Discovery – The Most Important Stage in Sales

We’ve been talking a lot as a sales team about the discovery process and how we can perfect this stage of the sales process. What does this mean? Why is it important?

A better discovery means going above and beyond the typical BANT (Budget, Authority, Needs, Timing) questioning by diving in deep to find out what your prospect is actually struggling with, why that’s important, how it impacts them and what that means for a potential partnership. The best discovery exposes real pain from the prospect’s current process and situation and establishes potential value and benefits your solution brings to the table.

In fact, until both customer and sales rep mutually uncover where the obstacles and hurdles are – the deal is on thin ice. In fact, my opinion is that the discovery process is THE MOST IMPORTANT stage in the sales process. THIS is where the deal is won.

We all need better discovery. If not, it’ll cost us deals and cause unnecessary heartache. How many deals would’ve closed had we gone through a proper discovery? How much heartache could we have saved had we really dove in and found what we were pitching didn’t even resonate with what the prospect was trying to solve? Maybe it would have, but we didn’t help them connect the dots between their issues and our solution.

Now, there are plenty of opinions, blogs, podcasts on this topic. But two recent podcasts stood out that perfectly sums up my feelings and provide amazing insights and instruction for sales team in SaaS. So much so – that I made both podcasts required listening for my sales team and I recommend the same for any Stretch VP, aspiring VP or anyone just getting into Software Sales.

So…Want to close more deals? Study, practice and master the Discovery stage in the sale process. Start with these podcasts:

#1: Discovery and the Art of the Close (also on iTunes ) by renown Sales Expert and Bestselling Author: Jeb Blount.

With his guest – MixMax CRO Don Erwin (one of my favorite new SaaS products by the way) – they discuss best practices and practical tips to ensure the discovery process helps you AND the prospective customer find out if there is indeed an opportunity and reason to work together. 4 Points of emphasis:

  1. Start by doing your research and find common ground.
  2. Them, then you. “If it’s okay with you, I would like to find out more about you, then we can talk about (My SaaS) and then we will see if it makes sense to go further in this conversation?” It tells my brain to shut up!
  3. Shut up and Listen. Tell me more. hmmm
  4. 80% of the sales process happens in Discovery. This is when prospects decide to buy.

#2: Meet Buyers at Their Point of Awareness by Anna Talerica of SaaSX.

In her podcast (originally a Blog post) Anna talks about using the discovery process to find out WHERE each buyer is at in the buying cycle. Fittingly, she uses an analogy of a waterfall with the following stages:

  1. Top of the waterfall. (think of this as a cold outbound lead)
  2. Mid waterfall. (think of this as a warm marketing inbound lead)
  3. Rapids. (think of this as a hot inbound lead)

In SaaS especially, you need to modify your discovery conversation to align with what stage each buyer is in the waterfall. She calls this being “Funnel Aware”. By being Funnel Aware, you can better adapt and move a prospect from top of the waterfall to the rapids where they are ready to buy. In her own words, Anna says: “The purpose of funnel-aware messaging is to help direct your conversations by building intrigue and revealing what we do in a natural, compelling manner.”

These two podcasts actually align perfectly with each other. Both are emphasizing the fact that sales people need to “guide” the conversation so that prospects feel compelled to reveal behind the scenes information and disclose their most pressing needs – even if they started the conversation leery or unsure of what exactly those were.

Want to close more deals and save heartache? Better discovery.

*Note: With the amount of solid advice and insight out there to help you in your discovery process, we’ll continue to update this post with new links and tips to help you perfect your prospect discovery. But for now, get started with these tips and post your own comments on what has helped you or your team.

Good luck!

-Stretch VP