In this article, we discuss why performing a professional sales discovery will help you increase conversion rates.
1) It all starts with the discovery.
Problem: Unless you complete a personalized discovery call prior to your demo you are going into the presentation pretty much in the dark. I admit I was guilty of this early in my career. It’s easy to be so excited to have booked a meeting that you send your invites, block the time, prepare your demo, and wait for the day. Don't get me wrong – booking the meeting is a great start and there could be potential for a new customer. But do we understand what the prospect is trying to solve by inquiring? Do we know, of our products list of features and functions, what will actually provide the prospect high value? We can often we think we do -- maybe we had some general conversations on the initial call about the typical problems we solve and they agreed to the meeting to learn more. Or we received a follow-up email from them asking to focus on a few areas in the demo that give us some insight for talking points, but what are the business implications to the focus areas they requested? An example: your company provides a SaaS solution to help company’s process and track online payments. Your product does a host of things including managing payments, billing, API integrations, and more. Your prospect inquired online, you sent a follow-up, and they confirmed: “yes, let's set up a time. I was hoping to focus on your payment management as well as your API capabilities.” Are we now prepared for this demo? We can assume the focus will be solutions for payment management and integrations but do we understand what problems they want to solve? What outcomes are they trying to achieve? And, since we don't have a deep understanding of the business problem, we have little context of how much benefit or value our solution potentially provides to their business. Such context as: why did they inquire now? How do they manage payments currently? Are these one-time or recurring payments? Is this e-commerce or brick and mortar? What systems would they like to communicate with, and are these upstream or downstream systems? What process do they use to connect systems at this moment, if at all? And a very important question to help establish value: what are the consequences if they did not address this problem?
These context questions are often looked at as qualification questions and sometimes they are, but they really are about so much more. These types of questions get to the core of understanding their business process and the macro and micro implications to their organization, and the value to be derived from our solution. If we don’t complete a pre-meeting discovery, we can expect to spend 15-25 minutes mulling the details of their business during the demo. This lost time is valuable and is better used to tailor and professionally illustrate how our solution aligns with their problems to be solved. Side note: Yes, discovery and demo can be done on one call -- I have, as you probably have, won a new customer without a prior discovery call. But, by adopting a professional discovery process my ability to serve the prospect with a value-based solution significantly improves -- thus, increased conversions.
Solution: Always take time before your demo to perform a separate discovery call. Discovery calls, typically, take15-30 minutes but may be longer if you sell a very complex product. Conducting a discovery does create another step in the sales process and will require the prospect to set aside some additional time on their calendar prior to the demo. Often sales reps can feel they don't want to push their luck asking for additional time (aside from the demo) from busy exec's. Hey, I get it, we walk the line daily of persistence and annoyance in professional sales but trust me, the prospect will end up appreciating your professionalism. Explain that you want to make the demo as customized as possible. Say something like: "Jon, I know you are busy, but it's important we set up a pre-meeting discovery as I want to be sure this presentation is personalized to your unique situation. I won't waste any of your team's time, and I promise, with me having a deeper understanding of your situation, you will come away with lots of thought-provoking questions and insights to contemplate as you move forward in the next steps of your decision. Would you have 20-minutes now to dig in or would later this week be better?” Proceed to book the discovery.
No discovery, no demo. If a prospect does not want to spend 20 minutes explaining their problem (or opportunity they are trying to capitalize on) are they taking the meeting seriously enough to move through the sales process? There may be outliers, but not many. Or, even if a sales rep feels discoveries take too much time from their busy day it's critical to remember we only get so many opportunities each week or month. The increase in deals won adopting a pre-demo discovery will far outweigh the time lost chasing deals stalled in the pipeline and the time explaining lost sales to competition, as a result of not conducting a demo specific to their business pain.
2) Get the discovery right.
Problem: Not having the right framework of questions when entering the discovery. Some organizations, including some that I have worked for, didn't have a framework or list of items we should understand to effectively position our solution correctly during the discovery.
Solution: During the discovery, you want to understand the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of their current situation and processes. When you know their ‘why’ and ‘how’ you will be able to understand and potentially recommend how they can improve and how your solution provides value. A checklist of thoughtful open-ended questions about how they operate their business, in the context of your offer, is typically good enough. For example, when I was selling CRM, I had a list of 15 questions in a word doc that I kept open on my second screen. The conversation seldom went chronologically through my questions. That was never the point – just having the questions helped me be prepared and it made the discovery easier. We provided CRM specific to the homebuilder and real estate developer market. I would first try to understand their macro goals. How fast did they want to grow? How do they think they are missing opportunities? Pro tip: Before I ask specific questions about how they use their technology, I would always ask: "what prompted you to reach out to us now?" or "why did you decide to take this meeting with me now?" Have your notepad ready as this question typically leads to a dump of information, often including their challenges and all the things wrong with their current solution. Also, for a lead, you did not generate personally ask or reaffirm, "how did you hear about us?" and Marketing will love you forever. Tracking lead attribution directly from the prospect gives marketing confidence to invest more marketing dollars into that channel if appropriate and get you more leads! Next, I would dig into how they are leveraging their current technology to achieve their goals.
After that, get more specific with questions like: “I'm curious, how are you tracking conversions currently - Is it through CRM or do you use a different tool? Tell me, how do you manage your reporting currently? What is your process for moving aged leads back into the funnel? How is the adoption of your current tech? What does the team say about the user experience? Each answer will vary from "we don't" to "we do X, Y, Z." Being curious and asking open ended ‘how’ questions makes the conversation more engaging and flows more naturally toward an understanding of their business processes. You can hope to understand their business by relying on generic questions or past experience, but when it comes time for the proposal or the close, you have little business case or comparative analysis that relates directly to their business.
3) No assumptions.
Problem: Assuming you know the company’s problem before hearing it from them. This situation often happens when a sales rep has been selling a product for some time and has worked with dozens or hundreds of previous customers. While these are valuable experiences and insights to have which should be leveraged at the appropriate time, please do not be blinded by preconceived notions.
Solution: Slow down, execute your discovery process as per usual, and make sure you get them to express, in their own words, the problems and opportunities. The reason it is so important to get them to divulge the information themselves is it becomes a collaborative experience. You will be able to reaffirm the problems in their words (letting them know you are actively listening). Finally, you will get way more information than you thought you knew about their situation compared to relying on your past experiences.
In summary, we have to be careful in sales to never think it is our prospects ‘job’ to share their problems or give us all the info. Part of our job in sales is to know our product and have domain expertise in the market(s) we serve but, just as important, our job is to discover. Take time to be curious about every new prospect and treat their situation as unique. Prospects will appreciate it, your value will become more apparent, and you will convert more into long-term happy customers.
I hope these tips help you in your pursuit of sales excellence. Feel free to reach out and connect with me on LinkedIn or contact me directly at 604.999.0724 / firstname.lastname@example.org