I recently worked with a client to conduct a foundational presentation skills workshop and when I polled the group about some of their favorite questions to ask in a discovery meeting with a prospect, one person offered up the classic, “what keeps you up at night?” This was a relatively junior group, so I wasn’t too surprised, but it was useful to revisit some of the basic keys to an effective discovery meeting:
- Homework – do your research in advance. Leverage publicly available resources such as LinkedIn, the company website, investor relations (if public), etc. What’s driving the company to change? How will this affect the department and individuals that you’re targeting? Why does this company/department need your solution(s)?
- Objective – what is your objective for this meeting/call? Your prospect’s time is valuable, as is yours, so frame a clear objective in advance and structure your agenda, questions, and content, accordingly. Most of the time, your objective should be to simply get to the next step in your buyer-aligned selling process. In a discovery meeting, this means that you’ve gained knowledge about the customer’s situation and earned the right to continue to engage.
- Succinct & Relevant Intro – both are critical. The focus of an initial meeting needs to be on the prospect and their business, not yours. You need to communicate enough about your business in 90 seconds to establish credibility and earn the right to continue. You can talk more about your products and services later, when you’re able to link them to the needs, wants, and objectives of the customer.
- Questions – always prepare 3-5 great thinking questions. These are open-ended questions that require your contact to pause and consider their response. An example is: “Thinking about 2013, what are the top three things that you need to do to grow the business?” It doesn’t matter if the person responds with two or five items. You can have a 10-90+ minute discussion just on the response to this single question. We’ve worked with clients to develop a “Question Bank” of thinking questions that their sales teams can use to launch meaningful discussions.
- Call to Action – linking back to your objective, determine in advance your desired next step(s) and ensure that you cover these during the meeting.
- Homework II – get your prospect to own a next step. This will keep them engaged and invested and help to drive action to move the process forward.
Much has been written on these topics, but we still find that common sense does not translate into common practice. This is a great area for sales coaching (see our Point of View) and before attending a discovery meeting with a sales rep, a sales leader should ask the rep to cover each of these areas.