (polite), introduce themselves (familiarity), and sit down and thoughtfully ask you what’s wrong (curiosity). Sure, they could just walk in and stick a thermometer in your ear and get the answer, but they know that building rapport is critical to the doctor <> patient relationship. The same is true in sales.
When you get on a call (or any other format), take the first 2-3 minutes to build rapport. An easy cheat code to do so is to use the opening question as a way of sharing something personal:
You: “Good morning Chandra - how’s your Monday?”
Prospect: “Good morning! It’s good, how’s yours?”
You: “Actually, it’s been a rather unique Monday. My daughter just turned 10 months old, and she celebrated by waking up at 4am! Which means I also got the privilege of waking up at 4am… thank god for coffee!”
Prospect: “Oh no! Well I’ve got 2 kids of my own and…”
An answer like that creates a human moment where the prospect is forced into an off-topic conversation. I’ve got 5-10 stories that I re-use based on what I’ve learned about the prospect. Do they have kids? They get the above one. Do they show interest in sports? Great, got one of those too. Do they tweet about crypto. Awesome, let me share my love for shitcoins with you. You love Yoga? I love yoga.
I use whatever I can find about the prospect online in order to create a sense of serendipity and connection. This alleviates the salesperson <> buyer tension and helps the prospect open up when you’re asking questions later on.
2. Establishing Credibility
Great, now you’ve built some rapport and the prospect has loosened up. The next step is establishing your authority as the leader of this situation.
In every social dynamic, there is a leader and a follower. You must take control of the meeting and not allow the prospect to run the show. The easiest way to do that is by setting the agenda:
You: “Chandra, we’ve got 25 minutes left and here’s how I’d like to use that time:
- Let’s spend the first 5-7 minutes learning a bit about your current DevOps process. Which tools you use, where your developers are located, what the biggest priorities for you / your department are.
- Then we can spend the next 15 or so minutes walking through ACME Co.’s solutions as they relate to your team, how we work with other DevOps teams like Hooli and Stark Industries, and what pricing for the relevant modules looks like.
- The last 5 minutes we can save for questions you have. Sound good?”
The key here is you are telling the buyer that you will get to what they want quickly. They want to hear about your products, your pricing, etc. They don’t want to spend time answering questions about stuff they already know.
But by promising that you’ll spend the majority of the time focused on that, I’ve found that almost all buyers will agree to allow 5-7 mins of questioning. Once you start asking questions and get into a convo, you may well get more than that. But crawl before you run.
3. Asking the Right Questions
The best salespeople remind me of the best chess players. They are thinking many moves ahead, anticipating what the buyer might say or do, and setting themselves up for an easy win. Far too many reps are reactionary and short-sighted, with no forethought on where they want to lead the prospect. Here’s an example on how to be the best:
Let’s say I am selling Bravado Talent to a VP of Sales. While the value props need to be semi-customized to each prospect, it’s not like I’m selling hot dogs to one person and Teslas to another. There’s a finite number of possibilities, and it’s my job to figure out which path is most likely to lead to a sale.
Bravado Talent has 3 unique value props:
Data / Matching - We have information on salespeople that LinkedIn, Hired, etc don’t have. This allows sales leaders to identify great candidates that they would have otherwise missed, and prevents them from hiring folks who look great on LinkedIn, but actually can’t sell.
Responsiveness - Instead of spending hours messaging candidates on LinkedIn that don’t respond, companies get matched with great candidates that are interested in their product and team.
Pay for Performance - We don’t charge employers unless they successfully make a hire. Therefore, there’s no risk to test out the platform.
Ultimately, these are the 3 reasons why a VP Sales would want to recruit off Bravado. So my job during the Discovery is to ask questions that lead the VP Sales to share frustrations around bad sales hires, reducing time-to-hire, and budget. These are the 3 places where I have the greatest chance of winning a deal.
So as an example, I might ask:
Me: Tell me what criteria you typically look for when vetting LinkedIn profiles / resumes?
Prospect: We look at what companies they have worked at, whether they got promoted, which college they went to, etc.
Me: But what about sales performance data? Do you look for reps who have sold into the same ICP? Reps who are in the top 10% of their team? Reps who are at or above quota?
Prospect: Well that would be awesome, but that information isn’t available on LinkedIn…
Me: Got it. If you could have access to that data, what criteria would be most interesting for you?
Notice that I didn’t jump the gun and start selling. There was no “Oh well at Bravado we have all this amazing data that blah blah blah.” That’s not the point of a Discovery. Think of yourself as a miner. You are down in the mine. Get all the Diamonds you can find. Find every last one. I’ll show you how to use these Diamonds in the next guide: Mastering The Sales Demo.
Instead, I continued asking questions around sales performance data that the VP Sales would want to see on a candidate. Why? Because I know that in 5-10 minutes, I’m going to wow her when I show her the exact data set that she has always wanted to filter by, but has never had access to before. It’s gonna make LinkedIn and all other platforms look much weaker in comparison. But don’t rush it. Take your time.
Honing these 3 steps will increase your close rate. By extracting more information from your prospects during Discovery, you will not only run better demos and get more prospects through Opportunity stages. You’ll also build a personal connection with the customer, which is often the difference between winning and losing a deal. So while most reps focus on the tactics of asking questions, I’d implore you to spend an equal amount of time mastering rapport building. It’ll pay off at the end of every quarter from here on out.