One of the most important early phases in the selling process is discovery, where you get to know the prospect and their needs. Done correctly, it establishes the foundation for a tailored solution and begins to build a trust-based relationship. Handled improperly, discovery can significantly damage a relationship even before it has a chance to begin. The following are some of the most common mistakes we see in the discovery phase.
- Not doing your research on the prospect and their company.
In the digital age, there’s simply no excuse for not doing preliminary research on your prospects. Scour social media, LinkedIn, the business’s web presence, any news about the company, etc. at an absolute minimum. If you have contacts who can provide you information, feel free to leverage that as well.
There’s few things more vexing to a prospect than to be asked information that’s readily available and you should already know. After all, if a vendor isn’t going to do the basics at the beginning, when they’re trying to get business, how much harder will they actually work when they’ve earned a commitment?
- Sticking to a script – especially one that’s a series of questions.
We’ve all been there. Something requires us to call a customer service line and the way the rep talks is so unnatural, we can literally envision them scrolling through their response script, going step by step, even when it’s not necessary. A great example of this is when you’re a computer-savvy user and you need to contact technical support, and in the call, the representative robotically goes through the first five troubleshooting steps, all of which you did prior to calling.
A sales discovery call along these lines has the same effect – it can make the prospect feel like they’re talking to a rudimentary designed chatbot, rather than a human – especially if it sounds like a checklist. A strong discovery should be a free-flowing, bidirectional dialogue that feels like a natural conversation. Take advantage of that opportunity to build an authentic rapport, built on active listening.
- Literally talking your way out of next steps by talking too much.
Gong.io’s analysis of over a million B2B sales calls found that sales reps who talk more than 46% of the time are much less successful. For average and bottom sales reps, it’s even more pronounced – 68% and 72% of the time respectively spent talking. It’s not only important to listen actively – it’s vital to listen frequently.
Also discovered (pun partly-intended) in Gong.io’s research: there’s a questions balance. Average sales reps ask 6.3 questions and top performers ask 10 to 14 – but after 14 questions, the conversion rate actually declines.
- Asking too many close-ended questions.
With a limited number of questions to be asked during an ideal sales discovery call, every one of them counts. Therefore, asking too many close-ended questions will leave you with limited information. Rather, focus on open-ended questions and move into more tailored questions as the conversation continues.
But when you’re asking questions, be sure that they’re not leading. You don’t want your prospect to agree with whatever you’re saying – you want them to provide you with the actual information.
- Being evasive with the prospect’s own questions.
Sales reps sometimes dodge questions from prospects early on. But that’s a major tactical error. Remember, discovery isn’t just about learning about the prospect – it’s also a chance for the prospect to learn about the sales rep. A strong discovery includes a natural flow of information. While you should refrain from launching into a product pitch until you learn about the customers full-range of needs, you can position key information to assure the prospect you are headed in the right direction.
The discovery process is often a challenging one, and it’s a key step to the sales process. Making these fundamental errors only makes things even more difficult. Being aware of and avoiding these mistakes will significantly improve your prospects for success.