Are you asking prospects this lazy question? (And two questions to ask instead)
October 21, 2016

The most important part of the sales process

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A few weeks ago after an event, I was approached by a woman who came to me with a frustrated look on her face.

She was trying hard to bring on new clients, but wasn’t getting anywhere, and she was looking for the ‘silver bullet’ that would make her more successful:

    “I’ve worked on my pricing, I re-designed my proposals, I’ve even set up electronic signatures to make it easier for my clients to ‘sign on the dotted line’. But it’s not working. Last month I had three potential clients say no, and one never got back to me. Am I missing something? What’s the most important thing I should be focusing on?”

I told her that it’s clear she’s investing in increasing her sales, but that the most important part of selling comes long before proposals and pricing.

The most important part is what that lets you clearly see how you can position your services to solve the client’s real needs. It’s the step that lets you build a relationship as a trusted advisor. And it’s the step that dictates exactly how the rest of the process is going to go.

Luckily, though, when this part is done well, it makes the rest of the sales process go 1000x more smoothly (and increases your likelihood of getting the client).


Success comes way before the sale

Discovery is without a doubt the most important part of the sales process. Take a healthy amount of time, at times more than you think you need, for this part of the process. Get sufficient information to understand your client’s needs so you can propose the right solution that will impact your client’s business.

Discovery happens early on in the process, and involves those introductory calls that help you understand a client’s needs, pains, and goals. You learn about their business and why they need a solution like you offer. The discovery phase also serves as a way of qualifying them as a solid new client opportunity and understanding the outcomes and value they’re looking for.


What good discovery means

Doing good discovery means…

  • Engaging in a conversation, not a pitch
  • Ask questions that make your prospects think
  • Provide value in the conversation
  • Developing a rapport and starting to become a trusted advisor
  • Listening more than talking

When you do good discovery, it makes the rest of the sales process go so much more smoothly. It makes each conversation better, it makes proposals more effective, and it increases your win rate. Because it allows you to position your offering in terms of how it will deliver the value that they’re looking for.


The three principles to follow

To do good discovery, follow these basic principles:

1) Go in knowing the information you’re looking for

Know what you want to find out before you go into the conversation, so you can make sure you get to the information you want. At a high level, the information you’re looking for is:

What’s the value to the business, that your work will provide?

What’s prompting the search for a provider right now?

How will they make their decision?

2) Don’t be afraid to ask the deeper questions

Your questions should help you uncover the key information, and it should also make your clients think. By asking smart questions that go deeper than surface level, you’ll sound smart and start to deliver value in that first conversation.

3) Lead the client

Often in these early conversations, the conversation focuses on the scope of the project, the timeline… all surface-level things around the work you’ll be doing.

It’s up to you to lead the client and re-focus the conversation around the value to the business.

Be in control of the conversation, lead the client, and get to the information you’re looking for.

Remember: clients are looking for the value to their business. They’re only interested in what you do, in relation to what it will do for their business. Doing good discovery uncovers that value they’re looking for, and sets you up to deliver that value throughout your work with them.

Want to learn more about the steps of the sales process? Check out The ABCs of Selling, a free guide to help you get the sales terms down and sound like a boss.

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