Congratulations! You’ve been asked to present your solution to a qualified prospect! No easy feat in today’s competitive marketplace. After high-fiving the rest of the team, what’s your plan?
- Start cutting and pasting from previous presentations.
- Review your prospect’s website and get the needed information.
- Plan a discovery call with key members of your prospect’s team.
If you do anything other than number three, you may very well be wasting your time. Preparation, and discovery in particular, plays a critical role in the ultimate success of your presentation. While much information about a company can be found on-line, the best source of information and greatest payoff potential comes from having a conversation with key people within your prospect’s company.
Asking for a discovery conversation.
So go ahead and ask. It’s a reasonable request to ask for input from those within your prospect’s company who can shed light on the situation. It benefits not only you, but also the prospect. After all, gaining a better understanding of their needs shortens your presentation time by allowing you to provide a more accurate and precise recommendation and get to the point quicker.
Conducting a discovery conversation
The key to a great discovery call is knowing what you want to discover and leaving room for your prospect to surprise you. Following are some of the key findings you want to look for when speaking to someone within your prospect’s company:
* Get their point-of-view. Don’t assume that everyone will have the same understanding of the problem or agree on the solution. Ask each person for their perspective. If the answers are conflicting, circle back with your primary contact and ask him or her to help you understand the issues so that you can properly address the best interests of the company.
* Define impact. Impact is key with today’s decision-makers. It’s critical that you find out how the current problem affects the organization and quantify it if at all possible. This will help you address cost and value with metrics to back it up.
*Perceived value. What’s the value of the solution? What is the perceived value to the prospect? How much is it worth to have the problem solved? This will help you gauge your prospect’s commitment to change as well as produce a value proposition with some weight behind it.
Strategic benefits of discovery
In a competitive market it’s unlikely that you will be the only one asking your prospect questions to prepare for your presentation. How can you set yourself apart in the discovery process if you are the third or fourth vendor doing the questioning? Here are some areas where you can start to use discovery to your advantage:
* Insights. Each question is an opportunity to gain insight around a prospect’s experience, expectations, and preferences. You’re looking for anything that can give you an insider’s view. That may include information on how bad the problem is, what’s at stake for the company and the employees and why they need to make a change. The answers you receive will help you to tailor your presentation to fit their needs and expectations.
* Language. Every company has their own buzzwords and acronyms. For example, do they call their salespeople “account executives” or “business consultants”? Do they refer to “customers” or “clients?” Instead of expecting the prospect to learn your language, make the effort to learn theirs and try incorporating some of their terminology into your presentation to build your credibility.
* Create anticipation. Discovery is not the time to make a full court press, but you do want the prospect to get off the phone with a sense of anticipation about your presentation. Statements like, “It sounds like you could really use the extra time to focus on your new responsibilities if this were resolved quickly” can set expectations early. Aim for subtlety and be careful not to slip into a sales pitch.
* Build rapport. Asking questions isn’t just about getting answers. You have a prospect on the phone or in person, why not use this valuable time to strengthen your relationship and create some early interest going into your presentation? You can achieve this in two ways:
- Really listen. This means not making assumptions or finishing your prospect’s sentences for them. Listen with an open-mind and a ready pen. You’ll have plenty of time to speak during your presentation.
- Show empathy. You’re talking to real people about real problems. Taking a moment to express appropriate emotion can go a long way toward establishing rapport. For example, “Wow, that sounds really frustrating” will make your prospect feel validated and may get them to open up more.