The Audible-Ready Sales Podcast
The Audible-Ready Sales Podcast

Episode · 1 year ago

33. Executing Great Discovery w/ Brian Walsh

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Deals are won or lost in discovery.

 

The more your sales teams can carry out discovery in a way that builds prospect interest and opens doors to high-level business stakeholders, the more they’ll be able to hit their numbers repeatedly.

 

In this episode, Brian Walsh shares personal experiences and tips on the art of great discovery and how your sales teams can earn the right to ask the hard questions and move opportunities forward. He’ll cover:

 

- The three things your sales teams should have prepared before every sales discovery conversation

 

- Why preparing prospects before a call is critical to landing the ask, plus insights on how to do it

 

- Tips for expanding sales conversations in a way that opens up the opportunity to get in front of other stakeholders in the business 

 

Check out this and other episodes of The Audible-Ready Podcast at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

 

Here are some additional resources on executing great discovery: 

 

- Play Back What You Heard in Discovery Podcast

https://apple.co/2E4HFQD

- Maximize the Effectiveness of Proof Points Podcast

https://apple.co/3iEMrTa

- Our Most Popular Content on Executing Effective Discovery

https://bit.ly/2HYgKHI

You've got to be able to attach to not only the business that you're talking to, but the person you're talking to. You are listening to the audible ready podcast, the show that helps you and your team's sell more faster. Will feat your sales leader sharing their best insights on how to create a sales engine that helps you fuel repeatable revenue growth, presented by the team at force management, a leader in BTB sales effectiveness. Let's get started. Hello and welcome to the audible ready podcast. I'm Rachel Clad Miller, and today we are going back to a basic sales skill that can really make or break a lot of opportunities, discovery. Brian Walls joins me today. Hi Brian, Hi Rachel, how are you? I'm good, Brian. You are the perfect person to talk about this, because I don't about that, but okay, no, you are great at the art of conversation. I will say whether you're at a dinner party or you are in front of an executive in a sales conversation, and good discovery should feel like a great conversation. Yeah, I mean, in fact, that's what it really is, right, and it's funny, just what you first said. A basic skill set that can make or break which meets it's not a basic skill set. Right. That's like I almost interrupted to there because it was almost like, please, don't take offense, but it was a bit of an see more on. If you think about it, it's right to say that a critical lynchpin to a sales process in this case is a basic skill. Those things don't match up. Everybody's talked about discovery for for millenniums, right, and and it's still such a difficult art and I think that's why it's not just science. There's science has attached to it, but it's also in art. Yeah, I think maybe what I meant by basic or is that it's something that you...

...kind of learn in sales on one but it's so important that you have to keep sharpening your skills and it changes each conversation. Right. Yeah, yeah, and I totally agree that. And it's funny you say that too, because I think we do have a tendency to get taught some discovery early on in our sales career, the initial training we go to. But it's so weird to me the number of organizations and times I think back, where discovery was probably the most critical thing to do and there was an assumption that people just knew how to do it. Yeah, and I've heard you say before, Brian, that when you are conducting great discovery, you have to earn the right to keep talking and that is dependent on the conversation. We have that term audible ready. Are you audibly ready to shift the conversation we needed and earn the right to keep talking? So today we'll go through several tips and I love to hear your perspective on this, and so I went through and gather just a couple that we use in our trainings and you can expand on them and offer some more context for the people listening. The first tip we have is when you're trying to do discovery with new prospect is to start broad, but you don't want to be too generic. Yeah, again, another critical phrase. Right, you're like three, four, three. It's like start broad, but not to generic. What what does that mean? What it means is you've got to show up and be relevant. Right, you've got to be able to attach to not only the the business that you're talking to, but the person you're talking to. So there's so many levels, especially in a sale that's got multiple people engaged right on both sides, the client side and your company's side, who's doing the actual selling. So you've got to show up and be not just ready, but you've got to be relevant. You can't just show up, and I know this probably is obvious, but you can't show up with some sort of hard hitting question right out of the gate right, like, what are you going to do if because if you think about that, you're taking a real bold chance. I mean so the moment you do eventually go that, you're still taking a chance.

So you've got to increase your chances of those tougher questions landing right. So you know, you don't want the prospect to shut down or, worse, shut you down right if you haven't earned the right to get the the information that is more sensitive, that that may prove more pain right or start to open up the door to a wider conversation. So, you know, I think showing up with a point of view about what you've heard. You know, we have forced management love to talk about playing back what we've heard in previous conversations, getting the information that you can get from other places on your own, not asking questions to people at a higher level that you can get the institute from others. So you show up with that point of view and and you're able to play back what you already know, which starts to build a credibility piece right, makes you relevant, and then you start to add in a point of view that starts to soften up this conversation a little bit. Right. Walk me through your process for or I've understood you know. I've already learned about the process and I saw a couple of things as relates to that. Can you tell me how you're addressing that right now or how you're handling that? What happens when that process doesn't yield the results that? You need to tell me about the last time that happened. So those are I think it's so soft, or even like that last question, which is more of a tell me about the pain. Even that's a pretty soft question if you think about it. It's not difficult for people to sit in that and really get uncomfortable right into your point. If you have a relevant point of view to this particular customer, they're already going to feel like you understand at least part of what they're dealing with right now. Yeah, that's right. Yeah, and they also know, hey, you've done your work right, you've come prepared, because, you know, we love to talk about the concept that if you ask somebody a question that's not relevant to them, and we have a tendency to do that in the wrong direction. They have a tendency to ask those questions to people at higher levels and their questions...

...that people at lower levels can answer. They're going to send you downstairs right or across the hall and you're potentially closing a door behind you that may never open again. Yeah, yeah, I think also in this area, my favorite tip of yours that you've often say is when you're looking for your questions, use them to get them talking about positive things, because that's a great way to get the conversation going. Yeah, and you know, and it's I think this goes back to my coming about art versus science. Right. I think stylistically, you got to do what works for you stylistically. For me, one of the things that works really well is getting people talking about what's working well and, as a result, a couple of things will typically happen. One, they already know what you're about to do, so you're setting the states to potentially pivot to the other side of that coin. But in all likelihood, you know, people know how you're made up. They can tell pretty quickly whether or not you're genuine and if you're kind, if you're genuine, in all likelihood people are going to start to open up and start to give you of you into whether or not there are some concerns or some issues or some things that aren't going as positively as they'd like. So it typically makes it easier to even make that pivot. It's not a hard okay, we just talked about the good stuff. Now let's talk about bad stuff. That rarely is the case, but even if you have find yourself at that end of the spectrum, it's still easier to make that pivot because, okay, we've agreed that you want to talk about the following topic. Therefore, I'm going to start with what's working, but you know what's coming. I'm going to ask you to talk to me about where the holes are and what's happening as a result. In fact, you know, I just recently I was talking to a client about these things we call value drivers. Write these issues that our customers care about, that we can attach to because we help solve them better differently than others, and it hit me kind of in the moment, very specifically something that kind of swum around mines, or swam around whatever the right word is. I make entire career, but it hit me that, you know, the moment you attached to a topic that...

...the customer cares about for their business is the moment that the gloves come off, because the customer has chosen that I want to talk about this topic. Therefore, they've automatically opened up the door, yeah, for you to go do deep discovery. So that in and of itself, I think should be a freeing concept for people to say it's okay to force them to sit in the pain. It's okay to get them to think about what's possible on the other side. It's okay to go back and say, Hey, I understand how this problems affecting you. What about the other three people in the following rolls that we also know typically are part of this discussion? How does this impact them? How do we better understand that from their perspective? Because, you know, I was making a note as we were getting ready for this Rachel and I came across something else that I talked about a lot over the years, which is, as a seller, you're going to be viewed one of two ways right. You're either doing something for people or you're doing something to them, and that will come out pretty quickly. And and the seller who does something for people, one of their skill sets is a confidence and a point and a bit of a point of view that says, listen, I'm going to help you get to a great outcome for you, and I don't just mean you personally. I'm just being the collective you. And if I'm not the right choice, that's okay, I'll figure that out before you do. So some of this is style, some of this is just personal intestinal fortitude right the oil of the willingness to do what's needed. And I think the other big thing is preparation. If that, if that makes sense? Yeah, I think that's a kid. Two things come to mind. The preparation. You should have a road map for the conversation and be ready to pivot based on what you hear. If you're doing great listening means. I've been on those calls. I was recently on one. I was where...

I could tell the our wrap was just going down the question. As we're there were a vendor of ours, which is going down the question list for the contract for Noel, and I just stopped him. I said, did you just go through a sales traine? You bought the script? You know, I try to sell force management, but no, what was he honest? Yes, he was. was and they had just completed a training and he was really trying to stick to that process and he had a roadmap. But the problem was is he wasn't listening to me and he didn't know how to pivot that question track based on what I said, and I you know, I just had another thought, Brian. I come from a journalism background. Dad Investigative Journalism for a bit, and when you go into those hard hitting interviews, it's it's very similar technique. If you know where you want to get to in the conversation, you know what you want that person to say, but it's a dance to yeah, when you want to ask that question, like I'm not going to say, did you steal the money from a first question right, and we're not talking about that here. But getting people to talk and reveal information, they have to be able to trust you and they have to be able to feel like you are listening to them, and it's very difficult to do that if you don't prepare. And the other comment. I was just talking to John Kaplan about this and he was answering a question somebody had asked him about. But I don't want to go in and feel negative. I don't want to have this negative tone to the conversation. And he he said, and I like to get your perspective on it too, is just remember you're not being negative. The problem is negative, right, problem is may if you're there to help them solve it, it's revealing the problem that's negative, not you. Yeah, well, it's in. So I first of all I'm in violent agreement with that statement. Right, I think it's I think it's really well said. I would suggest this...

...attached spect to my comment earlier about style. You know, I think you got to get comfortable with how you're going to set up discovery with clients that works for you and and the market place that you call on. So let me just give you a kind of a couple examples. One in terms of prep I'm a big believer that you should always have three things prepped walking into a conversation. The first is what's the objective of the meeting and do we have agreement on this right and with the client? Do we all agree on with the objective for the conversations to what's the agenda to get there? And how is my timing or choreography with the other people who are going to be the meeting? How is that built around that? Right? Those are both things that might recall. Myke might require in audible right when I get to the meeting. I think I'm show enough to meet with you and you bring to other people, that whole plan might get thrown out the window, but I've I'm ready and if I'm ready, even if something like that happens, there's a higher chance that I can react to it more positively. The third thing is what's the ask going to be meeting? My objective today is to get Rachel to give me a better understanding of what's happening inside of her department, what the impacts are for her and her team, and also help me start to understand who else inside of her company is impacted by this. And the way I'm going to do that, my agenda is to play through with her and whoever else he brings to the meeting a conversation, sation around talk, walking through your current process. Walk me through what's working, walk me through what's not. How could we paint a picture of the future? I've got a handful of discovery questions in mind. Maybe I'm going to run it. I used to run a lot of discovery calls with customers as a workshop, where we use sticky notes and put them up on the wall. Whatever. That's my agenda. And then what's my ask my ask is, at the meeting goes well as I expect it to or it goes in the direction I expect to, I'm going to ask Rachel to sponsor a meeting with the following other two executives right whatever that asks might be, and I'm a big believer that Rachel in this case should be fully aware of all three of those...

...things before the meeting takes place. So the meeting's going to be on Monday, sometime today, tomorrow, Friday. I'm going to make sure Rachel notes. Here's an objective for the call. Here's the ATTENDA. Is there anything that you would want to change or add? And, Oh, by the way, just so you know, if the meeting goes well and where we think it might go. If it's appropriate, I'm going to ask at the end of the meeting to sponsor a meeting with the following other couple of folks or because that could the two folks that we identify in the meeting that are critical to getting to a collective yes, that in and of itself is an example of what great discovery looks like, because now we're walking into the meeting with clear purpose. Process payoff right. That's part one of this. The other thing to the point, about asking the questions, the tougher questions, and not feeling uncomfortable doing that. stylistically, that's where I think you got to get comfortable with what's works for you. I have some key phrases that I use with clients that I was taught and they still work today. I used one with a CEO yesterday who knows as well, and he laughed. He said, I knew you're going to say that at some point, but and then he said, but I know you mean it right and I said listen, Daniel, whether you do business with our organization on this project or not, and he knew exactly what was coming. I'm going to give you something to think about that you haven't put on the table yet. So, like that works for me. The other thing that works for me, especially when you start to getting a these tougher questions around discovery, because we're right, we're talking a great discovery, but we're kind of going to the negative consequence piece a little bit. But when I get into the tougher questions, I'm really comfortable saying listen at some point, and I repeat this multiple times during the sales process. Right, look, just remember we're trying to answer three questions here. Right. The first question is why would you guys do anything? And the second question is why would you do it now? Right, I'm all around the business challenges, the business health comes, what's Requie, etc. And then the third question is, why would you choose anyone to help you do that, whether it's my company or somebody else? Why...

...would you choose force management? Right, why would you choose our security capabilities, whatever that might be as a vender? So find something that works for you, that helps the customer realize you're in this. For me, right, because back that one, it softens it up a little bit and to it makes it. It often makes it easier for you to ask tougher questions that are in your head, that you know you got to get answers or now you're just thrown up a hale and you know, a prayer and a Hail Mary Path. Sure, sure, I well. And you know the other question. I know that we get a lot from reps. you mentioned the negative consequences. Yep, when do you know that you've done enough discovery and you can kind of pivot the the conversation to sharing more about your solution? How do you do that's a great question because, you know, traditionally a lot of people have been taught hey, you know, get to the problem and then start selling, which means pivot to yourself, and you know that. I know that. You know this. We believe in a couple of things. One is the first way is to pivot to yourself without talking about yourself, and what I mean by that is if I've got a set of issues of consequence for the customer that we can attach to and we think we can help solve, before I start overtly talking about my products and services, I instead help the customer think through what's possible if they effectively deal with what we're talking about, if you effectively solve those issues in those problems. What does life look like on the other side? And I probably because I probably have a lot more expertigues in the space than the customer does, I probably have a point of view that they don't have. So what I'm really trying to do is help them think through what's possible by sharing stories of what other customers have achieved, what we've seen other people be able to do to resolve the issues. And by doing that I'm talking about myself without talking about myself right. What I'm sharing is these experiences that we have, these outcomes we've helped other people achieved, but I'm not sharing with with them the and...

...we did it in the following way, with the following capabilities and technology and services, etc. It's just, Hey, I've had other couple other clients that look just like you in terms of the issues that they're struggling with. We were able to get your counterpart plus the following through other people in a room and as we work through that, these are the outcome they were able to drive to. So now what I started to do is I've actually started to pivot to a conversation about myself, but it's still focused on who you are. And what you're trying to achieve. Because, remember, what we're trying to do. We're trying to get to a point where the list of requirements is so well thought out that when I do open my mouth specifically about my products and services, everything that comes out of my mouth really lands because it's all around solving for the outcomes. So it's almost like a Texas two step. Right, I have this great conversation about you and I start to pivot about me, but it's really still all about you, right if because it's about the outcomes you can drive and the things that you can achieve and and and the impacts I can have on the business before even start to talk about how we enable that very specifically. So that's how I would suggest. It is almost like do the soft move first and then make sure the requirements are laid out and fully vetted so that when you do open your mouths very specifically about yourself, it clearly can attach back to the outcomes trying to drive to by resolving the issues. And it was back to understanding the proof points in your organisation. Since we have a podcast we just published on proof points, I encourage everybody to check that out and one of the things we talked about there. I mean it's one thing to know the mattrigs and measurable results, but especially in these conversations, you need to know this story. Yeah, behind at which can help showing that Delta that you were just talking about. Well, it's another great example of great discovery. Right, everybody, and I do this one. I'm in a room with a group of people, you know, I'll say a an organization of twenty or two hundred or whatever the number is. Hey, what's the big story here? Right, and somebody, always somebody ours, raises our hand and they throw out the...

...name of a fortune five hundred company and they'll say, oh, it's, you know, Walmart or chase bank or whatever. You know, it's some big company where they did where, they did business and got a big win. So I say, what's the story? And then I get little bits and pieces from different people. Right, somebody can give me one sentence, somebody else gives you a little bit more, and before you know what, I'm getting different information. That doesn't drive and I finally stop and say here's what I want. I want one person in this room to give me the business problem. We help the customers think through the solution that we enabled for them and the business result that they were able to get. And about fifty percent of the time somebody in the room can do that for me really, really fluently or eloquently. And then I asked a question. I say, how many people have actually told that story to a customer? Just be honest, how many of you have referenced that account, that win to another potential customer, you know? And Sixty, seventy, eighty percent of the hands go out. And then I say okay, now, keep your hand up if you actually helped create that story. Every hand goes down except for one or two. And the point I'm trying to make is if you're going to tell somebody else the story, you better know it cold. Number One, but number but number two. The best stories are the ones that you create, and the goodness is you only need two or three in your hip pocket. If you have two or three great stories in your hip pocket that apply to the market place that you call on, you can typically spend those a couple of different ways as appropriate to get your point across. But that's another example of great discovery. Right, as you said, for all the ways the beginning. Great discovery is about your ability to hold a conversation, and a conversation is not question answer, question answer, question answer. So I'm really glad to brought that up and I hope that that kind of went where you wanted it, of course. Yes, where do you think? I mean, Brian, you teach this a lot. Where do you think wrap some particular where do they go wrong most? Let's discover. That's a great question, I think. Number One, we have a tendency to think we...

...have to talk about ourselves a lot. We think that because a customers taken time and the first thing that often comes out of a customer's potential customers mouth is hey, tell me about your stuff or tell me about your company, or hey, we think we need something and we did some research and looks like your company has that kind. I see a demo like there's that opening salvo from a customer that says talk about yourself, you're and so we think, oh, we better talk about ourselves. And sure, go ahead and talk about yourself, but what I believe you should do is talk about yourself in terms of how it relates to the client meeting. Well, Hey, we're a twenty year old company. Can't wait to tell you more specifically about who we are, but let me make sure you know that these are the conversations we're having with other customers. This is where we are relevant, right. So let's make sure we're in the right slim lane for you. What's on your mind that would be relevant for the two of us to be talking about. So I think that's the first thing. The second thing is don't jump at the first thing you hear right, meaning don't take that first thing out of a customer's mouth and run to the racist to talk about how you can solve for that. Force them to expand upon it, force them to think about all of the negative consequences associated with whatever they're dealing with, not just for themselves or their team or their department, for the rest of the business. Show up with a point of view, really understand how these decisions typically get made, so that you can listen for things that are missing and say, well, you know, Rachel's funny that you would say that. Totally agree that the following other couple people would typically be impacted. But you know, when we're having these conversations of their otherizations, it's not only person you're chearing those two folks, but we have found that the person who runs reconciliation and accounting it's impacted by this or the CFO gets impacted by this. What's your take or what have you heard from them on this topic? So, like, expand on what you're hearing, don't just run to solve it, if that makes sense, because that really gets your mind around this thing...

...that everybody at first management knows that I've been evangelizing on, which is this thing called the collective. Yes, right. And then, last but not least, don't delegate yourself down. We often delegate ourselves down by our lack of preparation or by the questions that we ask or by our unwillingness to ask the tough questions. I mean, I said to the CEO I was speaking to the other day, I said, listen, you're at a point right now or where you've made an investment. You've got some executives who are engaged in the investment, you've got a new executive on your team who's questioning that executive that investment, and I asked for permission to speak freely and he said yes. I said it sounds like the five or six of you need to get around a table and make a decision on what's right for the business. Now, I had to earn the right to say that. Well, I I've known this person a couple of years. I never would have said that to him the first time I met him. But you know, we've earned the right through what we've done for him and his company, to to say things like that and to be an honest broker. And Oh, by the way, these people are looking to maybe do some business with us or somebody else. So this is not a I like you, you like me? Can you know? Can you tell me something new? This is a were going to spend some money kind of conversation. So don't delegate yourself down. Be Willing in the right way at the right time. And this Educ I'm the first permit some of this is an educated set of guesses, right based on what you've done and what you know, etcetera. But don't be afraid to say what needs to be said in a way that that's appropriate. Yeah, you know, you mentioned that tip about expanding your conversation and and that's a good way to think about bringing in other people to do more discovery, getting additional points of view which could fuel the next step. And you've always said, Brian, that we need to own the next steps in the conversation. Don't let the prospect on the next steps, you on the next steps,...

...right. Yeah, and that goes back to what I talked about a little bit of go about being prepared right with an objective and agenda and the ask. We have a tendency to know what we want to ask for and we don't prepare for that ask and so we clumsily ask for it at the end of a meeting and we wonder why the client looks at us like a deer in the headlights. Right. Well, we didn't ask for it very well, and to they didn't know it was coming. You know what good looks like in these engagements if you've been in your role for a period of time or you've been well trained or you thought through or the meeting, etcetera. You know what the next steps appropriately are to really help a client make a great decision. So put that on the table, and that's why I say put it on the table on the front end, Rachel, these are objectives for today. Here's the agenda on how we want to get there. As anything changes, we a grant on that less since last week. No, okay, good is I mentioned in my note or in our conversation. If the conversation goes the right way today and it's appropriate at the end, the appropriate next step is typically for us to have a technical deep dive with someone in it and at the same time have an nroi conversation with someone on the business side of this. So I'm going to be asking for you to sponsor those couple of meetings. It's not a question at that point. It's just that. So you don't have to ask for permission, you have to say is that okay? It's like that's what I'm going to ask for if the meeting goes well. Now you're ready for that. And what's beautiful in my mind about that is it's obvious to everybody at the end of the meeting whether or not that's going to be an appropriate ask. So now I can take control and say, Hey, Rachel, we learned something today. So a couple things in today's meeting that make me realize that initial thing I thought we might be asking for today is not the appropriate next step. I actually think the appropriate next step is for us to do some deeper discovery with the following two people to better understand the process or the issues were trying to help solve. How do we get that set up right? I mean, or Rachel, Here's what I heard today's meeting. It lines up to specifically with...

...where I thought we might go. I was on since sure we were going to learn, but I think it's pretty obvious at this point that an Roi Conversation with the right folks on the on the business side, and a deeptive technical conversation around whether or not a proof of concepts going to be appropriate and what the success measures for that would be. is they the appropriate to next steps? How do we get those two meetings set up? Because you already know it's going to ask. So I never so the beauty that is I never have to ask permission to ask for that because I've told you I'm going to do it. Yeah, yeah, so, if there are, this is such a big and media topic. Brian, thank you for all the tips that you've shared to there around the best practices, but with preparation. Be a bottom line you would share? What would be the bottom line? I think I yeah, I think I'd share three things. One is prep one. It's preparation, as I described a couple of in a couple of different times in places during the the podcast. To attach to that would be don't prep alone. So I'm thinking about a guy that I worked with for a long time, and Dan was so polished in front of a customer when it came to discovery, because Dan never let an important discovery conversation happen without really great planning and choreography. Meaning if somebody else was going on the call with Dan or multiply, we're going on the call of Dan, Dand in care if he was out in front or a supporting cast member. But Dan did care and was really good at driving how that conversation was going to go. His sense of understanding of the importance of great choreography was just so, so, so tremendous and so many people learned that skill from from working with him. And I think the last thing that I would put on the table here in terms of the bottom line is this concept that discovery never stops right...

...you are you know discovery. Sometimes there's a sales stage and people's engage from process called discovery and people like, okay, do I discover here? And then I go to the proposal in this no, no, discovery is happening every step of the way, right you all the way up to an including the clothes, and pass the clothes, because we're trying to ensure that we either get the cross cell or the upsell or the renewal. Right, we're always doing discovery. That's that's the critical thing. You remember. Never stops nor stops great. Thank you so much for this conversation today, Brian. Thanks, Rachel. I appreciate with a lot of fun as always. Yes, and thank you to all of you for listening to the audible ready podcast. At force management, we're focused on transforming sales organizations into elite teams. Are Proven methodologies deliver programs that build company alignment and fuel repeatable revenue growth. Give your teams the ability to execute the growth strategy at the point of sale. Our strength is our experience. The proof is in our results. Let's get started. Visit US AT FORCE MANAGEMENTCOM you've been listening to the audible ready podcast. To not miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Until next time,.

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