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In a previous blog post called “Why You Should Only Present Solutions To Needs & Not To Problems” I stressed the importance of presenting your solutions to the prospects needs and not just their problems.
After all, a prospect can be faced with a BIG problem but have no real need or desire to fix it.
So how can you unearth these needs in the discovery phase?
This is what this post is all about.
Let’s assume that you’re meeting with a prospect for the first time to discuss their situation.
Generally, you begin the discovery process with some assumption as to how and why the prospect may have a need for your product.
You’re there for a reason whether you have instigated it yourself through prospecting or if they have requested a meeting with your company to see if you can help.
In front of the prospect, the process moves to a discussion of their current situation, i.e., what is the prospect doing now, how is it being done, who is supplying the product, where is it being used etc.
It’s important to begin with a discussion of the prospect’s situation for several reasons:
You are gathering general information that verifies or denies your assumptions.
You don’t know whether the prospect perceives even a need or a problem in his or her current situation.
If you focus on problems or needs without first understanding how the prospect operates, you risk not having all the information you need to focus on the real needs.
The prospect may be satisfied with the current situation, not perceiving a problem or a need.
As you learn more about the prospect’s current situation, you pick up clues as to possible problems or areas where your product might “fit.”
You explore these in depth, trying to understand and get the prospect to understand that they can be solved.
Once you have identified a problem, you confirm that the prospect would like to see it solved, thereby converting it to a need.
As a salesperson you are also a diagnostician.
Your first questions should focus on the general situation.
As you find an area of the problem, seek more specific information. As you go, provide information to the prospect, give him or her a frame of reference so that he or she understands how to respond and knows what kind of information you’re seeking and why. Provide feedback as you go. Let the prospect know that you both understand and appreciate the information you are receiving. Encourage the prospect to continue by showing you understand, and by frequently supporting your prospect’s remarks.
Discovering is not an interrogation!
Do not conduct an interrogation in which you ask a lot of closed ”yes” or “no” questions. Use closed questioning mainly to confirm your understanding of what you’ve been told.
Allow the prospect freedom to express feelings, needs etc
Open questions allow the prospect to express feelings, problems, needs, opinions and facts; they are the most useful type of question as they allow a dialogue to proceed, giving the prospect the freedom to express needs from his or her perspective.
Useful in confirming and regaining focus; limit response
Closed questions are useful in confirming your understanding of what the prospect has said and in regaining lost focus.
Examples (mainly used as confirmation):
Improper Use of Closed Questions
Remember, you are attempting to view concerns from the prospect’s perspective. Closed questioning if used without a prospect-oriented focus, can be viewed as manipulative, and can create resistance.
Closed questions are directive and assumptive, almost forcing a re sponse favourable to the salesperson’s pitch. Rather than put the prospect in a box, when a “no” response is possible, be open with your questioning and avoid closed questions when possible.
To maintain dialogue, position questions and provide examples
A steady stream of questions, without feedback, turns into an interrogation. Discovering is a conversational process in which you share information and provide a rationale for your question. Use it to keep the prospect involved.
Builds a bridge of empathy with the prospect
We tend to seek out and respond well to people who understand our views and agree with our opinions. Be supportive of your prospect at all stages of the sales process to build empathy and advance the relationship.
Look for areas of agreement and actively acknowledge the prospect’s feelings.
Using the tips and techniques above you should be able to start discovering the prospect’s needs very early on in the meeting – meaning that you will have more time during the meeting to present the right solution.
I hope you got a lot out of this article and I’d love to hear your own experiences of this?
MTD Sales Training
(Image by David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)