3 min read

The Secret to the Sale: Discovery Part 1

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Question Mark

Question: If you were to audit your sales teams' calls and demos - and if you are not you should - what would be your best guess as to how many of your reps conduct well thought out, pre-researched, discovery sessions that help guide the rest of the call?

I have a second question. How many of you have crafted a sales call or a demo script and did not include any discovery questions within the script? Or if you did, they were banal and meaningless questions such as "tell me about your company?"

Black Coffin Don't get me wrong, scripts do serve a purpose which is to help new recruits get through the anxiety and lack of knowledge as they kick off their first batch of calls. But using standard scripts for sales and demo calls without creating a discovery process and strategy is yet one more nail in the Sales Failure Coffin. 

The problem with sales calls and demos today is that they are:

  • Generic data dumps not customized to the customer.
  • The sales rep talks about 85-90% of the time.
  • The customer's pain points are not being addressed so they are bored to tears 10 minutes in (if you are lucky to get them that far).
  • The discussion is all about the product's features and functions versus the problems it can solve for the customer. Yet another snooze fest.
  • The sales rep sounds completely inauthentic.
  • You lose the customer because some other sales rep, your competitor, is actually taking the time to listen versus talk.

Puke Emoji

It's an old sales expression but one I love that describes this very bad sales practice: throwing up on the table. 


It seems so obvious but with 80% of the sale being taken over by the sales rep talking, you have to scratch your head. 

During discovery, a sales rep discovers:

  • What pain does my prospect have that maps to the solutions that I can offer
  • How deep and severe is the pain to give me an idea about urgency and willingness to spend to heal the pain
  • What steps has the my prospect already taken to solve the pain to determine budget and competitive threats to my future proposal
  • Hot button identification that I know I need to focus on throughout our discussions
  • What should I focus on in the demo to ensure that I am not wasting my prospect's time and that I am keeping my customer engaged throughout the call because I am focused on what they need
  • And, critical to the rep, is the person I am speaking with the decision-maker? Are there other decision-makers that need to be involved? Or, am I wasting my time?

When sales reps go through well thought out and researched discovery questions, the trust and relationship barometer between the prospect and the sales rep skyrockets. 

 2 + 2 = 50

This leads to the 2+2+2=50 equation. What do I mean by this? When you speak your customer's language, address their pain, are a trusted partner, offer meaningful solutions, and did not waste anyone's time by missing the boat, your sales will not only go up, they will be larger, they will happen faster and you will have a higher retention rate.

Leaders need to not only craft different sets of discovery question trees based on customer personas and pain points, they need to train their sales reps how to ask, navigate responses to move to the next right question, and sound authentic and interested in the discovery process. Finally, coaching a sales rep to use the discovery to customize the sales pitch or demo to what the customer needs is the coup de grace.

Animated Bicycle
Start with training wheels. It's easy. I promise.



Training wheels

If you find your sales team is not using discovery as the single most important part of their sales process, then things need to change on your side. Trust me now, trust me later, I am right on this one. Yes, I know. I always say I am right. But on this one, I am POSITIVE I am right. 

Here's a light discovery approach using training wheels:

Generate three questions that your sales reps must ask at the beginning of each new prospect sales call after the initial intros take place. Those questions need to focus on finding out what problems your client is trying to solve, what they have done to date to generate a solution, and what barriers are they facing to finding the solution. 

Once the questions are formulated, your job is to coach them on:

  • How to ask the question
  • Once the question is asked, shutting up and listening with the occasional "hmm, interesting" here and there so the prospect knows your listening
  • Customizing their pitch or demo based on the prospect's responses
  • Acting interested and being authentic throughout the discovery process

Taking off the training wheels will include developing more impactful questions and question trees, training sales reps how to engage in conversations with the prospect based on the prospect's responses, and developing deep market knowledge due to the ongoing discovery sales reps do on every single sales call every single day. 

Let me know if you agree with the importance of discovery by emailing me or commenting below.​

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