314: How to Have Effective Discovery Calls | Master Sales Series

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George: It’s another edition of the Conquer Local podcast. I’m George Leith. We get all sorts of comments on our LinkedIn channel, people admiring some of the work that we’d done, very flattered by that, but also sometimes they’ll say, “It’d be great if you could come up with something on this.” So that’s what this week’s episode is all about, is proven discovery call tactics. So it’s that first call. And depending upon how that lead has come into your funnel, there are some different tactics that we need to take when we’re starting to work with that call. So we’re going to cover some of those top tips in this week’s edition, The Conquer Local podcast coming up next.

George: While discovery is a tactic that we spent a lot of time teaching young sales reps, and I believe that even some of our veterans sales reps could learn this again and be reminded of it again. Sometimes when we’ve been doing this for a long time, we know we have the answers and we can solve the problems of any customer. We have a tendency to skip over very important pieces for building rapport and trust. And whenever you’re talking to a customer, keep it in mind, they’re looking for the crazy, they’re looking for the reason to fire you. They’re also looking at are you adding value because you may be charging them a retainer, you’ve got a subscription in place or something like that.

George: So I think that we need to be very careful and deliberate in the way that we are communicating with a customer in no time more important than that very first call. When we get them on the phone for the first time or we meet them face to face, it’s really going to dictate the trajectory of the deal. It can torpedo in a hurry if you make some mistakes. It also could help accelerate the deal if you do the right things.


A Mindset of a Student


George: So the first piece when we talk about discovery is you need to have the mindset of being a student. So think back to when you were back in school. For some of you it was a short time ago, for some of us, it was a long bloody time ago. And when I talk about being a student, you’re inquisitive, you are learning, you are not pontificating. Being a true student is not you up at the front of the class talking and teaching. It’s you learning from the professor or the teacher. And I think a part of that being a student is asking questions. But it’s not just during the first call. So it’s not like you just go in and talk to the prospect, I’m going to do discovery because George told me to be a student and then you stop doing it. Discovery is all throughout the relationship that you have with the customer. Discovery at the beginning shows whether there is a fit and it also dictates the trajectory of the deal. Remember that.

George: The number one mistake that people make in discovery is they think of it as it’s a static stage in the sales process and it’s actually something that you do all the time. So I find a lot of junior reps will go in and they’ll do some discovery and then that’s gone from the process down the road. And what happens is, is you miss out on upsell and cross-sell opportunities if you don’t constantly have that discovery mindset. Some of the biggest customers that I deal with today became large customers well into our relationship. They started out with us for a certain reason. We built rapport with the client and prove that we were able to deliver the products or services, and then because we had that constant mindset of being a student and understanding the needs of the customer, we were able to layer in much larger purchases and much larger subscriptions and much larger product use because we kept that mindset of we were always looking for ways that we could help.

George: And you’ve heard it before from guests in the podcast, you need to have that helping mindset. I work with a number of really smart young salespeople and sometimes they just really adopt that challenger sale mindset. I love it. I think that the challenger sale is probably one of the strongest revenue motions that you can take today, but you need to earn the right to challenge. You need to put your professionalism in front of that organization. They need to have done some research on you. They need to look at you and go, “That person actually knows what they’re talking about,” now after you built that rapport and trust, you can and should challenge that customer.

George: So keep in mind, the number one mistake is thinking that discovery is just a one time thing that I do at the top of the funnel. The buyer’s journey dictates the discovery strategy. So there are different strategies to use when you get the customer on the call for the first time and they came to you for different reasons. So maybe there’s some latent pain or maybe there’s active pain or maybe they’re looking to develop a solution to a problem or they’re evaluating, so they’ve looked at 30 companies that do what you do and they’re evaluating and they’re stacking you up against competitors. And then of course we get to that decision. And even at the decision layer, there’s discovery that should be done there as well, and different strategies that can be deployed.


The Two Discovery Strategies: Active and Latent Pain


George: So two discovery strategies that I want to touch on, relate to either an inbound lead or an outbound lead. So active pain usually identifies itself in the inbound customer journey. So they’ve got an active pain, they went online, they did a bunch of research, that’s where your awareness of your brand comes in for your agency or media company. They go, “Oh, T-bone can solve my problem. I’ve got this active pain. And I’m now going to reach out.” And that’s where they arrive at the website. They fill out a form fill, they phone you, they text you, smoke signals, carrier pigeons, whatever communication that they’re doing to reach out, it’s inbound. And there’s a different type of pain. They’re usually really motivated at solving the problem “Because I’ve got this thing and I need to get it solved.”

George: Now, we also have the idea of latent pain and that can be identified outbound where we reach out and we show that we actually understand what the pain is of the persona of the customer. And that’s why the work that we’ve been doing around segment analysis, around figuring out the buyer personas and the different types of pain, because when you look inside an organization, you’re talking to the head of marketing, they got different pain than the head of sales or than the general manager or than the head of IT. All of those buyer personas inside a company have different types of pain. And when you’re doing outbound, you have to present that you have a track record of solving that pain.

George: So the inbound lead that comes through, they have that active pain and you start with the buyer’s vision. So what they’re trying to solve and ask this question, “What is it going to take for you to achieve your goal? And could I try a few ideas on you? I have some experience, I recognize this problem and I have some experience in solving it.” That’s the tactic that you want to take with that inbound lead.

George: Now on the outbound lead, you need to earn the right to start with the pain. So you want to ask some question of, “What struggle are you having and maybe we have a chance to solve it.” Whether you do or not, you want to really dig in and interrogate the pain because you’re reaching out to them on the outbound side. So it’s a couple of different tactics that you can take.


Set Boundaries And Set Out The Stages


George: Now, here’s another thing that’s really come to light in the last little while and it’s part of that challenger sale concept. I believe that it shows that you are a professional and that you really understand the industry that we are in, and that is, to set an upfront contract. You’ve heard in past episodes where I talk about, I have that seven minute rule. So I book a presentation with a customer. I sit on the crank wheel for seven minutes, five, three to five minutes in, I send an email or a text message to the customer saying, “Hey, I’m sitting here waiting for you.” And at seven minutes I hang the bloody thing up. And even if they come to me in eight or nine minutes, I’m like, “We’re going to have to schedule another appointment.”

George: It’s setting some boundaries for the relationship with the customer and showing them that your time is as valuable as theirs. And I think that’s a really important piece. Nobody likes desperation. Nobody wants that, especially when you’re on a discovery call, you don’t want to look like, “Oh God, I really need this deal to hit my quota.” It’s just not going to work for you. It never really was a tactic even back in the good old days.

George: So what I want you to start thinking about is what is my upfront contract that I’m going to set with this new lead that really sets the stage? And what this tactic does is it prevents you against rushing the deal through the pipeline and also we want to run away from looking desperate in the worst way. We want to take the steps necessary to have a successful deployment of whatever solution it is we’re selling. So it’s important to do that interrogation, to do the discovery. So here’s a bit of a script. By the end of this call, I’d like you to be in a position where you either are interested and we plan the next step or if you’re not interested, you tell me that so we avoid wasting time. Is that fair? I want to see if there is a fit for a partnership.

George: Now sometimes people are like, “Oh, partnerships, really overuse word for, I’m just trying to get close to you and sell you,” but I think that it’s important that you set out the stages for a partnership. A really wise person said something to me one day, “A really good contract, a written document between two organizations lead to a great relationship because you’ve clearly set out a set of boundaries between both organizations.” I used to hate contracts as a salesperson. It just slowed up me getting the close because all I was focused on with just go out there, be a cowboy, hammer the deal, beat him over the head, bring them back to the cave. It’s going to be awesome.

George: That approach is not going to work. You want to walk through the stages and just listen to this one more time, I really believe this is important. So you’ve got the prospect on the line, you’re going through the discovery and you say, “Listen, here’s what I’d like to do. I want to take 45 minutes of your time. That’s what I need to accomplish. And by the end of the call, we’re going to figure out if there’s a need for us to move forward. We may just part our ways and if we see each other passing, in humanity, we might sit down and have a bologna sandwich together, or we’ll decide that we want to move to the next step, which is further interrogation of how we have a great relationship, because what I want to do, my reputation in my industry is that I solve problems and people friggin love me and love our company. So I don’t want to put my reputation on the line if there’s not a proper fit,” and the person on the other end of the phone or on the other end of the screenshare or the face to face conversation is going, “Who in the hell is this organization and this human?”

George: This is the type of thing I want to do. I want somebody who will walk away from a deal and say, “No, there’s not going to be a fit for me.” So I just love setting an upfront contract at the very early part of the conversation. It really sets the stage for a successful interrogation of whether this thing’s going to work or not.


Hook The Customer, Get Them Talking


George: Now, let’s do some sales shit. Tell a story that triggers the prospect’s hot button. That’s awesome. Sales speak one-on-one, Georgie, use trigger, you use hot button, you use story, all sorts of sales things. Keep in mind, stories sell. Now, I don’t mean the stories that we loved when we were kids, they were complete fallacies. Santa Claus, tooth fairy, the bunny rabbit that comes around, drops off the Easter eggs, all those things. I’m not talking about that kind of story. I’m talking about a story that articulates how you solve the problem of somebody who looks exactly like the prospect. And that’s why having those elevator pitches, vignettes inside a large organization or a medium-size organization, sharing how you solve problems in certain verticals is so important because what we want to do at that very discovery stage, we want to understand what the problem is. We want to understand how the lead came to us so we can see if it’s latent pain or if it’s active pain, and then we want to go back to our reference, and our reference is, here’s how we dealt with this problem before. Tell that story. And if you don’t have that story, find one inside your organization and use it until you have your own.

George: It’s a really important piece and this is where you set the hook. And that’s all we’re trying to do on the discovery call. We’re trying to show that we’re professional, we’re trying to show that we’re looking for the perfect fit. We’re trying to show that we’re going to have a set of rules of the partnership so it doesn’t waste either person’s time and then we’re going to show that we know how to solve the problem based upon experience.

George: Now you may not be able to get deep enough into your discovery on one call, and that’s fine. It’s okay to say to the prospect, “You said some very interesting things. I’ve taken really good notes. I want to go back to my team. I want to go and do some research. I believe I heard something a couple of weeks ago and we were having one of our team meetings where one of my colleagues solve this problem, but I need to go do some research to come back to see if we’re going to be able to move to the next stage where we can propose a solution to this challenge that you’re having.”

George: The other thing that I think is really important is asking questions so that you get a longer response than the length of the time of the question that you’ve given.

George: So I do a lot of coaching of sales calls and we’re doing some recording so that we can listen back to the call and we sit down and we say, “Okay, from this call, you spoke this much time and your buyer spoke this much time. We need to improve your discovery skills. We need to improve the questions that you’re asking. You need to get better at asking leading questions that then start to dig deeper.”

George: “Can you help me understand what you meant by that? I have a lot of customers that say those things, but I need to understand is how it really applies to the business that you’re in. I think I remember you told me that you were trying to accomplish X, Y, Z. So can we dig into that a little bit deeper? Can you walk me through what a customer experiences when they walk into your business? I’d like to understand where some of the blockers are coming because I deal with lots of businesses in your space and I think we’ve solved some of these problems in the past. Can you tell me about some of the biggest challenges that you’re having in your marketing? Talk to me about parts of your business that you’re really proud of and maybe tell me about some that you’re not so proud of. I might be able to help you with those. I’d like to understand your last question. Here’s what I thought I heard.”

George: So it’s important to reset. They say something and you don’t quite understand it. It’s okay to go back at them and say, “Listen, could you repeat that? I heard this. I’m not sure if that’s the way that you wanted me to hear it.

George: If you go to the dictionary, you look up the meaning of the word communication. It isn’t one person just speaking. It’s someone saying something so that the listener understands. So it’s okay to ask more questions. It actually is really important to get the buyer speaking more than the seller or in this case, the learner. Be a learner at the discovery stage.

George: And then here’s the other piece. Ask questions only an expert would ask, ask questions that make your buyer think and don’t just recite information. That’s why it’s really important that there isn’t one master elevator pitch. “Oh, I got an elevator pitch and I’m just going to keep using it over and over and over.” No, it changes depending upon the type of buyer, depending upon what the buyer said, the elevator pitch needs to pivot a little bit.



George: When I was writing the content and researching the content for this podcast, I was like, “Wow, it’s unbelievable. I’m going to have no problem giving a ton of content around a discovery call,” but this is the work that needs to be done from a managerial level, a coaching level of training level, and then a learning level of the sales rep because if we spend a lot of time making sure that our discovery process is nailed down, we’re not going to burn leads. And I hear about that a lot, people are like, “I’m really afraid of burning leads. “I’m really afraid of that too because when I listen to calls of sales reps starting the discovery process, it’s just a complete and utter train wreck, where they haven’t been trained properly on how to make use of that very expensive lead. What is your cost to get a lead into the funnel? And then I want you to weigh that against how much investment you’ve put into training on a discovery call. And I think you’ll look at it and you’ll go, “Wow, I’m really out of whack here. I need to be doing some more work around this.”

George: We talked about setting up that upfront contract as to how the investigation of a potential partnership might look, and what I want you to do is you validate the buyer. You want to set the next steps and set expectations. This is all a part of that contract piece where you say, “As we move down the funnel,” or I like to call it as we move closer to a partnership, “Here’s how I’ve found that it works best, I need to have another call next week with that person that you brought up earlier that’s responsible for this.” And then you talk about what that call might look like, “And here it’s going to be 25 minutes-ish. I am going to bring one of my team members on that have solved that problem a million times and we’ll talk about what that might look like. We probably are going to do a bit of a screen share in that because I’ve got some visuals that I want to show you. I’ll send them ahead of time so you can have a look at them.”

George : Or maybe you don’t want to do that because you’re not ready to do that. But I’d like to set the expectation, here’s what sucks. You set up the second call and they’re at the bank on their phone, they’re remote, they don’t have any access to a screenshare and you’ve prepared this beautiful eight page deck that you’re going to share with the customer, and now you’ve got to completely change your approach. So set the expectation. “The next call will be a screen share and I’ve got some things that I want to share with you.” And I like actually sending ahead of time parts of it. Don’t send it all, keep something back under the hood. But send some pieces for them to start thinking about it ahead of time. You almost want them to say, “No, this isn’t a fit.”

George : Imagine that you had 200 leads that came in. You’re going to close 10% of them or if you’re a rock star, 25% of them. So getting to the ones that are no’s sooner allows you to put more time into the ones that look like they might be a yes. We’ve got to get to a point where a no is a good thing. And we have to ask for it, we have to look forward. As hard as we look for a yes, we should be looking doubly hard for a no, because what I do know is when we bring those deals across the line that weren’t a fit, it just adds to our churn. It usually costs us money as a salesperson where it clawback on our commission, it’s sucked up time that we could’ve spent with leads that we should have been putting our effort against.

George : I really appreciate our listeners coming to us and asking for these pieces. Coleen comes to me, producer Coleen, she says, “You got to do four teaching episodes this week.” I’m like, “Oh, I better put some effort into that.” But I love digging into it and looking at all the sources and coming up with this content, because when I was writing this through last night, I’m like, “Wow, we really inside our organization should do more work on this because we got a lot of people that are doing discovery,” and I now I’m going to lose sleep because I’m like, “We should be spending more time on that piece.”

George : So these episodes are really important. We’re getting a lot of feedback around what sort of items you want us to interrogate. We’re looking for feedback through our LinkedIn channel. We also love it when you reach out to us in the conquer local community on Slack. And don’t forget about the website, either on Georgeleith.com or conquerlocal.com. We have all sorts of items in there on our blog posts as we try to continue to build out a resource for you that is a training Academy and place that you can come to learn on a weekly basis.

George : I’ll be back here next week with another edition of the Conquer Local podcast. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.