In a prior blog post I made the case for discovery and why this is so important for sales people in B2B. The main questions related to this have been related to “how do I”. Here’s some tips for you on how to do discovery.


What’s your objective for a discovery conversation?

First, let me highlight the importance of mindset. You need to get this right. Go into the discussion with an open, curious mind and focus on your primary objective for ALL discovery conversations. To build a deep understanding of a customer’s situation and jointly identify opportunities where they can improve performance.

Discovery objective: To build a deep understanding of a customer's situation and jointly identify opportunities where they can improve performance. Click To Tweet


To unlock value in your customers business, you should focus on your company’s areas of expertise and where you are best placed to help them to unlock value.

I have to admit, I’ve made some shoddy discovery calls in the past, maybe you have too?

In these situations my mistake is that I’ve asked a few high level questions then I’ve jumped head first into the “here’s what you need and how our answer is the best” pitch. Rubbish selling Garry! My reflection – Take more time to listen and understand more fully.

As a sales person you enter a discovery discussion with the hope of finding opportunities to help this customer’s success using your solutions. This is the foundation of growth.

The customer enters into the discussion with hopes too, that you’ll help them to fix some of their challenges (otherwise why would they be talking with you?). They don’t always know where to start otherwise they’d have fixed things already. They are looking to you to guide them based on your expertise of other customers with similar issues.

So discovery is a two way conversation. A discussion where you are both hopeful of what the other will bring.


Discovery discussion structure.

To be effective, you need a plan. There is no standard discovery approach that works for all situations, because you have to be agile to the customer comments, but here’s some tips as a start for you.


1. Open

Explain your approach to the discussion. By sharing your key steps the customer is able to understand what they are in for. This will help them to commit mentally and physically to the process.


2. Explore other stakeholders

There might be many people in a business who are who have an opinion or will be impacted by any changes to their approach. Anything from 5 to 20 people are involved in a typical B2B opportunity so building consensus on their opinions is valuable. Use the early part of the meeting to seek sponsorship and where possible gain agreement for introductions.


3. Share your topics

There’s going to be a range of topics to explore for any rounded discovery conversation. Start by introducing the outcome measures you can effect. For example increasing growth, pipeline win rates, forecasting accuracy, gaining wallet share and the like).

“Today I’d like to explore some key areas, including ABC and D. By doing this we can look into the most relevant issues and opportunities before running ahead with solutions. Are there other things you think we need to explore?”

To prepare, capture a single page summary of the conversation topics you will use to build a deep understanding. This one page overview will be a valuable aide-memoir during your conversation. A simple example of this is shown below.



Introduce each sub-topic area with a quick context statement like “B2B companies are facing a key challenge in 2020 to [add statement], and this is reducing their / increasing their [outcome measure], how does this issue effect you?


4. Prioritise your topics

In a short amount of time, it’s not always possible to explore all areas in detail. Focus on the most important elements in the time available.

Try early in the call to ask the customer which key topics are most important them, “we find that [other customers like you] are commonly facing significant challenges in doing A, B and C. Which of these is effecting you the most?”


5. Probe deeply

Prepare relevant questions to increase a customer’s awareness of their situation and challenges. Use follow up questions that probe into answers more deeply, then ask yourself ‘so what?’ to explore further.

Preparing ahead gives you a range of questions to use when listening and building rapport. Please resist the temptation to “survey” a customer using all of your prepared questions in a long list without listening.

Open questions will broaden discussion on the customer’s context, situation and problems. Closed questions are good for confirming facts, agreeing needs and checking understanding. Impact questions help you to capture information about the operational, business and emotional effect of these problems on the customer’s business.


6. Make it a two way discussion

Asking questions is one thing. A good discovery process should advance a buyer closer to procurement. To help with this, share relevant insights on how to address challenges and how others have successfully done so. A well placed insight can help to create context that educates the customer.


7. Summarise findings

Capture your findings and at the end of the topic replay this as a way of validation. What I have heard is “A,B and C – did I understand this correctly?”


8. Agree next steps

Close the discovery discussion with confirmation of key actions for all parties. Be sure that all parties confirm accountability for their actions.


I hope this gives you a ‘leg-up’ on preparing your discovery approach. Do it right and you will improve the quality of your sales approach.