How To Execute The Discovery Phase of The Sales Process Effectively Part I

The most important part of the sales process is discovery.  In the discovery phase you are learning as much as you can about your prospect’s needs and wants.  When you understand your prospect’s needs and wants thoroughly, you can present a unique solution that will differentiate you from your competition and create value for your prospect.

There are several keys to being able to execute the discovery step well.  First, you have to have established rapport and creditability with your prospect.  This is done in the first two steps of the sales process (the introduction and gaining creditability steps).

If you have rushed through the first two steps and have no rapport and creditability with your prospect, you will not be able to ask and get an answer to the really deep questions you need execute the discovery phase.   Too often sales people fall into the trap of just asking superficial questions without getting to the pain that your prospect is feeling.

You need to understand the pain because the pain is what will cause your prospect to take action.  Your prospect will not be forthcoming about telling you the pain unless they trust you.  This is understandable because you really don’t tell someone your real problems until you have a level of trust.

Once you have established a level of trust, you have earned the right to ask the really tough questions to get at their pain.  You want to explore with your prospect what it is they need and why they fell they need it.

A decision to do business with you will first be made on emotion.  Then, your prospect will justify the decision logically.  This is true for all sales.  When you understand why your prospect fells they need something, you get to the emotional aspects of the upcoming decision.  By the same token, understanding what they need will allow you to give them the information that will help them justify their decision logically.

You will need to develop your skills in asking questions to be good at discovery.  Starting with a list of questions before making your sales call is a good idea.  This will help you keep the conversation on tract.

There will be times when you ask a question you will want to explore that topic more thoroughly based on the answer your prospect gives.  Having the list of questions made in advance, will help you not to explore that topic and not lose sight of the overall areas you wanted to explore.

Even though you are asking a lot of questions, you don’t want to make your prospect feel as if they are on a witness stand and you are an attorney grilling them for information.  You want to have a conversation.  The best way to do that is to ask open-end questions.  Open-end questions are questions that cannot be answered with a one or two word answer.  These questions require a more expanded answer.

For example you could ask the question: “how many days are in your manufacturing process?”  This is a closed-end question because the answer is going to be a one or two word response.  You could put the question in an open-end format by asking “What is involved in your manufacturing process?”

Only ask closed-end questions when you are looking for specific information.   Conversations are made with open-end questions.

Be sure to start practicing these tips now!

Happy Selling

How To Open A Sales Call

The opening of the sales call sets the stage for what is to follow.  Having a good opening often determines how well the call is going to go.  Let’s look at a few ideas on how to properly open a sales call.

The first thing to keep in mind is where you are in the sales process.  If you are making your first call on a prospect, the call is going to be different than if you are making your second or more call.

On the first call with a prospect, you want to begin the process of establishing rapport.  The best way to establish rapport is to let the prospect know that you are there to help them.  Therefore open your sales call with what would benefit them.

A good way to open your calls is by stating why you are there and what you want to accomplish on the call.  Then, ask them what would make the call a success for them.

Here is an example of opening the first call you are making on a prospect:

“Hi Mr./Ms. Prospect.   Today in our meeting I would like to begin the process to see if there is a value match between what we provide and your needs.  The meeting would be a success for me if we determine whether or not it makes sense for us to proceed to a second step even though we may not know exactly what that looks like.  But before we begin that process, let me ask you, what would make the meeting a success for you?”

When you open a call this way you show that you are interested not just in achieving your agenda but anything your prospect may have in mind too.  You can adjust this opening for whatever the purpose of your call is.

For example if you were making a presentation proposal for your product or service, you could state: “Today I’m would like to go over with you the solutions I feel will address the needs we have discussed in our past meetings.  My intention is that you fully understand what I’m proposing and give the OK to put the solution in place.  What would make this meeting a success for you?”

Notice how this is a subtle way of informing them you will be asking for their business.  The ideal situation is when your prospect responds: “we want to implement your solution if it addresses all our needs.”

When you are making any sales call after your first call, always remember to ask if anything has changed since the last time you met with them.  Asking this question can save you a lot of time if something is different from what you thought it was.

Opening the call the proper way allows you to proceed with your prospect fully understanding what you want to accomplish and with the feeling they are getting what they want out of the meeting as well.

Happy Selling


Keeping Prospects Engaged

You call on a potential prospect but they are not ready to buy now.   You recognize this is not a stall, but a legitimate reason that they can’t buy now.  It could be they have a contract that needs to expire, etc.

The question is how do I keep them engaged between now and the time they are ready to buy?

I had a coaching client who asked me this question.  She was having difficulty seeing how to keep a potential prospect engaged for the next 12 months until their current contract expired.

Here are a couple of approaches you can implement in your sales strategy to keep your prospects engaged.

To keep a prospect engaged you have to understand the key things that are important to them.   This doesn’t have to be something related to your product or service (in fact it works much better if it isn’t), but something that is important to their company, market, or business.

When you know what’s important to your prospect, you can send them information that you feel they may find valuable about that topic.  This could be an article from a trade publication, newspaper, etc.

How you send this information is very important.  You want to cut out the article and attach a personal note.

Something to the effect of “You mentioned about this topic being important to you.  I came across this article and I thought you might find it interesting and useful.”

Send in a hand written envelope addressed to your prospect personally.

This aids in getting the letter past the gate keeper because it appears to be personal mail.

You don’t want to add anything that would be self serving such as “I’m looking forward to doing business with you.” or anything like that.   Make this correspondence solely about them.

Now, in a week or so you can call and ask did they receive it.  Your initial conversation is about the information your sent.    Then you can then turn this conversation into something about the future possibilities of working together.

Here is what you have created in this sequence.  First, you have demonstrated you have the best interest of your prospect in mind.  When your prospect believes you are going to do what is best for them it increases your creditability.

Secondly, you have differentiated yourself from your competition.  Let’s face it, very few people take time to consider what is important to someone else and then take action on it.  Mostly, people only do what will benefit them.  Here you have demonstrated you want to do what is best for them.

This is highlighted even more because the information you send is totally unrelated to your product or service.

Another technique you can use is inviting.  There may be a program or event that is dealing with the subject your prospect is interested in.  Invite your prospect to the event.

This is a powerful demonstration of you thinking of your prospect.

Whether or not your prospect attends the event or not doesn’t matter.   The impact you make is in the inviting.  When you invite someone to something the underlying message is: “you think enough of me to invite me to this event.”

Of course if they attend it is really great situation because you get some “face” time with your prospect.

Try these two techniques and you will keep your prospects engaged.

Happy Selling