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Improve Your Sales Discovery Calls

No matter how long you have been selling, whether it's five years, ten years, or 25 years there is one step that can continuously be improved in your sales process, which will increase your chances of winning – Discovery. There is a distinction between good discovery and great discovery. Find out which you tend to do and how you can uncover more in your discovery calls.

Great vs. Good Discovery

Good discovery happens when a salesperson uncovers the clients' needs. Great discovery occurs when salespeople introduce conditions that the potential customer might not have thought about and ties those needs to a business impact.

Great discovery starts with identifying all of the people who have a role in the decision-making process. According to Momentive Media, "While 64% of the C-suite has final sign-off, 81% of employees not in the C-suite influence purchasing decisions." Some companies have one decision-maker responsible for evaluating, buying, and using the product. That makes things easier. This is typical with lower-cost items that tend to be more transactional.

Decision-maker Influence

More expensive items tend to have several decision-makers. In addition to a final decision maker at an executive level, there may be others such as a technical person, an operations person or even someone who uses the product to influence the buying decision. If you miss talking to these people as part of your discovery process, the chance of winning the deal decreases significantly. 

Each person involved in the decision have vastly different things that they care about when it comes to your product or service:

  • The operations person may care about efficiency and safety.
  • The CEO cares about ROI and cost.
  • The end-user wants to know how easy it is to use and the advantage of using it. 

Because of the variation in requirements, you'll need to ask different questions based on their wants and values. You provide more value by introducing points that they haven't thought about. Remember, you are intimately involved in selling your product or service every day and know far more about possibilities than the prospect does. Often, they are not aware of all the options available to them. Rather than asking them what they want, and limiting your possibilities, take the initiative to help them think outside the box. 

Getting to all of these people before moving to the next step is critical. Too often, a salesperson will only reach one or two of the decision-makers and get only halfway through the process when the client asks about the price. The salesperson will jump right into cost before using discovery to add value or differentiate themselves.

Don't forget Differentiation

Part of helping your prospect think outside the box is introducing them to your differentiators – the things you do well that they cannot get from your competition. Just think – what are your chances of winning a deal if the customer bases their decision on criteria that largely favored all of your differentiators? Pretty good, right? This is where great salespeople will ask questions to introduce new concepts (their differentiators) to see if they are essential to the client. 

For example, if your product or service is faster/more efficient than the competition, then a great salesperson will ask questions such as:

  • How important is speed? 
  • How long does it take to accomplish a task? 
  • What amount of money would you save if you could do those tasks in less time?
  • What else could you get done with that saved time?

If the result of these questions gets the customer to say, "I need a fast/efficient solution", then you are one step closer to winning that deal. Repeat this line of questioning with all of your differentiators. 

If you've ended discovery well, you can summarize to the client and say, "based on everything you told me, X, Y, and Z are most important, right?" (where X, Y, and Z are your differentiators). If you've done a great job, then those three things will not only favor your product or service, you will have differentiated yourself from the competition. And now, the "XYZ traits" will be the client's new buying criteria.

If you want to learn more about differentiation check out our blog on "Differentiation – Do You Know What Yours Is?"

Business need over Features

Many salespeople describe a product or service's features and benefits and forget about the client's business need. Let’s say your product is a power drill. If you only ask questions about what kind of drill they seek, the size, speed, whether they prefer a power cord or battery, etc., you are not getting at the real need. People do not buy a drill because they want to own a drill. The reality is that they need to make holes in something or build something.

If you are trying to get to the client's real business needs, you must ask why they need a drill? Are they looking to mount a picture frame or build a shed? Have they thought about using a portable hook with the frame, so it won't leave a hole in the wall? In this instance, you are introducing something new, and it becomes a different conversation. If they are building many things, you might ask questions about what they are building, why it is important, how it will be used in their business, how many people will use the drill, etc. Based on their answers, what you propose may be considerably different. 

The business problem is not just about your product's features, but about crafting a solution to your future client's problem. It is about opening their eyes to something new and giving them more exposure to things.

What is BANT?

Finally, good discovery goes beyond just the product and business needs. You need to know how they make decisions and their urgency in deciding in order to identify who to include in the process and whether your prospect can afford your solution. A common approach to this is BANT, which stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing. HubSpot states, "One in four buyers want to discuss budget, authority, and timeline." Using BANT can help determine qualified leads, their fit with your company, and their prioritization.

To use BANT successfully, you will want to think of it as a concept rather than a to-do list. You will need to qualify for all four characteristics, but you do not need to do them in a particular order. You may want to customize your approach each time to fit the prospect.

BANT Qualification Questions 

Budget

You need to understand how much money they have for purchasing your solution and whether you fit into their budget. You will want to ask questions like, "Have you established a budget for this kind of purchase? What do you typically spend on this type of purchase? What does your current solution cost to operate? Is there any flexibility with your budget? What's the ROI you're hoping to see?" 

Authority

Understanding who can say yes, who can say no, and who has input into the decision is critical. You may want to ask questions such as, "Who will be using the product? Will anyone else be involved in this decision? Who's making the final decision around whether to go forward with a purchase? What is your role in the decision-making process? Who actually would sign the purchase order or contract?"

Need

These are the areas outlined above. Get at the real business needs and differentiate yourself. Ask questions like "What are the biggest challenges you are facing? If this goes as planned, what does success look like? What steps have you already taken to address it? What are your top priorities now? Where does this fit on that list?"

Timing

It is imperative to understand WHEN they need a solution. Too many people give prices (and sometimes offer discounts) when the prospect is simply in budgetary mode, and nothing is driving the purchase right now. Knowing where they are in their process helps you determine how to position your solution. Ask questions like, "Are there any upcoming events/deadlines that are driving this decision? Where does this fall on your priority list? What is the cost of doing nothing and staying with the current solution?"

Using BANT can help you dig deeper and understand the entire buying decision.

Great discovery is about getting to the right decision-makers, asking the correct questions, adding value, setting yourself apart, and detecting the real business needs beyond just features. If you do this effectively during discovery, closing deals become much more comfortable, and you will win more.

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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