Every team handles its sales process differently. From hiring and compensation to strategy and alignment, each team is unique in its approach.
But there is one area that can make or break your sales process before it has a chance to get off the ground.
The sales discovery process.
Bryan Elsesser, Director of Sales Development at Aircall, argues that there are good and bad ways to handle sales discovery. A solid process brings in steady business, while a clumsy one may cause endless confusion, misalignment, and eventually lost deals.
That’s why Aircall and Zoho teamed up to talk sales discovery in a Texas Shake Shack.
That’s right. Burgers, beers, and B2B sales at Shake Shack:
If you missed it, don’t worry! We have a full recording here, and at the end of this blog. We will also be hosting more events so stay tuned.
But for now, let’s get back to the biggest takeaways of the night.
Starting Line: The Three Levels of Sales Discovery
The concept of sales discovery itself is cause for contention. Some argue that discovery calls are the same as qualification calls. Others say they’re separate things but can be combined into one phone call.
Bryan disagrees with both.
“The very first call is a Qualification call, designed to understand if there is a mutual fit. Discovery is the second call, and it is a deeper dive into the business and use case for your product based upon a client’s needs. Many people confuse or combine the two; I find that to be malpractice.”
With that in mind, let’s break down the three levels of discovery.
We’ve all seen it before. A sales rep who’s waiting to pounce the second a prospect mentions something they can sell to. Instead of listening and looking at the bigger picture, they fixate on what they think is the issue- rather than what the prospect thinks.
“Discovery is the process by which we investigate customer needs both known and unknown to the customer by way of a conversation. It is a robust fact-finding exercise that uncovers all information about a given business.”
Poor discovery tends to be ego-driven. Rather than thinking about the customer, these sales reps are focused on themselves, their company, and their product.
Worst of all, it’s selling on a surface level, with no understanding of the client’s buying cycle and almost no clue of the real pain points the business is suffering from.
So you’ve done your discovery. You understand the company, gained information around key stakeholders and pain, and you feel like you know your prospect. Great. But did you go deep enough?
“OK discovery is discovery without one thing. It’s without understanding the deeper level of pain that our customers are feeling. We hear something we can sell to and we jump on it.”
While a step in the right direction, most salespeople practice “OK” discovery. This mediocre version leaves a lot to be desired. It’s also, coincidentally, where most sales teams are currently stuck, and where the majority lose deals to the false pipeline paradox.
Great discovery dives deeper into the aspects of the client’s pain points– something not yet understood at an OK discovery level.
Instead of thinking about how your product will solve their “problem”, we should be thinking, here is how my product resolves the negative “impact” the problem is causing.
Great discovery takes the intensive research and understanding from OK discovery but leverages a key aspect: process.
“How many salespeople ask their clients directly, ‘hey, how do you buy things around here?’ If you’re not doing this, why not? You have to ask that question because it will help you understand every single stage you need to go through before you can win business.”
By being process-oriented and proactive, great discovery process is able to differentiate between surface-level pain, and the secondary and tertiary pain that is the impact it’s having on the business.
Take, for instance, the gory anecdote of suffering a cut on your arm. Surface level pain focuses on the stinging sensation and discomfort of bleeding. However, the real impact of the cut is more than the temporary irritation; it’s the possibility of losing the entire limb. That is the deeper pain point and the true impact of the situation.
Great discovery homes in on the real business impact. By finding and focusing on the real issue, sales reps can find solutions while eliminating potential roadblocks and unwanted surprises.
Speed Bumps: Missed Opportunities in Sales Discovery
Sometimes, despite having a solid discovery process, issues might come up that still cause deals to go sideways. Recognizing and identifying those concerns early can help your team find the best way to handle them.
Bryan advocates taking the time to assess the situation and ask yourself if you’re looking at a ‘problem’ or an ‘impact.’ While problems are surface-level issues, impact involves the bigger picture. For example:
Problem: “My phone doesn’t integrate into my CRM so we have to do a lot of manual work.”
Impact: “Manual work is time-consuming and prone to error, causing us to lose deals.”
Selling for a problem often goes hand in hand with selling an ideal. A salesperson imagines what they would like (what’s in it for me), then tries to sell backward from there. This could be met with skepticism at best, and taken as an insult at worst.
“Successful sellers focus on benefits and impacts, not problems and ideals.”
Meanwhile selling for the impact aligns with real, tangible benefits for your customer. Instead of concentrating on the problem, focus on the value your solution will bring.
Road Blocks: Tackling Common Obstacles to Discovery
We learned the importance of a great discovery process, discussed the difference between selling for impact and selling for problems, and identified how to tell where our teams were in the process.
But we couldn’t wrap up ‘Burgers, Beers, and B2B sales’ without having some actionable items to take home (and not just full bellies). While we can’t control how every single sales call goes, we can control the things on our end: being mindful and being prepared with the right tools.
Ask good/impactful questions
Don’t interrogate your prospect
Remove your industry terms, and speak their language by using their vocabulary, not yours.
The Right Tools
Ask open-ended questions
Higher-level questioning (look for the impact, not the problem)
Foster “what else” moments in the conversation
Do prior research before jumping on the call
Let prospects feel in control
Make sure to stay tuned for upcoming events by following us (@aircall) on twitter, facebook, and Instagram, and checking out our upcoming events here!
Full event video
Published on January 2, 2024.