Rethinking Discovery: Three Ways to Win Deals Early

Ralph Grimse

Results from our latest Buyer Pulse Survey are in. Yes, buyers are inundated with information about purchase decisions and options. And yes, they’re connecting with sellers later in their deciding journey. But, our data show prospects are still very open to ‘discovery’ activities, despite engaging salespeople later in the process. This puts critical pressure on the salesperson to get discovery right.

Unfortunately, too many reps fail to execute discovery effectively. They take the buyer requirements ‘as-is’ and look to ‘fill the order’. Or reps ask questions that are too focused on preparing for a demo or proposal. This discovery approach is all about helping the reps vs. the buyer. The cycle repeats. Reps continue to be brought in late since they’re failing to add value early in the process.

Breaking this cycle means reworking historical discovery training and tactics. Buyers are telling us that they’re looking for better rep ‘engagement’. Reps must serve as a consultant and facilitator. Prospects want advisors agnostic to the solution, but equipped to help navigate problem definition and their own decision-making. To thrive in this new reality, sellers need a new discovery toolkit. 

This new discovery toolkit requires a level of business acumen and adaptability not found in traditional rep profiles. We hear many CSOs say that pre-sales or solution consultants are brought into deals too early. Sales leaders see this as an inefficient use of those scarce and expensive roles. This also raises questions about the skill gaps of traditional account execs. Too many AEs can’t lead more strategic prospect conversations around customer business issues. They’re not armed with the problem- and solution-finding frameworks and capabilities that today’s buyers demand.

Building an effective customer engagement methodology requires three things. These selling actions bring real value to the discovery process and help win deals earlier:

1. Anchor to the Big Idea. Reps fail to communicate a vision – the Big Idea that aligns their solution to their buyer’s pain points. Solutions are complex. They come in lots of shapes and sizes. You can add features and services to create an infinite range of possibilities. However, too many reps fail to articulate a vision of what their solution can do for a company. The Big Idea vision is based in the customer’s business issues – and in their language. It helps buyers better understand where they need to go to improve performance. It’s not based on product features or attributes. Without a Big Idea vision, sellers end up in technical feature or price ‘bake-offs’.

Tactic: Equip your teams with a Big Idea framework and vision roadmap. These are guides used to help customers reflect on their current situation. Effectively used in early discovery conversations, they are a structured way to chart the path forward. Reps must establish a vision for the future before they attach solutions, not the other way around.

2. Build the business case for your Champion. At the end of discovery, reps should have the narrative they will use to sell to Executives. This selling story is typically focused on overall enterprise ROI and the broader business benefits. But reps aren’t usually in the position to deliver this message solo. Business case content is needed for the Champion as the rep’s partner in the sales process. Champions can be powerful channels to deliver your message to other internal influencers. Ideally, this business case narrative will position Champions more strategically to their bosses and peers. Every rep should be able to build an initial outline of this from early discovery activities.

Tactic: Equip your teams with templated ‘Champion’ content that can be tailored after a discovery call. Templates should focus on the business issues, priorities, and case for change (not your solution).

3. Sell the ‘Engagement’ first. The discovery process should include a ‘pitch’. But the pitch isn’t for the solution. It’s the ‘pitch’ for working together to find the solution. Gaining mutual commitment to investing time and brainpower in effective discovery is key. And this is important even if the rep is coming in late to an opportunity. A buyer’s response to this engagement pitch is a powerful qualifier. It’s a way for reps to assess their ability to influence the buyer’s view of the problem and solution. If the customer doesn’t bite, then you know you need a different sales play. If they do, great! Now you’ve got the opportunity to co-create the solution with them.

Tactic: Build an ‘engagement’ process that details how reps will work with the customer to co-create a solution. Include key activities, time, and resources as well as expected commitments from their side.

Executing these three principles in the discovery process leads to bigger opportunities and increased win rates. But this approach can be complex to design and execute. In particular, alignment and support from sales, enablement, and marketing is needed. Targeted training is also required to build the situational awareness that reps need to run this play.

Contact us to learn more about this new and differentiated approach to sales discovery. We’d love to share our Big Idea vision and partner together to build your transformation roadmap.

Ralph Grimse

Ralph Grimse

Ralph is a partner with The Brevet Group, and for 20 years he has led sales performance teams in the United States and Asia. Recently he also served as a sales leader in both the media and technology industries. Ralph’s work has focused on a unique blend of management consulting and sales enablement to help companies execute their sales strategies. Prior to this role, Ralph was the APAC sales effectiveness leader at Mercer.