By Rachel Williams
For salespeople, a common tendency once you get a customer on a call is to demo your product or start selling your service right away. When new reps join our team, I always caution that rushing into this can cause prospects to drop off because there’s not enough time spent understanding who they are, their challenges and needs. Identifying the pain points, jobs they’re trying to accomplish and emotional drivers at the beginning are the most certain ways to improve your close rate and avoid losing winnable deals.
The ultimate question I’m trying to identify and have coached my reps to discover is how can I solve this very core problem for my customer? This starts with a consultative discovery call.
If you try to cut corners forgoing the discovery call or doing a subpar job, your close rate will likely go down. The customer needs to know that you understand their challenges before they can see the value your product or service may bring them.
The discovery is the foundation of the entire sales cycle. As a rep, the most important thing you can do is run an effective discovery call at the onset. If you don’t do this, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll lose winnable deals.
Without a truly consultative approach, you risk focusing on checking the boxes to complete the discovery call. Maybe you’ll find out your prospect’s use case and consider the discovery done, but that’s just a small piece of the puzzle. You need to continue until you unearth the challenge your customer, the individual, is facing and understand how it impacts their business, their team’s goals and their life on a personal level. Once you dig deeper and discover personal motivations, you can more effectively move your prospect along the sales cycle, while building trust along the way.
The secret is to guide the decision maker in a consultative way until they reveal their own personal motivations and challenges. To do that, you’ll need to ask exploratory questions that require thought into what once seemed obvious to you and your prospect. Imagine your prospect thinking about why they are driven to spend less time on administrative tasks—it seems clear, but everyone’s answer is unique. They likely won’t even realize what their pain point is until you get them there. Once it’s their own thought (not yours), you both have achieved that “aha moment.”
The most successful salespeople will conduct a discovery call that focuses in on the hopes, fears and jobs to be done by the buyer, NOT just a use case takeaway call. These questions are designed to get you and the customer to mutually understand their core needs and goals.
To uncover challenges and goals
What prompted you to explore our solution?
Tell me about your current process.
What are you looking to improve?
What if you didn’t do anything and kept the process the same?
For a deeper understanding of needs and core motivations
If you could wave a magic wand and have what you’d want most from a solution, what would it be?
How does picking the right solution impact you?Looking to see if it will make your prospect’s job easier or perhaps even give them more stability. Remember: if the tool fails, the decision maker will be seen as the failure, not the tool.
To understand the decision-making process
Which components matter most when figuring out which tool is right for you?
Functionality? Scalability? Price?
How do you make a decision?
Who is involved in the decision-making process?
What are your timeline goals for making this decision?
Before the call, figure out who you’re meeting with and what their role is but NEVER assume you understand their challenges based on this information alone. That’s the whole point of the discovery -- skipping the discovery call or doing a bad job leads you to make assumptions that you understand your customer’s problem, but you don’t.
Set the tone and purpose of the meeting up front. Share the agenda by letting the customer know you’ll be asking questions and the intent behind them, but assure them that it’s a conversational meeting and you’ll make time so they can ask questions of their own.
Don’t ask yes or no questions. This leads to you talking more than the customer and you won’t get much information from them. Instead of “Is your team made up of SDRs and AEs?”, ask: “Tell me about the structure of your team.”
Don’t ask multiple questions at once. It confuses your prospect and you won’t get all the answers you need.
Reassure your customer amidst the questions. Share why you’re poised to help them and make sure they feel that you’re listening to them and their needs.
Don’t demo in the middle of the discovery call; otherwise, you’ll miss the opportunity to get all of the information you need, and you cannot be consultative during the rest of the sales process without this information first.
Take notes as you get the discovery information. As the customer progresses in the sales process, you should always go back to these notes and refer to their pains. Bonus: send a recap email with your notes—it helps to establish yourself as a true consultant, not just a salesperson.
Enjoyed this post? Our Sales Playbook Series offers proven strategies and free takeaways to help sales teams implement true consultative selling practices to meet their quota and then some while building better relationships with prospects:
Cold emails that convert (email template to copy and paste and implement in your process right away)
Decrease sales no-show rates and have the most productive meeting (reminder cadences, content best practices and more!)
Do you practice consultative selling? What’s worked for you? Any best practices you have to share? We’d love to hear them—tweet us at @Calendly using #consultativeselling
About the Author
Rachel Williams is a director of sales at Calendly.
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