Discovery never ends, and it is definitely not a one-stop interview. In the course of PDAgroup’s focus series on sales enablement, Whitney Sieck, CPTD, Senior Director of Enablement at Outreach, invites us to rethink how well we know our customers and reshape our mindset regarding discovery in B2B sales.
Many standard sales processes have an early stage dedicated to discovery; some of them even have a specific “discovery call.” Often this may lead to the idea that discovery is a point-in-time event and that no more discovery is required afterward. But the reality looks quite different.
In today’s world, buying never happens in a vacuum. Even if one person within the prospect’s company shows interest, this person usually doesn’t have full authority to make a buying decision. Salespeople have to reach out to multiple stakeholders to understand their unique perspectives and drive consensus toward a buying decision.
In this scenario, discovery can’t stop at the beginning of the process. There are different kinds of discoveries that need to happen throughout the sales cycle, and you can’t put them all into one call. Discovery is much more than just an initial interview; it is a continuous process.
Dealing with Multiple Personas
As we have just pointed out, in B2B sales, there are always multiple stakeholders involved, all of them with different roles, concerns, and opinions. That is why preparation is critical. If you have a meeting with many people, you must reach out and connect with them independently before the meeting. This will allow you to understand their unique perspectives and tailor your message to your audience. This approach applies to any meeting, but it is even more important before a virtual call, where it is very challenging to read the room.
“There is no playbook for a pandemic. We are all figuring this out together. Regarding discovery in this time, I think the authentic curiosity combined with empathy is going to go a long way. “
What is the right way to approach these multiple personas? In order to get to know the buyer and discover what we can do for them, we must approach them with authentic curiosity. Some people are authentically curious by nature and asking questions feels natural for them. If that’s not the case, there are ways to build up this skill, but it takes muscle memory and, therefore, time. Approaching the customer with authentic curiosity means that you don’t stop at one-dimensional surface-level conversation. It means digging in deeper until you go into four-dimensional questions. It means that you don’t just explore the circumstances, but also strive to understand the need and how it relates to your product, seek to understand the why behind the customer’s actions, and try to quantify the impact that your solution will have for that prospect.
“ABC- Always Be Closing” is a motivational phrase used to describe a sales strategy. These words, from the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross feel pushy and inauthentic for Whitney Sieck. She would rather say “ABC – Always Be Curious”, because authentic curiosity leads to closing deals.
An Essential Skill: Challenging the Customer
Within the different roles in an organization, there are also different levels, and they all have their own concerns and points of view. Lower-level employees, like individual contributors or newer team managers, typically talk about the past. Mid-level employees that have more influence tend to talk about the present. While high-level personas talk about the future.
When talking to a mid-level employee focused on what is happening today, a skilled sales rep will ask questions about the future. The customer might not know the answer, but they will find themselves thinking like their boss. The sales rep is challenging them to think bigger and expand their perspective. That is going to be important when this mid-level employee tries to sell your solution internally.
Some Dos and Don’ts for Discovery
Finally, here are some general dos and don’ts that Whitney recommends keeping in mind during the discovery process:
- Avoid questions that you can answer yourself independently through research and make sure that your questions are relevant to the buyer.
- Avoid pushing the buyer to talk about challenges that you know you can solve. Lading the customer to reveal this information won’t help you get to know them.
- Help your prospect to quantify pain asking questions about cost, risk, and revenue associations with the problem itself.
- Find the right balance between open and closed questions.
About Whitney Sieck, CPTD
Whitney Sieck, CPTD is an accomplished revenue enablement leader with extensive experience in learning gap analysis, curriculum design and implementation, professional development consulting, project management, and process improvement initiatives. While she has a diverse background with experience in multiple industries, her passion has consistently been working with sales teams to develop skills in pipeline opportunity and relationship building. She believes there is nothing more gratifying than seeing tangible business results impacted by training initiatives.
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