The discovery phase or the first meeting of a sales process is all about gathering information to allow you to qualify your prospect, allowing you to gather vital information to put together a personalized presentation and proposal for your next meeting.
During a discovery meeting or phone call most sales people are distracted by comments or issues from prospects they they have not prepared for. To avoid this you need to be better prepared by:
- Finding out who will be attending the meeting.
- Finding out what is important for each of those present at the meeting.
For example the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) may be driven by price alone, while a project manager is likely to be driven by achieving milestones. The CFO and project manager’s line of questioning, their views on problematic areas and underlying motivations will likely be quite different.
The following four points are key objectives for a successful discovery.
Position yourself as an expert. To be effective in the future the prospect must perceive you as the only relevant expert than can provide a real solution to their needs.
When you are on the phone or having a meeting with a prospect for discovery it is better to have a discussion rather than some sort of flashy presentation. A presentation or a proposal comes after you have qualified them. At this point you should be asking insightful questions that is going to engage the prospect and provide you with meaningful information for your future presentation. You are not trying to sell at this meeting rather you are gathering information.
Reinforce your position as an expert. Sounds similar to the first objective but here you are giving them information, proof that you’re an expert and that you understand their company. You are utilizing the information from your readiness chapter phase earlier. Information that you have researched, about their industry and profit opportunities that are occurring that could align with their business.
The important thing to remember is that the information has to be about them, not about you, your company or any other personal stuff. Referencing another customer is a great idea, someone you've helped and may be in the same situation as your prospect. This shows that you have dealt with similar situations and that you have helped others solve those same problems.
Engage in a discussion. If you have accomplished the first two objectives successfully, then you are going to be seen as an expert. You now need to engage the prospect. This is the time to start an honest discussion about what they perceive as problems. It is imperative that you start to take lots of notes. Try not to talk unless you are asking questions, often not easy for sales people, but important as this discussion is going to give you the opportunity to position your solution later.
Identify how you will help. You have opened the door for your solution. Now is the time to explain, in detail, how you can help the prospect solve their problems. Remember, rarely do people buy for features or benefits. Most people buy based on what they believe or what they hope the product or service is going to do for them. Think about the different ways you can align your pitch with their beliefs to create a wed. If you have prepared successfully you'll have a few solutions to present.
Set the next appointment. If you go about it the right way this will simply fall into place. Have the prospect agree to move forward with a solution or a group at solutions you have discussed. Let them know that at the next meeting that you will be prepared with a agenda and objectives that will have action items for both at you. One important key here is to set a specific date and time. “Will be in touch” is not what you want to hear. It is the kiss of death. Don't leave a discovery meeting without a definite time for the next meeting. If you don't then you risk never having another meeting.
If you follow the above objectives then you'll have a successful meeting, which will have resulted in a further meeting. Another meeting means you’re one step closer to not just making the sale but creating a loyal customer for life.
During a discovery meeting it is important to reach each of the above four objectives. It is important to fellow a few basic rules, which if overlooked may cost you your prospect.
Be clear and be concise. Be clear in your message not leaving anything for interpretation. This is especially true in your emails. Read important emails twice, once right after you write it and then in an hour or so later read it again. Look for possible miss communication and tone. If you are not clear you can be perceived as untruthful, which is not an impression you wish to convey. Being concise is a big port at being clear and the less you have to explain the more solid your message becomes.
Actively listen. Listening makes you appear more intelligent. Remember the old adage of why we have two ears and only one mouth. Also don't be afraid of silences, it is a time for your prospects to think or reflect and then engage. Don't act. Don't pretend to be listening when you are thinking about your next statement. You know when someone is not listening to you and your prospect or customer knows when you are not listening to him or her. Actively listening involves taking notes. Taking notes shows that you’re listening and also shows you are wanting to capture important information.
After the meeting send the notes back to the prospect. This gives you a way to reconnect before the next appointment and it shows your attention to detail. Include action items, which will add value and give directions to your notes. It also gives you a leg up on your competition who probably only send a brochure or a proposal.
Don't interrupt them. This might sound like common sense but a surprising number of people interrupt others when they are speaking. If you cut a prospect off, it shows that you have not been listening and that you don't value their opinion enough to let then finish. It also gives the impression that what you believe is important is a lot more important than what they are saying, so even if you have something positive to add, wait until the prospect has finished and then respond. Write down your thoughts on a notepad while they are speaking. It helps you to not forget, to stay focused on what they are saying and they will think that you are seriously listening to what they are saying.
Focus on positioning yourself, not making the sale. Don't try to make the sale or get any type of agreement from the prospect to buy from you at this time. This is not the time for making sales. If you try to make the sale during the discovery you are going to loose your position as the expert and you’re likely to risk loosing the prospects trust and relationship.
After the discovery meeting, that's when, the hard work starts. Ask yourself if the prospect was a qualified one? If you executed the above objectives and followed the basic rukes you should have a great meeting and the prospect will want to move forward with another meeting. It is your job to analyze what you have learned and decide if the prospect has the qualifications of a good customer. If they don't then don't worry about it, just be gracious and move on. However if they do, then set the next appointment.