Discovery is so much better than selling. When we are in a discovery mindset we are present, open, and curious. We don’t have any preconceived ideas about who we are talking to, or what outcome we expect.
Discovery allows us to build meaningful relationships with a variety of people and organizations. We need resources, partners, colleagues, and customers. If we lead with discovery when we network, when we prospect, and when we sell, we will not only figure out who we should be connected to, but we will be more resonant with others. Let’s face it. No one likes a pushy salesperson. The people we meet don’t want to be sold — anything. Remember that whenever you are engaging with others.
Discovery in Networking
When you are networking, discovery is not about who can you gain as a client. Too many people approach networking events and platforms with a goal of selling. Besides the fact that people really dislike obvious salespeople, I submit your focus is in the wrong place. You’ll miss out on uncovering valuable relationships. Sales is more than gaining customers. It includes colleagues, referral partners, and resources.
So, when you network, stay open to learning. Seek to discover who you might want to bring into your orbit, and who you don’t want to continue to engage with. That is the best way to engage with others and truly build meaningful business relationships.
Discovery in Prospecting
Every member of your prospect pool is NOT a potential client. It’s important to learn as much as you can about your prospects before you reach out. And there is so much to learn. What is going on with them right now? Who are the significant players? Have they been in the news lately? Do you know anyone who could provide you with a warm introduction?
The more you know about your prospects the better you will be able to connect with them. And, you will be able to identify which members of your prospect pool you should reach out to.
Discovery In Selling
Selling is what happens when you are in the sales meeting with the prospect. When you are in the sales meeting, your goal is to learn, not to tell. This is critically important. Your focus has to be on asking enough of the right questions so you can determine whether you can help the prospect, and whether you want to.
I’d like emphasize this — you should be listening more than you are talking when you are with a prospect. When you ask meaningful questions, you will discover what you should share.
So, what questions are you asking? And how are you asking them? Oftentimes we only ask questions about the situation and ignore learning about process, values, experience.
Of course, we should be asking about the situation. What is the need? What is the goal? There are other questions we can and should ask to get a feel for who the prospect is. We are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing us. Is there a fit? Will it be a good relationship?
There’s value in knowing the decision-making process. Notice, I didn’t say knowing who the decision maker is. Consider asking, “Would you mind sharing with me your decision-making process?” Or you can ask, “Would you be open to sharing how you will be making this decision?” These questions are polite, respectful, and nonthreatening. You want to develop a safe environment for the prospect; help them learn to trust you. The way we ask questions has a lot to do with how we are perceived.
We all need to know the answer to the budget question. Many salespeople don’t like asking that question because the prospect doesn’t like answering it. However, the budget is critical information. It is one of the qualifying elements. There are ways of asking the budget question so the prospect will provide an answer.
One question to ask is whether the prospect has worked with a company like yours before. The answer will lead to other questions. And this information can tell you a lot! If they haven’t had experience with your industry, ask them if they’ve considered a budget. That’s a yes or no question and can be a good starting point. If they don’t have a budget in mind you can talk about ranges. It’s important at this point to help them understand that all of this information is integral to providing them with a realistic and honest answer to if you can help them and if so, how.
Ask them about their timeline or sense of urgency. Ask them about their expectations. What will success look like? How do they problem solve? How do they prefer to communicate? The more you learn about their situation, and about them, the more you will be able to discover where the relationship should go.
Remember, not every prospect is going to be a good client. Discovery in every step provides you with the information you need to ensure you are doing business with the right customers, not just any customer. So, choose discovery. Be curious and attentive. Seek to learn. Your business will experience sustainable growth.
About the author: Diane Helbig is an international business and leadership change agent, author, award-winning speaker, podcast host and web TV channel host. As president of Helbig Enterprises (helbigenterprises.com) based in Cleveland, she helps businesses and organizations operate more constructively and profitably. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.