Select your preferred player below to subscribe now:
About This Episode
People hate to change. We love the comfort of the status quo.
By our very nature, salespeople are agents of change. But what does that mean for discovery?
Son of a prison guard and secretary, Captain in the Marines, Harvard Business School grad, and record-breaking marketer and salesperson — David is also writing a book: “I love training, I love teaching, I love coaching. I love good discovery, so I felt motivated to write a book to give back to all the people who had helped me along the way.”
Let’s get right into David’s take on discovery!
The role of discovery in the sales process
It’s wrong to think about discovery as an interrogation of the buyer. You aren’t just peppering them with questions. You’re actually learning.
“Most salespeople don’t do enough of that — they do more pitching than they do learning,” David cautioned.
Discovery is a process of listening.
It’s a process of actively causing change.
It’s also a science as well as an art.
The science of discovery
Call recording solutions have broken down what happens on a sales call. David himself listens 60% of the time and talks 40% of the time.
He’s scoured the data about effective discovery calls, which have found that it’s more effective to sprinkle questions throughout, to ask open-ended questions, and to control phrasing to sound less threatening to the buyer.
You can do all of these things and still get discovery wrong if you forget that it’s an art, too.
The art of discovery
If a salesperson has a list of questions, asks them, and receives the answers…that’s not discovery.
David said a salesperson needs to be prepared to go anywhere that the conversation may venture while still keeping the goal of the call in view. “You have to be responsive,” he said.
“Most people — the art of it is — they’re thinking about the next thing they’re going to say, and they miss the opportunity to connect, to go deeper,” David said.
Changes in discovery today
Selling from home and the digital age have left a huge impact on discovery. Two things to keep in mind about what’s different now are information and time.
1 — Information
Buyers have so much more information today than they ever had in the past.
The salesperson typically arrives late to the sales process, when they decide to call their 3 options in to consider who they’re going to go with. “You have less time to influence the deal,” David said.
2 — Time
With 5–15 people on the buying committee, the salesperson has less time with each person (and sometimes even no time at all).
Think about it. If 15–20% of the buying cycle time is actually engaged with suppliers, you’re now splitting that time with 2–3 competitors, which means you have only 5% of the sales cycle to directly influence the outcome.
“How many failures for each opportunity can you really afford to have when you do get in front of somebody to gather information and really develop their needs and the buying process?” David asked.
(Hint: Not many.)
Developing the champion
You cannot take discovery with your champion for granted. “I call it pre-wiring the meeting, or pre-gaming the meeting, or preparing just with your champion,” David said.
Even if you don’t have all the time you could want, you can still ask for more time with your champion to learn from them. “This is why you have to be so practiced and rehearsed and prepared and know why you’re asking these questions in a deliberate way,” he explained.
This is the message you want to send: “I understand you, I’m an expert. Go there with me, trust me to ask these questions — because I have a certain level of expertise.”
The psychology of change
In the course of drafting his book on discovery, David has been thinking deeply about the psychology of change.
People hate to change, even if the status quo is obviously worse than the change itself. We resist change because of 3 psychological hangups:
- The risk of loss. We worry that change will make things worse.
- Cognitive dissonance. We feel discomfort when we are challenged to view the world in a new way.
- Fear. We are afraid of losing control, among many other things.
“If you can understand this and make it easy for people to change, and be a change agent, that’s really important,” David said.
The salesperson isn’t a doctor to fix a problem. They aren’t an expert doling out special knowledge. They’re actually change agents.
“You’re a coach encouraging them to change. You’re an advisor helping them figure out, what do I need to do to actually make this change happen?” David said. This is as far from a know-it-all with a list of questions as you can get.
David’s 3 (actually 6) takeaways
3 Takeaways for reps
- Write down your questions and practice them
- Get really good at asking: Where is the buyer in the buying process?
- When you hear something interesting, wallow. Wait and dig rather than rush in with your solution
3 Takeaways for managers
- Ask problem questions early in the discovery phase in your pipeline
- Coach reps before their meetings to focus on the questions they’re going to ask and roleplay with them
- Use smart call recording for post meeting reviews: build filters and share snippets
Connect with David on LinkedIn.