Step Two in Closing the Sale: Discovery

I’ve worked in sales for many years, so I’ve seen many sales mistakes over the years. Overwhelmingly, I’ve seen salespeople who like to talk more than they like to listen. When they focus on talking over listening, they miss out on discovering crucial details about potential clients. And ultimately, they lose the sale.

That’s why the second step of any sale should include discovery. Experienced salespeople take plenty of time to get to know potential customers. They ask insightful questions. They uncover objections. They learn what the prospect needs.

It may seem simple (even obvious) to say that salespeople must listen in order to discover what clients need. But it’s an easy step to ignore. Many salespeople are so excited about their products, so focused on closing, or so enamored by the sound of their own voice that they forget that the crucial part of selling is meeting a client’s need that they didn’t even know they had.

Follow these simple steps to make the most of the discovery process in business-to-business sales.

1. Find out if you’re talking to a decision maker.

You don’t want to spend 15 minutes convincing the intern at your prospect’s company to buy your product. Early on in the conversation, find out if the person you’re talking to has the power to purchase what you’re selling. If they don’t, ask to talk to someone who can buy from you.

However, don’t see this interaction as a waste of time. If you impress the gatekeeper, you have an ally when talking to the decision maker. Take the opportunity to build interest in your product.

2. Find out if the prospect has the ability to buy your product.

If you sell, for example, high-value monthly SEO services, you need to make sure your prospective client has the capacity to purchase. If the prospect doesn’t have room in their budget to buy, you need to know that as soon as possible. It might be useful to build up the value of your product in case they have the ability to buy in the future, but you won’t be able to close the sale at this time.

3. Find out if the client needs your product.

You may enter each sales interaction assuming each potential client needs your product (and that’s a great attitude to have!), but you need to find out exactly how your product helps them. Your prospective clients generally won’t know enough or care enough to hand that information over to you, so you need to ask insightful questions.

I split these questions into a few categories:

I. Questions that show interest in the potential client’s business.

These types of questions allow the client to talk about the business he’s so proud of. People like talking about themselves, their successes, and their interests. Direct the conversation by asking questions the prospect will be happy to answer.

Try questions that yield useful information, but aren’t so intrusive that they make the prospective client feel uncomfortable:

  • How long have you been in this business?
  • What is your role in the company?
  • What does your ideal customer look like?
  • What kinds of products or services does your company offer?
  • What sets your company apart from the competition?

Give your prospect the chance to brag. When potential clients have a positive experience talking to you, they’ll feel more positively toward you. They’ll also start thinking of you as more trustworthy as you sincerely listen to their answers to your questions.

II. Questions that show interest in the potential client’s profits.

Your prospect’s #1 concern is increasing the company’s profits. As a salesperson, that should be your #1 concern as well.

Ask questions that show you have their best interests in mind:

  • How satisfied are you with your current profits?
  • Are you aware of any products your competitors are using that have proven to be successful?
  • What aspects of your company need to be improved?

You might feel tempted to start talking about the benefits of the product you’re selling at this point. You want to educate the prospect about your product. Maybe the prospect will even ask about your product.

However, instead of launching into the education step, give a short explanation of your product and transition into questions that help your prospect think about the future.

III. Questions that help the potential client think about his or her company goals.

With these questions, you want to nudge the prospective client to start thinking about how your product can meet a crucial need.

  • Have you tried using a product like ours before? What were the results?
  • What goals do you have to grow your company?
  • What would you like the company to look like in 5 years?

With these kinds of questions, you draw the connection between the potential client’s current problems and the solutions your product can provide them.

You’re One Step Closer to Closing the Sale

By asking the right kinds of questions, you help your potential clients do some of the work of closing the sale for you. You’ll help them seriously think about how your product will and won’t work for their particular needs. And by listening carefully, you’ll be able to more effectively build value and settle objections later on in the sale.

Learn more about closing the sale with the third installment of this series:

Step Three in Closing the Sale: Education [This would be a link to the next blog]

Missed Step One in Closing the Sale: Approach? Read it now! [This would be a link to the previous blog]




1 Comment

  • Nathalie Porter, April 15, 2016 @ 11:44 am

    I think we often forget to listen when we are communicating. I like that you pointed out that you want to meet a need that you do not even know about. Thanks for the great advice on listening more than speaking. We often need to be reminded of that.

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