A serial entrepreneur we work with once said that the best salespeople understand that it is more important to be interested than to be interesting. That was echoed in this article by Walker McKay, a sales trainer with a refreshingly candid style that he shows here.

A genuine interest and an intellectual curiosity are essential for running an effective discovery process.

Why is this important?

That’s because discovery sets up how the sales conversation unfolds. Your skill in shaping the discovery process has a direct bearing on how successful you will be in closing the sale. Every salesperson has a few stories about an unexpected last-minute objection that derailed the sale. Your job as a salesperson is to uncover as many unspoken requirements as possible early in the sales process.

“Discovery is the foundation for success in sales. It is where you identify issues, challenges, and aspirations.”

Yet discovery is the most misunderstood part of the sales process. Discovery is not about asking questions. Instead, it is about understanding what the prospect wants to achieve and evaluating whether or not you can help. Too many salespeople rush through discovery with a stock list of questions, jump right into the proposal, and are surprised when those last-minute objections surface to blow the sale.

Realistically, no product is perfect, so it is unlikely that your solution will meet all the prospect’s requirements. Acknowledge that, be transparent about what you can’t do, and help your prospect think through which of their top priorities you can handle. That’s what it means to be a trusted advisor.

Three Excellent Resources:

Three books shaped the way that we think about discovery questions:

Deb Calvert’s DISCOVER Questions is a great framework for planning the different types of questions you want to ask.
Never Split the Difference by former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss provides valuable insight on how you might get more information out of the sales conversation.
Exactly What to Say by Phil M. Jones shows how a slight change in the way you say things will have a dramatic impact on the way it is interpreted.

By the time you get to the discovery process, you have already invested a fair amount of time and effort just getting to that point. If you enter into the discovery process thinking you can shoot from the hip, you are leaving the outcome up to chance. Don’t be that guy. Do your homework and head into discovery with a plan.


Related Articles:
It’s Not About Working Harder
Two Strategies for Minimizing Objections
Does the Buyer Have a Reason for Change